1. It seemed to me that, of the Music at Kohl Mansion concerts this season, the one most worthy of reviewing should be the 40th anniversary celebration, so I covered that. In addition to commissioning a new work for the occasion, they revived selected movements from two previous commissions.
I once got some reader feedback for describing the Kohl audience as "mostly elderly Hillsborough gentry," Hillsborough being an exceedingly wealthy nearby suburb, but my impression of them as very conservative in their musical tastes was confirmed by the program book's story of how the first commission, in 1987, was made to Ernst Bacon because he was a fairly conservative composer who wouldn't disturb an audience that "was comfortable with Beethoven and Brahms, and only ventured hesitantly into Bartok."
Nevertheless, as basically tonal as the Bacon work was, and far more so than the querulously academic David Carlson commission that followed, it was as nothing to the placidly agreeable, though well constructed and crafted, piece by Shinji Eshima premiered tonight. The audience loved it.
It was written, without any clogging or congestion in the ensemble, for a quintet of assorted instruments including a marimba. The one previous occasion Kohl had featured a marimba was by the same composer. This time they didn't try to lift the marimba intact onto the performing platform (when they did that before, all the mallets and sheet music piled on top fell off), but assembled and disassembled it on stage.
2. Last fall, MTT canceled half of the second week of his two-week return visit to SFS, due to being weak from still recovering from brain surgery. This year he is in much better health - he looked healthier - and did the whole two weeks. I attended the second one, an all-Brahms program featuring the Serenade No. 1, a rarely-heard huge expanse of gentle tranquility. And then they played the Piano Concerto No. 1, which is supposed to be stormy, in the same gently tranquil, extended way. It was supposed to be 40 minutes but lasted closer to an hour.
Emanuel Ax was soloist, and for an encore MTT, announcing a theme of "Old Jews play the old masters," sat down at the piano next to Ax and they played a four-hand rondo by Schubert. I'm sure Brahms would not have objected.
3. I also ventured up to the Freight for a band called Altan, because I felt it was time for a little more Irish folk music in my life. Four-to-five piece group - fiddle(s) and accordion, guitar and bouzouki - gave a typical mix of fast dances and slow songs, with a reedy vocalist. Enjoyable, which is what I was there for.