It can sometimes seem like a scalping to play an opera overture as a concert piece, but Maestro Oundjian's apparent delight in Berlioz' music overcame any such qualms. They played the piece as if it were self-contained with a closer-than-usual study and without the anticipation or apprehension of the visual elements of theatre. It can be nice to hear an overture without the distraction of a rising curtain. It also served nicely as a relatively lighter prelude to the Brahms and Tchaikovsky. The precise stops and timing of the silences were very satisfying (and provided an interesting test of the hall's acoustical decay time — the sound taking about 3 seconds to decay but fairly evenly across the pitches). The Sydney Symphony brought across the vivid orchestration as effortlessly as singing.
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!