Friday, June 12, 2009
Dawn to Twilight
The San Francisco Symphony's three-week Schubert/Berg festival wraps up this week with the two final works written by each composer, who both died too young. Schubert left the world from complications brought on by syphilis at the age of 31 and Berg died at age 50 from an abcess that poisoned his bloodstream.
Berg's only violin concerto was written in 1935 as a memorial to the 18-year old Manon Gropius who died of polio.
It's an intense, 25-minute work that was masterfully played by the soloist Gil Shaham who danced between conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and associate concertmaster Nadya Tichman like a possessed imp.
The hour-long Schubert Mass No. 6 from 1828 was a beauty, though it did set the Opera Tattler to daydreaming about Spanish cognates of the Latin Mass (click here) and Axel to dreams of repetition (click here).
The five vocal soloists had very little to sing so they looked comically underused throughout the performance...
...and having Laura Aikin (above middle) singing the soprano felt like deluxe casting for such a small assignment.
It didn't matter since the Symphony Chorus, which has been steadily getting better for a number of years, sounded wonderful under its new director Ragnar Bohlin (above).
The Schubert Mass performance was dedicated to Peter Shelton, the longtime symphony cellist who also died too young at age 54 last month.