David Robertson

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Ralph
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David Robertson

Post by Ralph » Tue May 09, 2006 9:08 pm

David Robertson faces the folks
By Sarah Bryan Miller
Monday, May. 08 2006

Among David Robertson’s endearing qualities are his enthusiams. These include the music he performs, the people with whom he performs it — and the people for whom he performs it. When Robertson engages with a person or a piece of music, one gets the sense that he’s truly, sincerely involved.

Robertson ventured out to Darkest West County on Monday evening, to The Lodge Des Peres, to be precise. He’s finishing his first season as music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and introducing his second; this gave him an opportunity to talk directly with some of the SLSO’s patrons.

This was the second of Robertson’s “town hall meetings” at the Lodge. He made a stronger showing overall this time than last year: Robertson’s greatest weakness as a public speaker is that his enthusiasms get the better of him. Wind him up, one thought leads to another…and he’s off!

He’s learned to edit himself: after concluding his (relatively) brief, humorous introductory remarks at 7:12 p.m., he said, “Those of you who have heard me speak before know it will only take two questions to get me to 8 o’clock.” But he took a variety of questions, on a variety of topics, and finished up at 8:10.

How about a complete cycle of Sibelius symphonies? asked one man. Probably not, said Robertson; being the only musical organization of its kind in a 200-mile radius means an obligation to present a variety of works.

Is he taking static for doing so much new music? No — and he’s very careful about what he schedules. “I don’t want to waste the audience’s time; we have to do works we believe in.” That doesn’t mean that everyone out in the house has to get everything they play: “I really don’t expect everybody to love everything that crosses the stage at Powell Hall.” Robertson said he doesn’t get Gounod’s “Faust,” and that he feels shut out because, clearly, so many other people do get it. “So if we ever do a concert version of ‘Faust,’” he added, “I’ll be out of town.”

Another questioner declared himself to be anti-”avant-garde;” he wants some programs that have no new music. Robertson took him seriously and spoke to him politely. Ultimately, he suggested finding the programs that appealed to him and put together his own series. “Call the box office and ask for ‘Classical Choice.’”

Robertson also offered some tips on how to learn to appreciate certain composers: familiarity will do it, so try listening to something for five minutes each day. “I’m hoping people will find at least one modern piece they like,” he added, “or, at least, that they’ll detest less.”

(In contrast, former SLSO board chairman Virginia Weldon put up her hand and then gave the questioner the standard lecture about how all music was new music once, and how we have to give it a chance. Robertson’s approach offered his listeners some strategies for coping; had I been on the no-new-music side of the fence, Weldon’s schoolmarmish hectoring would just have made me dig in my heels.)

Robertson made an important point about outreach: the musicians of the SLSO give 90 “paying performances” each year. They also, among them, give a minimum of 250 free performances in the community — and that in an orchestra that’s only paid for 42 weeks each year. “They’re giving musical nourishment” to the region, he said.

The most entertaining moment came when Robertson talked about his family’s penchant for singing American folk and popular songs, and then offered a sampling. The second tune was concerned with an unregenerate canine who did not go to Doggie Heaven, concluding “Fido is a hot dog now.” “You’re all sworn to secrecy,” he warned. “If the New York Times found out that I can sing these songs with enjoyment, they would never believe that I could turn a Mozart phrase again.” Fortunately, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch isn’t quite so rigid in its attitudes.
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Article printed from STLtoday.com Blogs: http://www.stltoday.com/blogs
URL to article: http://www.stltoday.com/blogs/entertain ... the-folks/
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