Thursday, September 12, 2013

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

First concert of the season. The economy must really be improving, despite the stale job figures: traffic and parking were more congested than on any ordinary evening in the last five years or more. I may have to rethink some of my rules of thumb for managing my evenings in the City.

MTT conducted. First work, a short piece called Lineage by a 28-year-old Canadian grad student named Zosha di Castri, not a name to fade into the background. Hushed and ghostly orchestration, full of whooshes, twitters, and whirs, sounding rather like what I'd imagine Debussy would be writing if this were 2013 and not 1890. Occasional reminders of memorable moments from modern masterworks: the hovering ostinato of Nielsen's Fifth Symphony, an angular motif from Britten's Peter Grimes. Interesting piece (he said, chewing slowly).

Next, a dramatic shift into the first and - astonishingly, until you've heard the others - least boring of Tchaikovsky's piano concertos. Muscular, darting performance by the orchestra, making it sound more like Rachmaninoff. Yefim Bronfman contributed his own irregularly idiosyncratic figures to the whole.

Finally, Prokofiev's Third Symphony, a harsh and dissonant modernist product of his sojourn in the West. This is one of the few works of that kind that I really like. Also very fast, more a collection of passing colors and incidents than a welded whole. Fine work from the percussion, an especially notable achievement as the longtime chiefs of both the timpani and the batterie left after last season.

I took an excessively roundabout journey home so that I could try out the new Bay Bridge span for the first time. Very impressive aesthetic experience; more on this after I've had the chance to take it in the other direction and/or during the daytime.

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