Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Russians at the Symphony
The San Francisco Symphony offered a wonderful concert last week with three works written in the 1940s by Russians, who were both emigres and not.
The curtain raiser was a Stravinsky-orchestrated Pas de deux from Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" that couldn't have been lovelier.
The originally announced conductor and violinist was Yuri Temirkanov and Vadim Repin but they had been replaced for whatever reasons by the SF Symphony's Associate Conductor James Gaffigan and Ukranian violinist Vadim Gluzman (above), both of whom were sensational in Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto.
Most of the concerto is the kind of sad, soul-weary Shostakovich which doesn't do much for me, but the playing was so good that it sucked me in and by the time Gluzman was whipping through the Burlesca finale, I was a convert.
After intermission, Gaffigan conducted the orchestra in a wonderful version of Rachmaninoff's last major piece before he died of melanoma, the "Symphonic Dances."
There are a few tunes from it that have made their way into everyone's consciousness through their use in ads and promos, but I've never heard the entire piece live before and it was a treat, particularly with the kinetic Gaffigan who looked like he was going to start flying through the air at a few points. He really is fun to watch.
I went to the concert with Matthew Hubbard (above), an East Bay math teacher/genius who has a brilliant blog called "Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do" (click here). After our 1940s Russian experience, we slipped into the Opera House across the street at intermission to catch the John Adams/Mark Morris ballet, "Joyride," and it was a wonderful palate cleanser musically, not to mention lots of fun watching all those shiny costumes spinning around the stage again.