Thursday, February 9, 2012

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

You have to really, really like Bruckner's music to want to attend a concert consisting solely of his hour-and-a-half Fifth Symphony, not quite his longest but probably the most formidable. And I do like it, I do. (If it had been Mahler's Fifth, I wouldn't have been there.)

This performance offered a new variation on the Blomstedt Special. The first two movements, especially the slow movement, were the most magnificent things I had ever heard. It wasn't so much that Blomstedt shaped and structured the music with obvious brilliance (though, as it turned out, it was brilliant), or even that the playing was totally without flaw (a too-blatant gasp for breath from the flute here, a wobble in the trumpet there), it was the rich and deep and weighty and totally enormous sound of the orchestra. It was a sonic cathedral. Heaven is vibrations in the air.

But then it began to decay. The sound remained the same, but the importance of the conductor's sense of shaping became critical when the finale began to feel as if it was spinning its wheels and not getting anywhere. It wasn't bad, exactly, and I've given good reviews to performances no better than this, but - to adapt a phrase - after such perfection, what forgiveness?

The good news, though, was that it didn't dribble out at the end. The coda picked itself up and concluded fairly satisfactorily.

My area of seating often sells late one-off tickets, and I sometimes am surrounded by people of specific types I don't usually see there. This time it was a lot of teenage girls slouching in blue jeans. I was afraid they might talk while the music was on, as sometimes happens. Not a peep.

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