Thursday, April 23, 2015

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Subdued, even somnolent performances of repertoire you'd never characterize with such terms. But then, it was the blue-rinse matinee, so maybe that explains it.

Vassily Petrenko was conducting, so the choices were mostly Russian. But not entirely: he began with Sam Barber's School for Scandal Overture, and really brought that lively battery of a piece down to sober lyricism.

Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto was livelier in the orchestra, but the soft, plushy tones of soloist Sa Chen transported it into unknown realms. Can you imagine that gigantic crashing unaccompanied F minor opening rendered in an accent more suitable for a lullaby?

After intermission, the work I came for, Shostakovich's Twelfth. An extremely difficult work to perform adequately, this didn't quite make it. Petrenko tackled the inherent problem of this most pompous of Shostakovich symphonies by taking those parts slowly and gently, and strongly emphasizing the quieter and more lyrical sections. Which are genuinely there, but the approach only made it more obvious that this work lacks the tough sinew of the more funereal Eleventh.

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