Wednesday, November 2, 2011

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Son of a gun, I've finally found a composer that Semyon Bychkov isn't outstanding at conducting, and that composer is Richard Strauss.  The two works of his on tonight's program were good, but Not particularly Memorable.  Don Juan lacked some of the heft in the strings that I know SFS could have given it, and received a weird interpretation focusing on the wandering and quiet sections: Don Juan on the Psychiatrist's Couch.  Also on the program, a one-movement piano concerto titled Burleske.  I'd never heard of it before, and now I know why.  It's very early Strauss, from back when his music still resembled Brahms, but this piece doesn't resemble Brahms at all, though the program notes say it does.  It wants to be light and fluffy, as if it were French, but Strauss doesn't do French.  Imagine a concerto by Saint-Saëns trying to dance while wearing a heavy weighted lead suit.  Pianist Kirill Gerstein played with all the fluency he could muster, but it didn't help much.

The other half of the program, however, featured a composer I've heard Bychkov conduct before, and that composer is Robert Schumann.  To say his Second Symphony was layered, textured, interwoven, hardly does this marvelously transparent (and people say that Schumann was a thick, soggy orchestrator! Hah!) performance justice.  Contrapuntal movement is particularly important in this symphony, and every line was both audible and integrated.  Marvelously luminescent sound too.  And it still all smelled like Schumann, with the weight and stateliness that he brings to all his works of this kind.

Dinner beforehand at the Thai restaurant with the hide-and-seek menu, the one where you have to guess which items will not cause the waitress to come back a couple minutes later with "I'm sorry, we're out of that too."

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