Sunday, June 29, 2008
The End of The Season
The final concerts of the "regular" San Francisco Symphony season took place this week, and I started feeling a bit sorry for the hardworking musicians. Not only do they play nonstop every week from the beginning of September until now, including tours and a "special MTT festival," but they are now slated for a month of "Summer in the City" pops concerts in July before starting the entire process all over again this September. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
The guest conductor was David Robertson, who is all over the place these days, as Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony, conductor of this year's Ojai Festival honoring Steve Reich, and leading the London's BBC Symphony Orchestra. His program was Eastern European, my favorite kind of music for some reason, starting with "Mi-Parti" by the recently deceased Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski. It was a perfect curtain raiser for the season's finale as there were "aleatoric" sections in the score where the players were asked to improvise sound for stated periods of time, as the conductor slowly spelled out "one, two, three" with his fingers.
The major, rarely heard, piece on the program was the Czechoslovakian composer Leos Janacek's three-part tone poem based on Gogol's bloody tale of Cossacks, "Taras Bulba." (I remember being terrified by the 1962 Yul Brynner/Tony Curtis movie version as a child.) Janacek is my other favorite twentieth-century opera composer along with Benjamin Britten, and it's always a major treat to hear his music played live. As Michael Steinberg writes in the program notes, "His language is that of an artist who can be unpredictable to the point of hovering on the edge of eccentricity, but whose discourse is entirely logical, lucid, and persuasive."
The second half of the concert featured Dvorak's cello concerto with a young Alisa Weilerstein giving a good, theatrical performance by all accounts. I couldn't stay because my back had given out on me and I was threatening to go into major coughing fits besides. So I followed my own advice to sick concert patrons and crawled home to bed rather than making everyone around me miserable.