By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
Queen's music was always a strutting, self-consciously over-the-top thing, but most of the heavy lifting had to be done by Brian May's incredible guitar playing (artfully overdubbed for maximal soundscaping). On Friday, May 31, the SLSO marches out the full ersatz pomp of Queen's songbook in renditions of familiar material such as "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Another One Bites the Dust." But what we're really hoping to hear is "Tie Your Mother Down"; to behold an entire symphony orchestra amplify May's beautiful beast of a riff would be worth double the value of Freddie Mercury's queenly estate.
The very next night, Saturday, June 1, the SLSO presents Music of Pink Floyd. Complemented by an eight-member rock band, the musicians of our top-tier hometown orchestra go exploring in the Floydean realm. Selections from Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, among others, will be played. Pink Floyd famously used a full orchestra (with, frankly, mixed results) on its 1970 LP Atom Heart Mother; however, 1979's The Wall was, for our money, the best-realized and most musical synthesis of Pink Floyd's rock instrumentation with occasional orchestral accents. If you mention that album's "Comfortably Numb" to most people, they'll immediately think of David Gilmour and his two famous, knockout guitar solos, but it's arranger Michael Kamen's sublime string chart that provides the runway from which Gilmour's Strat takes off into the blue.
Finally, one rock album in particular proved definitively that there was more, much more, to the music than just guitars/bass/drums and stock blues-derived chord patterns — a certain 1967 long player by the Beatles. On Friday, June 28, the SLSO honors this milestone recording with the 45th Anniversary Celebration of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Classical Mystery Tour joins forces with the symphony to interpret what's inarguably the most famous, and arguably the most ambitious, rock album of all time. Lennon and McCartney, with the priceless assistance of George Martin (as gifted an arranger as he was an audio producer), expanded their sonic scope immeasurably on Pepper's key tracks. Try to imagine "She's Leaving Home," "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" or "A Day in the Life" without the enlarging qualities of their respective orchestral arrangements. You can't; it's like looking at a Van Gogh in black and white.
All three performances begin at 8 p.m., and tickets for each are $35 to $80. Each concert takes place at Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-1700 or www.slso.org).
— Alex Weir
Just as nature arranges fresh sights and sounds to signal the beginning of summer, so does the annual Missouri Chamber Music Festival each June. This year's festival features the music of classical composers Franz Schubert and Igor Stravinsky, with additional arrangements from composers Henry Purcell, Carl Nielsen, Ástor Piazzolla and a world premiere of Amy Beth Kirsten's Kiss to the Earth. Selections from Schubert include Fantasia for Piano 4 Hands and Octet in F Major, and famous works from Stravinsky such as The Rite of Spring and The Soldier's Tale — the latter is accompanied with a dance performance from the Missouri Ballet Theatre. Get lost in the rich, layered sounds of violin, cello and bass strings singing beside piano keys and blasts of bassoon, trumpet, French horn and percussion at each performance, and feel the power and awe of some of the world's most cherished classical songs. The festival is staggered over three evening concerts at the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves (10 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves) on Thursday, June 13, Saturday, June 15, and Monday, June 17. Ticket prices range from $20 to $35. For more information, call 314-882-0053 or visit www.mochambermusic.org.