Sunday, February 19, 2012

concert review and ballet review

I've not much to say about Friday's SF Symphony/Edo de Waart reunion concert that didn't make it into my review. Most of the second paragraph is taken directly from the de Waart section of my unpublished (except on blogspot) article on "SFS music directors I have known." I also got to recycle a quip I made years ago about Franz Schreker being the most misnamed composer in all of classical music, which I'd been waiting for an opportunity to reuse ever since, as Schreker's name doesn't often come up.

On Sunday, as the weekend closure of the Bay Bridge threatened to clog even the land routes into the City, I took a (rather crowded) train up to see the ballet. This was my first ballet performance in something like ten years, so why now? Not surprisingly for me, I go to the ballet to hear the music. One of the pieces was choreographed to the tune of Ash by Michael Torke, one of my favorite works composed in my lifetime. This dramatic piece of Beethovenian minor-mode energy is a choreographer's favorite, too: I understand that something like 13 ballets have been made from it in its 23 years. Some of them have even been performed here, but I hadn't been alerted to them until now. I didn't want to miss a chance to hear it live, and it seems like the ballet is the only place one may do so.

Not surprisingly, the SF Ballet Orchestra under Charles Barker is not quite as good as the recording by Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony, but it was good enough, and great to hear live. Also on the program were Martinu's Harpsichord Concerto and a suite of alternately noisy and vapid pieces by somebody named Jody Talbot.

And the ballets? I don't mind looking at dancers while I listen to music, but I hear music so strongly as structure that, if the ballet doesn't adhere to that structure, it feels to me totally disconnected from the music, like movie subtitles shifted off cue. My recollections of Balanchine from long ago are that he didn't do that: his dancers' movements felt structurally connected to the music. These, in all three pieces, didn't. (Choreographers: Christopher Wheeldon, Mark Morris, and Wayne McGregor respectively, none of them names that mean anything to me.) There were some events I'd never seen before on a ballet stage: Morris had three or four of his male dancers carry another one onstage, his arms extended like Superman, and Wheeldon directed some of his to exit the stage by rolling off. McGregor has a ballerina shake her booty, if that's what it's called, at the audience, something I not only have never seen before, but hope not to see again.

The stagings were alarmingly minimalist. McGregor had a blank, all-white stage, apparently to make a point out of it. (His ballet was titled "Chroma".) The Morris men were dressed in what could be described as pastel leopard-skin tights, with a print of the same pattern hung on the back wall, reinforcing the impression already given by McGregor that these ballets were supposed to be taking place in a modern art museum. Wheeldon's had floors and walls of luminescent blue and green, and looked as if it were taking place in a light box.

Had lunch on the way up at Wise Sons, a Jewish deli that's just opened in the middle of the Mission district's Central American restaurant belt (it's on 24th just east of Van Ness). Charmed by the inscription on the outside wall reading "Since 5771" (they were previously a pop-up since last year), and impressed by the friendliness and attentiveness of all the staff including the bus-persons, if slightly less by the speed and the fact that I got a corned beef sandwich when I ordered pastrami. Well, I like corned beef too.

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