Review: St. Louis Symphony’s all-American New Year’s Eve program, with Gershwin and a world premiere

Posted on: January 5, 2022

“An extra-large version of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performed a concert featuring three large pieces by George Gershwin, [and] the world premiere of a concerto by a Missouri composer and featuring SLSO French horn player Roger Kaza,” writes Fred Blumenthal in Sunday’s (1/2) St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri). The concert also included “two movements from Ferde Grofé’s ‘Mississippi Suite,’ plus ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ ‘Do-Re-Mi’ with singer Debby Lennon, the ‘St. Louis Blues March’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’… Guest piano soloist in ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ was Michelle Cann…. She plays with unafraid power, characteristic rubato and good, forceful balance with the big orchestra. The standing ovation resulted in an encore: a lightning-fast four-hands version of Scott Joplin’s ‘Cascades Rag,’ played with [Music Director Stéphane] Denève. The world-premiere French horn concerto is by Stefan Freund … member of the avant-garde ensemble Alarm Will Sound and artistic director of the [University of Missouri’s] Mizzou New Music Initiative. His ‘Voyageur Fantasy’ isn’t as much a demonstration of virtuosity as ‘Rhapsody in Blue’… [It] featured some hushed playing, exotic percussion, antiphony with the other horns and a jazzy solo.”