Saturday, February 4, 2012

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Week one of the annual fortnight of The Return of the Blomstedt, always the part of the season I look forward to the most. And he's going to lavish as much care and thoughtful consideration upon Tchaikovsky's Fifth as any more intellectually formidable symphony by Sibelius or Bruckner. This was a serious, cultivated performance. He didn't light fires - no blaring, no flailing, no giant pregnant pauses - instead, the underlying power just swept through, keeping the music clipping at a steady gear.

The sound was as much like a Russian orchestra as I expect an American one could manage: deep, echoing, woody. Not quite Borodin rather than Tchaikovsky, but close. This is pretty much the direct opposite of the serrated sound that MTT was cultivating at the beginning of the season, so this shows how versatile the orchestra can be.

Part of Blomstedt's aim seemed to be to meld the winds into the string sound, like raisins in a pudding. Sometimes, if anything, they were buried too deeply; it was quite an achievement in Tchaikovsky, who orchestrated as if separated choirs were part of his religion. It certainly affected the flavor of the result.

Also, Garrick Ohlsson - "the great Garrick Ohlsson," as another concert-goer we talked to insisted on dubbing him, not unjustly - tickled the ivories through Mozart's K. 271, the best of his early (well, early middle) piano concertos. Very small orchestra in accompaniment; nice balance, blend, and coordination.

For sustenance beforehand, we tried out The Grove, a newish restaurant which confusingly is not on Grove Street, but behind Davies at Franklin and Hayes. Counter service, not enough uncomfortable seating. Limited bistro menu, so you have to like what they have, but it was good. My meatballs were big and hearty, though still outweighed by the cheesebread they came with, and I'm not that fond of cheesebread. My companions liked their chicken pot pies, and raved over the scones, lemonade, and orange juice. So, good for a fairly quick light meal.

Also in the musical line: review of a piano recital CD. I'd had this for over a month and kept putting it off, partly because I'd bolloxed up my understanding of how the CD review deadlines work. Fortunately, they took it late.

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