It isn’t often one gets to see a Grammy Award-winning orchestra, let alone one debuting an esteemed music director. But on Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m., the Lied Center for Performing Arts audience will get the chance to hear the beautiful melodies of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra echo throughout the hall.
The Grammy Award-winning orchestra makes its return to the Lied Center, previously performing its “Firebird” collaboration with American Ballet Theatre in 2018, when SLSO provided the music for the ballet troupe. The performance will also mark the debut of SLSO’s new music director, Stéphane Denève and is the official opening night of the Lied Center’s 30th Anniversary Season.
Denève is also music director of the Brussels Philharmonic and the principal guest conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra. He is a three-time winner of Diapason d’Or of the Year and has led opera productions at the Royal Opera House and the Opéra National de Paris.
SLSO will perform four pieces during the concert in a slightly altered version of its classical season opening set, according to SLSO vice president and general manager Erik Finley. Finley said the overall theme of SLSO’s season focuses on the narrative thread between French and American music, as Deneve is French and is known as one of the world’s great interpreters of French music.
“[B]ecause this will be Stéphane Denève’s first classical [concert] with the SLSO as music director, he focused on works representative of the orchestra’s quintessentially American history and long-standing commitment to American music paired with the great masters of his own nationality — a program of Franco-American friendship,” Finley said in an email. “The audience will get a good taste of that in a single program.”
The concert will open with “blue cathedral,” a recent work by American composer Jennifer Higdon commissioned in 2000. The next two pieces are by French composers — Debussy’s “La Mer” and Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G.” The concert will close with Gershwin’s beloved suite “An American in Paris.”
SLSO’s concert this year will be different from its “Firebird” show in two main ways: Deneve is now the music director, and the orchestra will actually be on the main stage instead of in the pit. Finley said orchestra members enjoyed performing at the Lied Center, citing the beauty of the venue, its excellent acoustics and the enthusiasm of Lied Center patrons. SLSO is also deeply committed to music education, making the Lied Center’s affiliation with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln appealing to the orchestra.
“At our most recent engagement … the hall was sold out, and the reception to the performance was overwhelming,” he said. “ It’s clear the Lied audiences have a passion for great music and the performing arts. Our musicians taught master classes and seminars when we last visited and we will do more of the same for this visit. It’s a very important part of our mission as an organization, and we value engaging with the University students through music education as well.”
With classic pieces of music performed by an award-winning orchestra conducted by a brand-new music director, the evening will be one Finley said attendees won’t soon forget.
“The orchestra is at a milestone moment,” Finley said. “So far the reaction to Stéphane has been incredible, from the community, the musicians, the staff and our audiences. He brings boundless enthusiasm and commitment to every performance he gives, and this is of course shared by the orchestra as well. The audience can expect to feel a personal connection to Stéphane.”
To purchase tickets, visit the Lied Center box office or go online to its ticket page.