Thursday, June 05, 2014

Beethoven and Shostakovich at the SF Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony concerts this week pair Shostakovich's 1953 Symphony #10 and Beethoven 2nd Piano Concerto with the 35-year-old Russian-American soloist Kirill Gerstein above.

Beethoven tends to bore me at concerts, partly from overexposure on classical radio stations over the years, but the playing of Gerstein and the orchestra under Charles Dutoit was playful, lively and completely absorbing. Gerstein's playing of familiar tunes was almost jazzy at times, bringing out elements of the music never heard before.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Shostakovich's monumental, hour-long "Stalin Is Dead" Symphony #10, and the orchestra played the stuffing out of it. The symphony alternates between extreme depressive moodiness to rhythmically crazed marches and waltzes, sounding rather like a Russian Mahler. It's a great, ambitious work, and though Dutoit had a problem keeping the energy taut during the quieter sections, the manic moments were thrilling and the overall performance a real accomplishment.

There will be two more performances on Friday and Saturday at Davies Hall. Highly recommended.

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