Saturday, October 6, 2012

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

My editors sent me to review the blue-rinse matinée, because it was the first performance of the set. I don't like going to these, because the audience is normally so somnolent, though Respighi's march of the Roman soldiers along the Appian Way, the conclusion of The Pines of Rome, kind of woke them up. (This work was written after Mussolini came to power, and the descriptive preface to the score even notes that this section is "a fantastic vision of bygone glories," the realization of which was Mussolini's driving motive, so if you've ever wondered what Fascist music sounds like, this march is it. If you don't know it, here's a particularly evil-minded performance.)

To avoid daytime parking hassles in the City, and because the matinées, unlike the evening concerts, don't end after CalTrain stops running1, I took public transit all the way. And since I got B. to drive me to the local station in the morning (I took the local bus home, as she was out in the evening), and I walked the two miles inbound from the City station to Davies because I had plenty of time, the transit set my wallet back a total of $18, which is probably less than it costs in gas now to drive. This expedition also gave me the chance to try out two conveniently-located but otherwise elusive restaurants on my "gotta check these out sometime" list, one for an early lunch and one for an early light dinner.2

But with sluggish, desperately crowded Muni and an awkward train schedule, from the time I finished my sandwich until I got home took three hours for a 45-mile trip, even though nothing went seriously wrong, and that's just too enervating when I'm facing a deadline.

From my concert review, the perspicacious should be able to detect three things: 1) that I wrote blog reviews of guest conductor Vasily Petrenko's two previous performances here, 2) that even though I know Pines well, I got the score anyway (the translation of the dynamic instructions, though not of the preface, is my own, though translating Italian like ppp il più possibile isn't difficult), and 3) that I skated over the Bartók because I don't know it as well as I should.

Compare also Kosman's review in the Chronicle, a Kosman Special in which he spends most of the review complaining that he doesn't like the repertoire, and giving the orchestra backhanded compliments for playing it well. I try not to write like that, though as an occasional freelancer I'm not subjected to music I dislike very often. But I'm getting kind of personally exasperated with some of his dislikes. So you think Respighi sucks? I'll stick up for him as my favorite post-Baroque Italian composer, bar none. Keep all those opera guys, Verdi and Puccini and Bellini and Donizetti, yea even Rossini, not to mention the avant-garde like Berio and Scelsi and Nono [an excellent name for that composer], I'll stick up for Respighi. In fact I'm relistening to de Waart's fine SFS recording of Pines right now, just because.

1. Actually, after an evening concert, the slow, balky local bus is likely to get you to the train station just after the 10:40 train has left, which means you have to wait 80 minutes for the midnight milk run, which takes another hour and a half to get to San José, so fnck that idea.
2. Did I tell you I started reviewing for Yelp at the start of this year? Not that I trust Yelp - not much, anyway - but it seemed a good place to emit restaurant comments that I didn't want to bore this blog with. Here's lunch and dinner.


  1. Would BARTing from Civic Center to Millbrae help? If you could catch the 10:16 departure it gets to Millbrae at 10:49, in plenty of time to get that Caltrain at 11:04. (The next BART at 10:36 gets to Millbrae at 11:09, typical lack of coordination.)

    Caltrain's supposed to be adding more trains next week, but I can't find a schedule. Probably not plugging that annoying 80-minute gap though.

  2. Craftily, if 10:40 is just too late to get by bus to the CalTrain station, 10:16 is just too late to walk to BART, so it doesn't much help.

    Sometimes you could make it, but it's too great of a risk.