Performance Thursday, April 23, 2015 | 8 PM

Orchestra of St. Luke's

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto makes great demands on the soloist, especially the wrenching cadenza that opens the final movement—a harrowing prelude that sets up a fierce danse macabre that concludes the work. Soloist Alisa Weilerstein has been praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for her “wonderfully large and expressive string tone.” Stravinsky’s piquant Symphonies of Wind Instruments and Beethoven’s immortal Symphony No. 5 frame the program.


  • Orchestra of St. Luke's
    Pablo Heras-Casado, Principal Conductor
  • Alisa Weilerstein, Cello


  • STRAVINSKY Symphonies of Wind Instruments
  • SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 2
  • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5


Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (Allegro)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe | Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Conductor
Warner Classics

At a Glance

IGOR STRAVINSKY  Symphonies of Wind Instruments

Listeners who come to this remarkable work of 1920 (conceived as a tribute to the memory of Debussy) from Stravinsky’s luxuriant early ballets inevitably receive a great shock. Gone are the fullness of sonority, visceral energy, fragments of folk tunes, and thunderous climaxes. What is left seems, at first hearing, cold, willfully dissonant, harsh, and grating. Ensuing decades gave listeners the experience of hearing later Stravinsky, and the opportunity to realize that this score greatly anticipates the techniques and style of his music for at least the next three decades. It is not “cuddly” music, but it is strong and powerful.

Dmitri Shostakovich   Cello Concerto No. 2 in G Major, Op. 126

Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 has long been one of the most frequently performed works of its type from a 20th-century composer. He wrote the Concerto No. 2 just seven years later, yet its reception was far more muted, and it is heard far less often than the first. This largely has to do with the change in the composer’s style as he approached his late years, beset by issues of health and, even more, an evident sense that his musical world was once again closing down after a period (following the death of Stalin in 1953) in which he seemed to express his feelings more openly. In the last decade of his life, Shostakovich wrote music that was increasingly inner-directed, avoiding grand statements and allowing (even inviting) listeners to come to their own conclusions as to its message.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN  Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67

Almost from the day of its first performance, Beethoven’s Fifth has been regarded as the symphony, the absolute exemplification of what the word means and what makes a musical expression “symphonic.” It has been connected with many non-musical ideas—most notably Churchill’s “V for victory” gesture during World War II, thanks to the coincidence that the rhythm of the opening four notes corresponds to the Morse code signal for “V.” But more than anything else, the symphony created a kind of internal drama, one marking a course from a dark beginning in the minor mode to a glorious illumined close in the major, taken to express a moral quality—a kind of combat from darkness to light. Many composers have been captivated by it, many have attempted something similar, but Beethoven’s example remains supreme.

This performance is part of Orchestra of St. Luke's.