Wednesday, October 25, 2017

three concerts

1. San Francisco Symphony, Thursday. The return of Krzysztof Urbański, with more Slavic music. Dvořák cello concerto, slightly less boring than usual, but I didn't care for the cellist's tone. Also, the Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra, a piece I respect more than like, but it was a very crisp, pleasing, and impressive performance. One of my colleagues reviewed this.

2. Oakland Symphony, Friday. First concert of the season. Birthday celebration for music director Michael Morgan. I wrote a thanks on a a giant birthday card for him, and signed it with "your agemate." Asst. conductor led the orchestra in playing "Happy Birthday." No National Anthem, thank ghu. I went to this concert for the rare chance to hear Shostakovich's Fifteenth, an enigmatic, hushed, introverted symphony, which made an odd pair with Beethoven's Fifth, a forthright, loud, extroverted symphony. But they were both fairly well played. Another colleague of mine reviewed this.

I go to Oakland concerts when they're playing something I really want to hear, because they're not physically easy for me to get to; but I may stop if I get any more phone calls like the one I got from them this morning, which when I gave this explanation tried to argue me into thinking that all the rest of the season's concerts are equally fascinating to me.

3. Symphony Silicon Valley, Saturday. Brahms Third and the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, two pieces I like but wouldn't travel to Oakland for. I would, however, travel to San Jose for them, and glad I did, because they were beautifully done. Returning soloist Mayuko Kamio had as weird and peculiar a sound as ever, but plays it well, and first-time visiting conductor Mei-Ann Chen was a truly impressive leader. This concert, ta-da, was reviewed by me.

A couple things on the review. About the blooper on the last chord, I wound up writing, "Technically, the playing was nearly flawless until just before the end when a few missteps crept in," because I think I caught another glitch a little earlier. It sounded like the entire wind section momentarily put its foot wrong, as it were. It could have been a hidden inner voice revealed by the exposed playing style, but it didn't sound like something Brahms would do, and though I didn't recall the exact moment it happened I couldn't find anything in the score when I checked later, so I'm going with the assumption.

Also, I noted that Chen was the only first-time conductor on this year's roster. (Last season they had 2, the season before none.) What I did not note, but could have if I'd chosen to play that card, is that she's also the only woman to conduct here in three years. (Actually, I'd forgotten it was that long since Karen Kamensek last appeared.) I could also have made irony out of the difference in programming between the new music and women composers featured at Chen's home base and the conservative program here, but in fact I have mixed feelings about that. I'm in favor of newer and unusual music, and that's what I go to Oakland for; and I put up with a feeble local amateur group because they were doing an all-women composer program, but I also believe that music is a performing art, and even the hoariest of classics only lives at all because people still play it. So bring on the Brahms, because he's as great as his reputation says; and the Khachaturian, which is nowhere near as much of a warhorse as it used to be.

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