Tomorrow, January 31st, is Schubert's birthday. And is the San Francisco Symphony playing any Schubert this week? They are not. Guest conductor Charles Dutoit led dull and windy performances of Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole and Lalo's Symphonie espagnole. The latter, which is really a violin concerto, had as soloist James Ehnes, who is 36 years old and was consequently born about the same time I last listened to Lalo's Symphonie espagnole all the way through. I spent much of this performance thinking about how the work was written for Sarasate and how much Sarasate hated any parts of a concerto where he was not playing. Lalo didn't give him much to hate.
And some Elgar. Given the theme of the rest of the concert, did they play the suite from his opera The Spanish Lady? No. Did they play his early tone poem Sevillana (Scene Espagnole), which is so obscure even I have never heard it? No. They played the Enigma Variations, the standard default Elgar work, and made it so dull and windy as to turn it into a libel on the composer's insights into human nature. This was wrong.
I was looking forward to telling you about hearing community orchestras give free performances of Nielsen's Second and Third Symphonies, both of them, but I missed the performance of the Third. I had it on my calendar; I just forgot to go. But I did hear the Second, from the Prometheus Symphony in Oakland last Sunday. That was Mozart's birthday, but they didn't play any Mozart. Besides the Nielsen - a game attempt at a difficult work, seriously marred only by being too slow and by having the composer's name misspelled in the program book - they played Ernest Bloch's Schelomo with one of those amazing young soloists, cellist Oliver Herbert. As is often the case, he was fully technically qualified and lacked only seasoning. He could play all the notes, he just didn't give the impression of having any idea why he was playing them.
I'm looking forward to some concerts more delectable, if not next week - Dutoit is still here next week - then the week after.
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