Saturday, May 05, 2007
Hans Graf at the Symphony
The Thursday matinee series at the San Francisco Symphony is officially called the Rhoda Goldman Concerts and unofficially the Old Lady Matinees.
They are actually a great audience, attentive and deeply knowledgeable about music, but on Thursday the 3rd, my lovely Side Terrace $20 rush seat was behind a couple of grandparents who thought it would be a good idea to bring their four and six year old grandchildren with them. It wasn't a good idea, and the poor kids were not only bored out of their minds, but they were squirming all over the place.
Plus, the first half was a fairly ascetic program with a small string orchestra playing Bartok's 1939 Divertimento followed by a very spare, beautiful chamber orchestra piece called "Aftersight" which was written in 2005 by an expatriate Russian composer named Victor Kissine, who took a bow at the end of the music.
The soloist in "Aftersight" and in the Beethoven Romance in F major after intermission was the San Francisco Symphony's concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik. Being a soloist, however, is a tricky business that has little to do with musical ability and everything to do with a certain star energy. You should not want to watch anybody else on a stage when a soloist is in action, and by that standard, Barantschik was seriously boring.
The 58-year-old German conductor Hans Graf, is currently leading the Houston Orchestra and has previously had leading stints at the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra in Baghdad (in the 70s) and most recently with the Calgary Symphony. Nonetheless, he was a wonderful conductor, and the final piece on the program, Beethoven's Second Symphony, had great energy and was genuinely charming.