I cannot resist this postscript to my 7,000-word manifesto, in the current American Scholar, about the South Dakota Symphony.
If you happen to watch the live-stream [embedded above] of their Shostakovich 7 concert, with its 40-minute preamble, you will discover at the end an expression of pride and accomplishment the likes of which I have never before witnessed at a professional symphonic concert. It more resembles the incredulous thrill experienced by gifted conservatory instrumentalists communally discovering a great piece of music. Nothing is pro forma about this SDSO demonstration – it gathers force as Delta David Gier invites members of the orchestra to stand in turn.
At 1:54:58, you will see Yi-Chun Lin, the longtime SDSO principal violist, pump her arms when her section is acknowledged. And no wonder: just listen, at 1:28:00, to how magnificently these seven players sing this symphony’s most beautiful song. For that matter: at 1:31:32 there is a place in the slow movement that demands maximum commitment if Shostakovich’s sprawling Adagio is to retain shape: the entire string choir, unsupported by winds, recapitulates the main chorale theme fortissimo. The South Dakota players clinch this fulcrum moment.
And listen to Gier and his orchestra clinch the symphony’s titanic ending, beginning at 1:48.
On October 28, the South Dakota Symphony presents the most formidable of all American concertos: Lou Harrison’s, for piano and orchestra. The performance, with Emanuele Arciuli, will be preceded by a thirty-minute scripted introduction with film. Ancillary concerts will be heard on three university campuses. (You can sample Arciuli’s beautiful performance of the Harrison concerto with Dennis Russell Davies and the Leipzig Radio Orchestra on my “More than Music” Lou Harrison tribute on NPR.) Most American orchestras do not even know this music exists.