A number of years ago now-disgraced Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit brought down the house at Davies Hall with Holst's The Planets. I recall that evening well, a grand traditional performance. On a recent Sunday, though, San Francisco's Resident Conductor, 28 year-old German-born Christian Reif, did better than that. He not only delivered a white-hot account of Holst's interplanetary suite which will play well on Jupiter once the sounds get there. He jump-started what I hope will be a major career. As local music patrons are aware, Michael Tilson Thomas will be leaving our orchestra after another season. Under the circumstances, every guest conductor looms large in the institutional gimlet eye. Leonard Bernstein's conducting career, after all, rocketed when Bruno Walter caught a bout of the flu. Christian Reif's renown may well benefit from Charles Dutoit's bout with moral turpitude....
The ticket for Sancho: An Act of Remembrance pictures the character, hand upraised, above the phrase: “By fortitude, not fate, go I.” That neatly nails the saga of Charles Ignatius Sancho, born into poverty on a West Indian slave ship, who rose to become a composer, writer, businessman and possibly the first black man to have voted in England.
New York Theater Ballet aims to reexamine classics with a fresh, contemporary look. In this case, most of the evening was a celebration of Jerome Robbins’ Centennial showcasing Septet, Rondo and Concertino. Both Septet and Concertino are performed to music by Stravinsky; the former to Reduction for Two Pianos and the latter to Concerto for String Quartet and Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo. All three ballets are plotless and were danced in simple, unadorned costumes on a bare stage. Florence Gould Hall is small so the audience is close to the dancers and exposed to the bare bones of performing including rosin squeaks and sometimes heavy landings although Steven Melendez managed to make his light, a fine achievement for a good-sized, athletic man.