This was, I believe, quite literally the first concert of the season. MTT is apparently away, and the regular grand gala opening will be in two weeks when he gets back. In the meantime, the guest conductor holding the fort is Semyon Bychkov. This is the guy who conducted the Vienna Philharmonic on their tour concerts here a couple years ago, and you have to be really good to get invited by them.
He's been to SFS and impressed me here before, and he did it again tonight with Tchaikovsky's Fifth. This was a performance shaped for smooth and compelling flow. Nothing was jerky, and the infamous false ending in the finale flowed on to the next thing without a murmur. Nothing was shrill, either, as loud as it got. Bychkov got the SFS to layer the sound smoothly, with special richness in the strings. At times the sound was almost Brucknerian, and the shape of the piece had a kind of Brucknerian inevitability to it too. This was Tchaikovsky with all his weaknesses carefully minimized. The only thing a bit odd was the idiosyncracy of the note values in some of the wind solos.
Also on the program, Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture, also excellent - Bychkov had shown unparalleled insight into Wagner in his Vienna Phil concerts - and Bruch's Violin Concerto, a dull performance because it was with a dull soloist, Pinchas Zukerman.
Next week, Bychkov does Schubert and Shostakovich, and no dull fiddlers in sight. I can't wait.
(No Democrats for me today, so I missed the Big Dog. I didn't even try to catch anything on the radio driving up to the City. Instead, I listened to CDs of Gilbert and Sullivan, whom I've been experiencing an unsated craving for lately.)