Friday, February 4, 2022

bitter symphonies

I felt particularly woeful missing last night's San Francisco Symphony concert because I didn't want to be out during omicron season. I doubt I've missed any of music director emeritus Herbert Blomstedt's return concerts in the 27 years since his retirement, in which he concentrates on his specialty, major symphonies from the Germanic and Scandinavian repertoire. Until now.

True, the items offered on this program - Nielsen's Fourth and Beethoven's Fifth - though individually great, make an indigestible combination. But I fancy I would have enjoyed it.

Nielsen's Fourth was the first work of his I ever heard, in a student orchestra concert when I was still in school. It was not a good piece to open the acquaintance with, written as it is in an alarming mixture of the idioms of the Third that was and the Fifth yet to come, and the unpolished performance didn't help. I put Nielsen on my "to avoid" list, until I gave him another chance with recordings and learned to appreciate this remarkable composer.

Beethoven's Fifth was the first symphony by anybody I ever heard, and as my introduction to the whole concept of symphonic writing just fairly dazzled my mind and won my instant allegiance to the heavy classics. It's been a central work to my existence. I've been hearing a lot of it from the inside recently, for B. has signed up with a local orchestra which had scheduled it for a March concert, and she's been practicing the second violin part diligently. But then last week they canceled the next rehearsal and put the Fifth off to the May concert, because it has winds. Now they're planning March to be a strings-only concert so that all the players may be masked, and have substituted Tchaikovsky's Serenade, which is a much easier piece to play, judging from the sounds coming out of the living room.

Weather outside is cool but sunny (where'd the December rains go to?), but it's dark and bitter in here.

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