February 2019

Music

Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Symphony in Strauss, Lutosławski, and Prokofiev, with Johannes Moser, cello.

I'm often struck, when I attend concerts, with how much it matters what we see happening onstage. Ears aren't everything. And sometimes they are not enough. This is doubly true if an audience is presented with the sort of modern music which trades in humor, sly remarks, and attitude, like the Lutosławski Cello Concerto, which received its San Francisco premiere this week nearly fifty years after it was composed. I'm happy to report the concerto was a triumph worth the wait, but its success with our audience was to a large degree determined by the mini-skit taking place onstage. Fortunately, Christian Reif and Johannes Moser are natural comedians, sufficiently so to dispel any notions that Germans are too uptight to be funny! And our close sight lines in Davies Hall, where it is easy to witness a performer's face, surely played a part in what almost amounted to a Saturday Night Live routine.
Theater

What’s Great About Gatsby? Elevator Repair Service performs Fitzgerald’s novel in its entirety, as Gatz.

Reading a book is a solitary, intimate experience in which the reader sets the pace and imagines the characters as he or she sees them. Listening to a book is another way to appreciate a work, sometimes influenced by the narrator’s voice. Gatz, as created by Elevator Repair Service, uses an unprecedented approach, staging the book as it is read in its entirely. The performance begins when an anonymous office worker sits at a desk in a grungy office and, while waiting for his computer to boot, idly picks up The Great Gatsby and starts reading it aloud. The worker slowly takes on the character of Nick Carraway, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic Jazz Age novel, who reads every word of the book including the “he/she saids” for a marathon six hours. Bit by bit, the other office workers assume the rest of the characters although the bulk of the effort falls to the staggeringly good Scott Shepherd.
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