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.


Beacongal said...

Two bouquets in one day, SFMike. These photos are incredible. How do you get them? You're more than an amateur, right? What kind of camera are you using?
I wouldn't think they would let you bring a camera into the symphony. There are so many places where you can't take them.
As I just noted in one of my posts, I'm a culture junkie so I'm thrilled at your coverage. Thanks again!

Civic Center said...

Dear monica: I am an amateur in that I'm not getting paid to take photos, and various cultural institutions around San Francisco's Civic Center have given me permission to take photos as long as I don't use a flash and wait for the curtain calls. Because they are digital and no film is harmed in the process, I also take a lot of them and throw out the bad pics. The camera, by the way, is an old Sony digital camera from 2002 that's very forgiving and has great color.

Thanks again for the bouquets.

jolene said...

Joyride makes a perfect dessert to a great evening of both the SF Symphony and the SF Ballet! That's great how you snuck in for the last piece, I found the ushers to be a bit hawk-ish - I got to experience the standing room for the first time for the SF Ballet's last performance on Tues, and although there were a ton of open seats, I lost my nerve to go find a spot due to the ushers. A friend of mine went this past weekend, and she saw a girl from standing room go to look for a seat, but an usher caught her and actually sent her back to standing room.

I also didn't realize how early people got there for standing room, and got exiled to the second balcony. It was fun though, I got to chat with my friend and make all the snarky comments we wanted. :) The orch SR looks even more fun though, it looks like a tight knit community. I'll definitely have to try it sometime.

Matthew Hubbard said...

I am very glad to see this post for many reasons. I had a great time at both the symphony and the ballet, and before and after with Mike and Tony, I'm very gratified to get a plug for my blog, and of course, every post from here on in gets Adam Sandler's basket farther from the top of the page.

From my vantage point, it's all good.

Beacongal said...

SFMike -- Good for you for going out and getting the clearance to shoot at these events. You're doing all of us a great service. I also love your name "Civic Center," because it's a double entendre. You're probably not quite this old, but remember when Civics was a subject in school? Civics is something that got lost along the way. I'm glad you're keeping the flame alive in SF! -- Monica

Civic Center said...

Dear Monica: Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember "Civics," but I never really believed a word of what they were shoving down our throats.