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!
New York Arts in San Francisco
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.
For a good part of this reviewer’s life, it would seem, the world has been waiting for a truly great International French symphony orchestra. At mid-century, a general feeling was that the Boston Symphony under Sergei Koussevitzky and Charles Munch carried the torch for French music, ably assisted by Paul Paray in Detroit, Pierre Monteux wherever he could be found, and, on disc, by L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva.
There appears to be something of a tug-of-war going on in the world of Mozart performances.
In the ascendancy these days, self-confident revisionist scholars, seeking to sweep away Victorian accretion, place before the public spiky, twangy and fiercely rhythmical works for small forces of original instruments. Traditional Mozart conductors, on the political defensive and seemingly chastened as romantics, come to audience rescue with slightly more refined, slightly less detuned, slightly more softly sprung music for slightly larger forces. Scarcely anyone anymore, (perhaps Barenboim), will stand before 100 players and lead a symphony by Mozart or Haydn in the manner of a Bruno Walter, an Otto Klemperer, a Herbert Von Karajan or a George Szell.
Walton’s Violin Concerto and Holst’s “The Planets” at the San Francisco Symphony with Dutoit and Barantschik
1939 must have been the year neoclassic front ranks gave up on William Walton. Here was the “English Stravinsky”, who had burst forth with silvery elbow-wit in “Facade” and scandalized church officials in “Belshazzar’s Feast.” More recently, his First Symphony had transformed telegraphic rhythm into sheer motorized power, gleaming and heartless. (only the finale, composed late and omitted at the premiere, had hinted at something more sensual and cinematic) The earlier Viola Concerto had parsed-out like the cleanest Hindemith, moving because of its beauty, but bereft of the senses.