Several solid hits and a bit of a bunt. That's how it seemed last Saturday at the San Francisco Symphony. Returning from a recent European tour, Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra set before the Davies audience three American works that played brilliantly to his strengths and temperament, and a performance of the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony which brought the house down, but seemed a touch undetailed.
iave’s and Verdi’s adaptation of Dumas fils’ La dame aux camélias is ubiquitous these days, both in regional companies and the major houses, but for some time it hasn’t caught up with me...until now. It is without a doubt regrettable that the audience draw of a handful of operas pushes outstanding less familiar works from the repertoire, and La Traviata is one of the most egregious culprits, but a cast, staging, and musical direction of the calibre I witnessed at La Fenice this Sunday afternoon make all these considerations irrelevant and make it impossible to resist La Traviata as an extraordinary masterpiece that touches basic issues in us all: the life of women in society, the faith of young men in passion, the blindness of good intentions. The results are genuinely tragic, and a performance like this goes far beyond the usual ritual and can genuinely move us.
Fortune and men’s eyes. Rembrandt, like Beethoven, has had the good fortune of familiarity breeding deeper admiration. Contempt was never a possibility. The same can’t be said for Raphael and Rubens, who have suffered scorn — and still do — interspersed with worship. But there has never been a masterpiece by Beethoven that was later attributed to a much lesser composer like Czerny or Spohr, while this happens regularly to Rembrandt. London is one of the great storehouses of Rembrandt paintings, along with New York and Amsterdam, and one can find works here that were lauded in the past but now are relegated to Gerard Dou (who?) or Jan Lievens (never heard of him). Among art experts both are respectable craftsmen, perhaps far better than that, but footnotes to a footnote when it comes to a titan like Rembrandt.