Sunday, March 24, 2024

concert review: Prometheus Symphony

Sometimes it's the venue that makes or breaks a concert.

I don't understand it, actually. I've heard the Prometheus Symphony - a nonprofessional group from Oakland - in this church - a rectangular cavern of red brick that calls itself St. Paul's Episcopal - before. I've even heard them play Carl Nielsen here before.

So why was Nielsen's Third Symphony such an acoustic disaster? Except for a few quiet passages, and the beginning of the finale when the whole orchestra plays the theme tutti - this symphony, which doesn't have more different things going on at once than the average complex symphony - came out like a slab of undifferentiated mud. Only the fact that I already knew how it was supposed to sound enabled me to pick out the melodic line or anything else from the chaos of noise.

Insofar as I could tell, the orchestra was doing a pretty good job, though it seemed a bit hesitant over the rhythmically irregular sequence of chords which started the work off. Of the other work on the program, a cycle of four French songs that Benjamin Britten composed at the age of 14 - I won't even attempt an evaluation. Soprano Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmi, whom I've heard before, has a strong voice, but I wouldn't have been able to make out any of the French words even if they were printed in the program, which they weren't.

At least this trip was a brilliant success logistically. I drove to the nearest BART station, 35 minutes if there's no traffic, and took the train in. I used to walk the half-mile to the church from the station to these afternoon concerts, but that kind of distance is beyond me now, so Google maps found me a bus line that stops only a block away. Afterwards I took the bus back to downtown for dinner. My favorite Chinese restaurant there, close to the Paramount Theater which is my usual destination, closed during the pandemic, but I found another one, a tiny hole in the wall several blocks away but with stunningly good food, so I was happy.


  1. This is St. Paul's on Grand? I have only been there once, long ago: Monteverdi Vespers, so a wholly different style, era, size and type of group.

    Which hole in the wall Chinese restaurant? Always looking for good Chinese.

    1. Just off Grand, at Bay Place and Montecito, yes. Actually, I think the Monteverdi Vespers would fare very well under these acoustics.

      The restaurant is Spices 3, at 370 - 12th St. Spicy, yes, but I didn't find the two-alarm dishes unduly so.

  2. Spices 3 is in regular rotation here. Less spicy than a few years back but yes, outstanding.