Friday, September 29, 2017

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

My first concert of the new season, and my change to regularly going on Thursdays because they're no longer playing on Wednesdays.

I go all the way to the City to hear things like MTT leading the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique like he did last night. Pure clarity in the blocky orchestration, huge thrumbing rhythmic drive in the bass, cool smooth lyricism without heaving in tempo or dynamics which Berlioz does not call for, weird dying falls in the cut-off notes at the beginning of the finale.

Fine performance, though the most interesting thing was the pre-concert lecturer giving evidence that Berlioz, who idealized Beethoven, modeled the "March to the Scaffold" as a negative image, a kind of emotional inversion, of the finale of Beethoven's Fifth, and the "Witches' Sabbath" similarly on the "Ode to Joy." There's a moment in the "Ode to Joy" where a fugato leads to a triumphal reappearance of the main theme; in the "Witches' Sabbath" a fugato leads to a dark triumphal spouting of the "Dies Irae". That sort of thing.

Also on the program, Jeremy Denk doing an unvarying mumble through the solo part of Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2. The orchestra did well, but that didn't help much.

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