New York Arts in San Francisco

The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, Donato Cabrera, conductor, with Chen Zhao, violin, and Katie Kadarauch, viola in Mason Bates, Mozart, and Bartók

San francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, 2014. Photo Kristen Loken.

Mason Bates will surely forgive us–if I suggest the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra out-deviled everyone at this concert!

For a Saturday afternoon in May, Davies Hall was well attended, with a more jovial parental buzz than usual. Lots of children were in the audience. Hope springs eternal they won’t fidget–utopian when dealing with three-year-olds inclined to crawl. One of the forward boxes resembled a puppy-pen throughout, with lots of motion, aleatoric burbling and various appendages attempting to escape the banister. But no matter.The music won.

Alan Gilbert Conducts the New York Philharmonic at Davies Hall, San Francisco

Alan Gilbert conducts New York Philharmonic. Photo © Chris Lee.

Davies Hall , San Francisco The New York Philharmonic Alan Gilbert, conductor May 6, 2016 Beethoven—Egmont Overture, Opus 84 Beethoven—Symphony No. 7 in A major, Opus 92 ***** Sibelius——-Symphony No. 7 in C major, Opus 105 Sibelius——-Finlandia, Opus 26 “My…
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Edwin Outwater Conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Weber, Saint-Saëns, Busoni and Hindemith

Edwin Outwater. Photo © edwinoutwater.com.

Davies Hall, San Francisco January 29, 2016 The San Francisco Symphony Edwin Outwater, Conductor Stephen Hough, Piano Weber — Oberon Overture (1826) Saint-Saëns — Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Opus 103, Egyptian, (1896) Busoni — Music from Turandot Suite, Opus 41 (1905)…
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The San Francisco Symphony: Herbert Blomstedt, conductor; Maria João Pires, piano, in Beethoven and Bruckner

Pianist Maria João Pires

It was a surrealistic night. Every so often a trip to the symphony is like that. It had oddities—both nice and annoying.

First-off, I thought, ninety seems to be the new seventy. And seventy surely is the new fifty. As Herbert Blomstedt came onstage, he didn’t look eighty-nine, that’s for certain! Just slightly snowier than last time. Tall, eager, ambassadorial as ever—Blomstedt led the evening without baton and the symphony from memory—an incredible feat with this edition.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Pinchas Zukerman, conductor and violinist, at Davies Hall

Sir Edward conducts an acoustic recording session.

I missed hearing the Royal Philharmonic last February in London. But while there, I found myself often reminded of the problems British orchestras and audiences face. Festival Hall, which once sounded like a pretty good hi-fi system, disposed of its Helmholtz “resonators” in a recent renovation and in so doing lost half its reverberation time, however artificial. It now sounds like NBC’s late unlamented Studio 8H.

Krzysztof Urbański Debuts with Emanuel Ax and the San Francisco Symphony in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony

Krzysztof Urbański conducts. Photo by Maria Maślanka

This was an old-fashioned program — the kind audiences like. Two grand and tuneful symphonic works. A venerated pianist. The debut of a young matinee idol conductor. And last but not least, total absence of any threatening nouvelle cuisine for the ear. So how did it go, this debut?

Marek Janowski Leads the San Francisco Symphony in Pfitzner’s “Palestrina” Preludes and the Beethoven Fourth and Eighth Symphonies

Marek Janowski. Photo © CAMI.

Marek Janowski always brings a convincing German something to our orchestra. Polish born, Janowski was raised in Germany and reigns at the Berlin Radio Symphony–indeed is known throughout Europe for his Wagner, Bruckner, Schumann and Beethoven. He’s even managed to elicit convincing Bruckner from the Suisse Romande in Geneva–that alone surely worth some nation’s Legion of Honor–and every so often does the rounds instructively with us. This time Pfitzner was the centerpiece.

Yan Pascal Tortelier leads the San Francisco Symphony in a French Program: Bizet, Ravel, and Saint-Saëns, with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano, and Jonathan Dimmock, organ

Yan Pascal Tortelier

Yan Pascal Tortelier was levitating with exuberance last Friday.

Every good conductor shows passion, of course, even those untempted by choreography. But audiences love the ones who take to the air and defy gravity—most famously Leonard Bernstein, who did so wildly and erotically—but also the occasional anomaly. I once witnessed long-gone Swedish conductor Sixten Ehrling, famously reserved, conduct Respighi’s Roman Festivals in his seventies, leaping about the Carnegie Hall stage like a red devil from Hades. Only the trident was missing.