Sunday, May 6, 2012

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Bach went up against Handel at Davies Hall on Saturday. It wasn't a fair fight.

True, Bach brought along a good number of his best heavyweight contenders: no fewer than three of the Brandenburg Concertos. But two of these, the concerti grosso without soloists Nos. 3 and 6, were played in chamber music format with only one instrument to a part. In Davies' big ring hall, that cut back on their impact considerably. (The third, No. 2, was played with the four soloists against an orchestra. A wise decision, since if played in chamber numbers the soloists completely outweigh the accompanying ripieno, but it sounded odd matched with the other two.)

If the Handel offerings they'd gone up against had been some of his concertos, it might have been an even match. But no: Handel brought along the big bruisers, the Royal Fireworks Music and the G Major Water Music Suite: all large, grandiose, formal music for heavy ensemble, and it simply stomped all over the delicate Bach.

The performances were crisp and vigorous. The two violists in the violin-less Brandenburg Sixth did their best to keep the work lively rather than dark. The Handel works, but not the Bachs, were full of elaborated ornamentation. Credit, also, to the guest conductor, Jane Glover, who did not wear an overcoat, but a loose top and slacks, like just about every female conductor I see except the last one.

Following the afternoon concert, walked over with concert-going companions A&J to Lers Ros Thai a block behind the hall. This discovery, fairly new to the neighborhood, was originally recommended to me by a FoaF who lives nearby, and turned out to be just as good the second time. The dishes pay close pre-ordering examination. Shrimp with asparagus was delicately seasoned (and with ten large shrimp, not stingy); ginger rice with crispy chicken rather Vietnamese in style; but the beef with chili sauce was some seriously spicy stuff.

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