Wednesday, June 28, 2023

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

Last week, I was back at SFS for my last concert of the season. The previous week, Igor Levit had played one of the most famous and often-played concertos in the repertoire, Beethoven's "Emperor." This week, he played what's probably the least-known and most rarely-played piano concerto by a composer with any "name" value whatever, Ferruccio Busoni's. It's 75 minutes long - at least twice as long as the average - and requires a chorus (male) in its finale, that's why it's so rare.

But despite being long, and dating from the height of the Giganticism period in classical history (1904), it entirely lacks the garrulous waffling quality of Giganticist icons like Mahler and R. Strauss. Though it has interesting and unusual harmonies, it's pleasant to listen to and carries the listener's interest along, at least in this performance led by EPS. It's not a display concerto: the piano part is complex but it mostly rumbles along in the background.

Most times that an orchestra plays a piece of this length, they stick something else brief in the program to fill it out. This time they didn't, so the paradox is the long work made for a short program. Even with applause and an encore, we were out within 90 minutes of starting time.

1 comment:

  1. The Busoni might not be a display piece per se, but it's extremely difficult beyond its length, so you get people like Ohlsson and Hamelin among the few who can say it.