Friday, May 18, 2012
New York Philharmonic Loses to San Francisco Symphony
Last weekend the New York Philharmonic came to town as part of the San Francisco's centennial celebrations, and the two orchestras played a softball game at Jackson Field in Potrero Hill. This was the first rematch of a tied series in close to 30 years, but it turned out not to be a contest, with the SF Symphoniacs beating the NY Philharmonic Penguins 34-4. The not-so-secret weapon was Mark Inouye above, who is not only one of the great trumpet players of the world but who also turns out to be a serious softball player. (Photo above by Chris Lee.)
The Sunday evening performances by the New York Philharmonic consisted of Dvorak's Carnival Overture and Tchaikowsky's Fourth Symphony sandwiching a new piano concerto by Magnus Lindberg with soloist Yefim Bronfman (above right, with music director Alan Gilbert). In the program notes, Lindberg writes about the piece, "The challenge was to stretch expression to the extreme. It includes some brutal music, like in Kraft, as well as very detailed and lyrical music." I whipsawed between enjoying the music and feeling brutalized, and the consensus in the press room at intermission was also passionately divided. Bronfman in any case gave an insanely virtuosic performance, and I only wished that he had been provided a page turner because there were lots and lots of notes.
The Dvorak and Tchaikowsky didn't fare as well, sounding mostly loud and not very Slavic. In the competition for touring orchestras so far this year, I would rate Boston, Chicago and Cleveland at the top in terms of sheer sound and musicality, and I would put the San Francisco Symphony near that top tier too.