Tuesday, November 28, 2023

concert review: San Francisco Symphony

"Dudamel conducts Brahms" read the slugline on the Symphony's publicity for this concert. But the Brahms was the least significant, or interesting, thing in it. As is usually the case with a Dudamel guest appearance, he brought along something new from Latin America: something good, too - two somethings, and I spent most of my review on those.

Both Gabriela Ortiz, whom I've heard before, and Gonzalo Grau, whom I hadn't, have got the knack for Latin color, and Dudamel conducted them both with his customary Latin verve.

Then there was the Brahms, which approached the soporific, and which Lisa Irontongue, who was at the same performance, found even more annoying than I did. But Lisa seemed puzzled that the finale came out rather well. It seemed to me that this was attendant on Dudamel's generally slow and cautious approach being entirely deliberate, for whatever mysterious reason. Whenever the music sped up, got louder, approached a climax, Dudamel responded by exhibiting some of that energy he'd expended so generously on Ortiz and Grau, though here in a rather dutiful, mechanical manner. The finale is simply by far the fastest and loudest movement of the Brahms Second, and so it got the most of this. Therefore the least uninteresting. And that's it, that's the whole story.

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