Thursday, December 09, 2010

Harmonielehre at the SF Symphony

Okay, I lied. A couple of posts ago I wrote, "I'm not going to say this twice, you need to go to this concert.", so let's say it again: Michael Tilson Thomas is conducting John Adams' virtual first symphony, "Harmonielehre," written for the orchestra in 1985, and is going hell for leather which is what this music demands, and if you're interested in music of your own time, you need to check it out. All the cool people were there at the Wednesday opening, including Cedric and Axel and Richard, and you've got Friday and Saturday to experience it.

The first half of the symphony concert started with a 1929 Henry Cowell dance piece called "Synchrony" that sounds like proto-John Adams, and it's a wonder, although how the monster orchestra(tion) was ever supposed to work for Martha Graham's dance company is a mystery. This was followed by Gil Shaham (above) playing with a reduced orchesra and MTT while performing as soloist in Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto.

MTT isn't a particularly natural or inspired Mozart conductor, and was edging the performance towards decorous boredom, but Shaham was having none of it, and nudged the conductor and the orchestra into a livelier rendition. By the third movement, we were hearing the Turkish gypsy subtext to the music and it was wonderful and delightful, a perfect musical palate cleanser between the Cowell and Adams.

"Harmonielehre" is one of Adams' breakthrough works, and on his blog "Hell Mouth" he writes about the hell of delivering the music to the San Francisco Symphony back in 1985 after 18 months of writer's block (click here for "Launching the supertanker"). It was great hearing this mix of Sibelius, Mahler, Strauss, Wagner, Glass and Pure Rock & Roll again live. What I'm really looking forward to is this Sunday where Adams conducts a few San Francisco orchestra musicians in his chamber music: "Road Movies" for piano and violin, "Hallelujah Junction" for two pianos, "Shaker Loops" for seven strings, and his "String Quartet" from 2008. Click here if you're looking for tickets.


Shawn Ying said...

Wow!Wow!Wow! I am going again tomorrow night.

Civic Center said...

That's a great Wow!Wow!Wow! I had press tickets tonight for another event near to Davies Hall, and I was so depressed that I wasn't hearing "Harmonielehre" instead of what I was sitting through that I fled at intermission with my date, ran to Grove Street, and gently accosted an elderly couple on the sidewalk. "You're not staying for the Adams?" I asked, and the lovely woman said, "No, would you like our tickets?" which is how we ended up sitting in Orchestra row H center for "Harmonielehre." Wow, what fun.

Shawn Ying said...

I might want to do the same like you did. Just stand on the street with my smile to the seniors.

Also. I am making Patrick feeling bad because he did not go on Friday due to some ridiculous excuse.

I used two handkerchiefs to cough all evening when I needed to cough. I did very very well keep myself from coughing.

Civic Center said...

Dear Shawn: Patrick is the king of ridiculous excuses. Good luck getting in tonight.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Shawn & Mike, You both know my smile is not nearly as winsome as yours so I am forced to pay for my pleasures.

As for my ridiculous excuses, I think it's perfectly reasonable to point out that my pleasure would have been greatly diminished by having to kill hours and hours before the Symphony's idiotic 8:00 start time at the end of an exhausting week.

And I did end up going on Saturday, and enjoying it all immensely. Once I get past this week I will try to write an entry about it.

So thanks to both of you for leading me back into the paths of righteousness for His name's sake ("him" being John Adams).

Civic Center said...

Dear Patrick: You're welcome, in His name. And your smile may not be as winsome as Shawn's or as aggressive as mine, but your hair is so fabulous, all you would really have to do to get free tickets is just wave it around a bit.