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.
Articles by Steven Kruger
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!
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.
David Fray's recent appearances in San Francisco, performing Beethoven's Second Concerto, revealed him to be a refined, supple colorist. It was less immediately clear how bold or romantic, or indeed "Gouldian" Mr. Fray would turn out to be in music more fully under his own direction. These two new excellent CDs begin to answer this question, and to suggest, moreover, the birth of a fine conductor.
There's an improvisational mindset in the American character which can sometimes be hard on a European musician who composes according to a "system". We are a nation of pragmatic, rather than theoretical listeners. We tend to disregard instruction manuals and learn by getting behind the wheel. We expect music to be ergonomic. Dodecaphony isn't driveable, we find, so we leave it on the lot. The tires are twelve-sided, and all the knobs and levers are in the wrong places. Sorry! No sale. And now we distrust everything cerebral coming down the pike!
There is a sound you sometimes hear after midnight, high up in Manhattan. It comes from maybe thirty blocks away. Very faint. In the stillness of your mind, you know it is a lonely taxi horn dancing with the doppler effect. But in the small hours of the city, you wonder who might be riding home amongst sleeping millions, and how boozily, and what love affairs or personal dramas are about to begin or end. New York is like that. In its darkness, taxis are crickets, and you listen.
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.
This week, the touring Mariinsky Orchestra, led by the ubiquitous Valery Gergiev, performed two evenings at Davies Hall in San Francisco. The first program, which I did not hear, was devoted to Prokofiev ballets and Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. The second, more intriguing to me, presented Shostakovich's enigmatic final symphony, as well as an opportunity to assess the Rachmaninoff artistry of Denis Matsuev, who is being hailed these days as a pianist in the Horowitz tradition.