Author Archive: Steven Kruger

Steven Kruger is a former classical concert agent. For a number of years he supervised the roster of conductors at Shaw Concerts in New York City, representing such artists as Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Neville Marriner, Rafael Fruhbeck De Burgos, Jose Serebrier and Robert Shaw.

Born in New York City in 1947 to a German immigrant father and an American mother, Kruger is a descendant of 19th century Bach biographer Philipp Spitta. He was educated at Phillips Exeter and Princeton, and received his degree in Philosophy, but turned to music administration after a brief career as a military officer and as a stockbroker.

Early in his exposure to music, Kruger developed a special fondness for the British Symphonists, and as a concert agent was able to play a part in the revival of such composers as Elgar, Delius, Walton, Bax and Vaughan Williams during the late 1970s.

He continues today as an advocate for these and other 19th and 20th century neo-romantic symphonic composers, such as D’Indy, Magnard, Korngold, Schmidt and Tubin, who were at one time eclipsed by the mid-century fashion for academic music. Now living in California, Steven Kruger reviews selected concerts in Davies Hall by The San Francisco Symphony and international visiting orchestras. Since 2011, he has written program notes on demand for the Oregon Symphony, including their recent CDs, “Music for a Time of War” and “This England”. He contributes a regular CD review column to New York Arts twice a month called A Crop of Recordings and is a masthead reviewer for Fanfare, America’s most serious remaining hardcover journal devoted to recorded music.

San Francisco Symphony with Alondra de la Parra conductor and Joyce Yang, piano in Glinka, Rachmaninoff, and Mussorgsky

Summer concerts in the city are frequently revealing in their own several ways. A quick look around Davies Hall last Friday would have reminded locals that there is no need to escape San Francisco in July. Many of the regular faces were present, and so, too, were throngs of young couples in from the suburbs. In the shirt-sleevy dusk, Van Ness Avenue and its many venues seemed the focal point of date night. The line for will-call tickets snaked around the block.

SF Symphony: Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Berlioz, with Sasha Cooke, mezzo, and Jonathan Vinocour, viola

With the conclusion of last week’s Symphony performances, the official concert year in San Francisco has come to a vivid but unexpected close. Normally, at this time of year, one anticipates listening to a monumental end-of-season work, but logistical difficulties this time prevented the orchestra from putting on Berlioz’s elaborate dramatic symphony, Romeo et Juliette. Not to worry!

Musical Life in San Francisco: Yuja Wang, Michael Tilson Thomas, and the SF Symphony play Poulenc, Stravinsky, Villa-Lobos, Ravel, and Stravinsky

Michael Tilson Thomas may sometimes over-program his orchestra and over-instruct his audiences, as locals will attest, but a cooperative sunset, a dazzling young Chinese soloist in a red dress, and a frothy line-up of arch and knowing pieces helped transform last Thursday evening’s SF Symphony concert into something of a summer gala.

The young French pianist David Fray plays Bach keyboard concerti and Schubert solo works on disc.

David Fray’s recent appearances in San Francisco, performing Beethoven’s Second Concerto, revealed him to be a refined, supple colorist. It was less immediately clear how bold or romantic, or indeed “Gouldian” Mr. Fray would turn out to be in music more fully under his own direction. These two new excellent CDs begin to answer this question, and to suggest, moreover, the birth of a fine conductor.

Eschenbach and David Fray with the San Francisco Symphony: Dalbavie, Beethoven, and Brahms

There’s an improvisational mindset in the American character which can sometimes be hard on a European musician who composes according to a “system”. We are a nation of pragmatic, rather than theoretical listeners. We tend to disregard instruction manuals and learn by getting behind the wheel. We expect music to be ergonomic. Dodecaphony isn’t driveable, we find, so we leave it on the lot. The tires are twelve-sided, and all the knobs and levers are in the wrong places. Sorry! No sale. And now we distrust everything cerebral coming down the pike!

No Dudamania in San Francisco: Dudamel leads the LA Philharmonic in Bernstein and Tchaikovsky

There is a sound you sometimes hear after midnight, high up in Manhattan. It comes from maybe thirty blocks away. Very faint. In the stillness of your mind, you know it is a lonely taxi horn dancing with the doppler effect. But in the small hours of the city, you wonder who might be riding home amongst sleeping millions, and how boozily, and what love affairs or personal dramas are about to begin or end. New York is like that. In its darkness, taxis are crickets, and you listen.

Eschenbach conducts Schumann and Zemlinsky with the San Francisco Symphony—and an Appreciation of Zemlinsky

The San Francisco Symphony gave two performances last Saturday night–one it may have been unhappy with–and one it may have been unhappy about.

This somewhat unusual state of affairs began with an annoucement from the stage that the concert was being delayed. I had wondered at the half empty hall, something you don’t normally see in San Francisco. Dysfunction on the Golden Gate Bridge, as it turned out. A number of players were stuck and much of the audience was still in transit.

Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra in San Francisco play Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Denis Matsuev and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15

This week, the touring Mariinsky Orchestra, led by the ubiquitous Valery Gergiev, performed two evenings at Davies Hall in San Francisco. The first program, which I did not hear, was devoted to Prokofiev ballets and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. The second, more intriguing to me, presented Shostakovich’s enigmatic final symphony, as well as an opportunity to assess the Rachmaninoff artistry of Denis Matsuev, who is being hailed these days as a pianist in the Horowitz tradition.