Wednesday, February 5, 2014

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Kind of a distracted and hectic day, and it was raining, which is good except if you're out in it, so I almost tossed it over and didn't go. But in the end I did.

When this year's season was first announced, a year ago, the writeup on this concert described Henri Dutilleux as "one of our greatest living composers." Now he's just another great dead one. His Métaboles was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra in 1965; this was at the height of the period when it was believed that all modern music had to sound like this: difficult, complicated, uningratiating. Actually it's a fairly interesting work, sounding rather more like Messiaen than the composer would probably want to know, and isn't objectionable so long as nobody's telling you that all the new music has to be like this.

But on the radio going home I found some Hovhaness. Now that's a composer of that day whose works I could really go for.

The announcement also said we were going to get pianist Hélène Grimaud - the de Larrocha or Argerich of her generation - playing the Brahms Second Concerto. It turned out to be the First, about as different as you can get and still be Brahms. Together with young conductor Lionel Bringuier, who appears to be Swiss - it's not as if the program's so-called bio will actually come out and tell you this - the First was taken in a relaxed and expansive manner so that it was as close to the Second as possible.

Also on the program, Ravel's La Valse, a hothouse flower that received the loving care from the orchestra I wish could have been devoted to a better piece.

In other musical news, Lisa Irontongue alerts me that another Reactions to the Record symposium is being planned at Stanford. This one has fewer program participants than its predecessors, though it does have Taruskin - let's hope he isn't forced by personal circumstances to cancel as he did last time - and it's being held in the funereal little back room downstairs in Bing, instead of over near the music department.

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