St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Sarah Bryan Miller
© Monte Carlo Opera
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra had a full house Friday morning at Powell Symphony Hall for the final coffee concert of the 2016-17 season, and the Krispy Kreme doughnuts ran out well before curtain. The near-capacity crowd heard some fine music-making from a debut conductor, a returning soloist and the orchestra.
The originally announced conductor, Jakub Hrusa, and his wife were to have a date with the stork around about now, and he withdrew from the weekend’s concerts last month. Happily, Nathalie Stutzmann was available. Stutzmann, an internationally renowned French contralto, has been steadily building a second career as a conductor in the last decade.
It’s easy to see why she’s met with such success. Stutzmann is spirited and engaged, seems easy to follow, and has a good feel for finding the right tempo. She shares well with others: On Friday morning, at the conclusion of the curtain-raiser, Felix Mendelssohn’s “The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave),” she waited to give a well-deserved solo bow to principal clarinet Scott Andrews before turning around to acknowledge the applause herself. I can’t remember another time when I’ve witnessed that. This was a welcome debut in every way.
Violinist Karen Gomyo last performed with the SLSO in 2008, when she nearly set the stage alight with her fiery playing. The Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor is filled with more Northern storms than the Southern heat of the works on her last program here, but it still calls for a virtuoso, and Gomyo is that. There was a little awkwardness at the end of the cadenza in the first movement (on whose part it was hard to tell), but she gave a thrilling, vivid performance that had the audience leaping to its feet for a prolonged and well-deserved ovation. (An encore would not have been amiss.)
Stutzmann and the orchestra largely matched Gomyo’s achievement, accompanying and building the mood in assured fashion. There were some tonal issues from time to time throughout the symphony when all four French horns were playing at once, but otherwise every section was strong.
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