Saturday, November 21, 2015
Sibelius and Schumann at the SF Symphony
Last week Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas returned to the San Francisco Symphony for a program of Sibelius and Robert Schumann that was very entertaining. It started with Sibelius' moody tone poem, The Swan of Tuonela, and the orchestra sounded fabulous.
This was followed by the same composer's famous Violin Concerto with the celebrated Greek violin soloist Leonidas Kavakos, looking a bit like Nina Mouskouri's younger brother. Kavakos' rendition was less surface brilliant and more darkly soulful than is usual with this concerto, and it was an interesting interpretation that made the piece sound new, not an easy feat.
During the long sections when he wasn't playing, Kavakos would turn his back to the audience and simply stare at the orchestra before turning around again and delving into his part, something I've never seen before.
The symphony under Tilson Thomas are recording Schumann's four symphonies in live performances, and concertgoers were warned by signage in the lobby that they might be unwitting extras in marketing and supplemental materials, which made critic Lisa Hirsch very cranky. Since we're all being recorded in one way or another all the time in our new surveillance society, this did not particularly bother me.
Schumann's Symphony No. 3 depicting the Rhine River is a joyous piece that was given a very stately, sluggish reading by Tilson Thomas which seemed to miss the spirit of the music. Maybe things will pick up this week when the orchestra performs the same composer's first symphony.