Monday, May 2, 2022

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

When I attended this concert last Thursday, I had no idea that I would be writing an SFCV review of it. I learned that the next morning, when my editor phoned and asked if I could do it, figuring that I could attend one of the repeat performances that evening or Saturday.

Instead, I surprised him by saying "I went to hear that last night" - though this is not the first time this has happened. "Can you ginger up a review?" he asked, since of course I would not have been listening to it with reviewing it in mind. "I think so," I said, and it proved to be so.

This was most strikingly so with the Alban Berg Violin Concerto. I'd been thinking about writing a blog review in which I said that listening to this was like hearing a speaker passionately emote in a language I didn't understand. But I can't say that in a professional review, so I thought back on the performance and realized that, yes, I did have a sense of its particular style and character. I just didn't have a lot to say - I borrowed "silky" as a description of the soloist's tone from my blog review of her previous appearance here - so I filled out the paragraph with some background on the work, which is something I've done enough of for Shostakovich.

The Shostakovich Tenth was the work I was there for, and I certainly had some specific reactions to that. But just to triangulate myself, after I drafted the review I looked up what Kosman of the Chronicle had to say. His view of the interpretation was pretty much the same as mine, except that I liked it better than he did. I had made the comparison to Dudamel on my own, but I'd forgotten about the Urbanski performance that Kosman mentions. But I'd attended it, and found on my blog review the phrase "urgently propelled" which I borrowed here.

But Kosman's real complaint seems to be that he doesn't like the Shostakovich Tenth enough to want to hear it twice, or maybe even once, in five years, and he says so in the review. My comment, "I for one am happy to hear the Tenth as often as the Symphony cares to program it," was inserted specifically as a response. I've noticed that Kosman seems to dislike a number of works he's called upon to review performances of. I wonder if he's in the wrong profession.

And then to bitch about it in the review, which he's also done before. Look, I was thoroughly unthrilled by the prospect of hearing the Alban Berg Violin Concerto again, but you don't catch me snarking about it in a professional review.

I ran my sartorial description of the conductor past B., because I was unsure of the wording. When I mentioned he had a handkerchief in his breast pocket, she assumed it was there for mopping his brow after an exhausting piece. A lot of conductors do that, usually tucking the cloth loosely in their trouser pocket. But no, this was the sartorially-perfected gentleman's breast-pocket handkerchief, the one that's purely for show, and at least in the movies would never ever actually be employed except perhaps to aid a lady in distress. I reworded myself to be clearer.

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