St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 5, 2002
SLSO's performance is full of dreamy and Energetic tones
By Sarah Bryan Miller

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jahja Ling, covered a lot of musical ground in Friday night's concert at Powell Hall, from Spain to Finland, all performed with conviction and spirit.

Ling, making a welcome return to the podium, changed some seating arrangements for his weekend, reversing the positions of the violas and cellos. This used to be standard practice in American orchestras, and allows the violas to be heard better, while not diminishing the effect of the cellos.

Ling is not a flashy figure, but he's graceful, economical in his movements and easy to follow. He got far better results than the frantic fellow who led last week's all-Beethoven evening, with far less apparent effort.

The concert opened with Chabrier's "Habanera", one of the many French forays into Spain - or the French idea of Spain - composed in the mid-to-late 19th century. If there were tentative moments near the beginning, they were soon resolved, and the piece, unheard here in 20 years, proved a pleasant curtain-raiser.

Next, rather than a single concerto, came a pair of very different works for solo piano and orchestra: Manuel de Falla's "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" and Liszt's "Totentanz". Both featured pianist Eduardus Halim, and he was impressive in both. Slender and fine-boned, he holds his hands in an almost claw-like manner when playing, but the technique obviously works for him.

"Nights" moves from the dreamy to the energetic, and Halim handled both with Član and lovely tone. But "Totentanz" - "Dance of Death", based on that medieval favorite, the "Dies Irae" - is a virtuoso showpiece from start to finish, and Halim proved himself a very definite virtuoso with his big sound and technical mastery of this difficult work.

Sibelius' romantic Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43, is familiar fare to the orchestra, and they play it very well. Ling addressed the score with a nicely considered, well-balanced reading, making for a splendid conclusion to a satisfying evening.

There were some lovely solo moments through the concert for many of the usual suspects, including concertmaster David Halen, principal trumpet Susan Slaughter, principal oboe Peter Bowman, acting assistant principal Jane Carl and principal flute Mark Sparks. Sparks and flutist Kimberly Valerio had some beautiful duet moments.