Friday, October 25, 2019

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony. Played all over the US during WW2 as a symbol of Soviet-American wartime solidarity. Spent the next three decades unplayed and pointed at as proof that Shostakovich was a crappy composer. Since then it's reverted to proof that he's a great composer.

But no greater than he was last night. First-time guest conductor Karina Canellakis led this epic work (some 80 minutes) as if she sincerely believed in it, every note, and oh how it showed. Especially in the contrasting middle sections of the last two movements (loud and passionate in the Adagio, quiet and meandering in the finale) but also throughout, the coherent and expressive phrasing was spectacular: emphatically both meaningful and beautiful. This was the best Shostakovich at SFS since Semyon Bychkov's first turn at the Eleventh.

Also on the program, Prokofiev's First and shortest (15 minutes) Piano Concerto. Alexander Gavrylyuk played the solo part with the solid clang that made this sound like maturer Prokofiev than it is. Demonstrated his variety with an encore in the form of a wispy rendition of a bit of melancholy Schumann.

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