Tag Archive: San Francisco Symphony

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.

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.

Herbert Blomstedt conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Mozart and Bruckner

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.