Saturday, November 25, 2017

Jonathan Vinocour and Girls

Jonathan Vinocour, the principal violist for the San Francisco Symphony, joined the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music a few years ago, and last Sunday he offered a free, superb recital as part of the Faculty Artist Series.

Starting with four Fairy Tale Pictures by Schumann, accompanied by the overemphatic pianist Julio Elizalde, Vinocour continued with J.S. Bach's unaccompanied Partita #2 for Violin transcribed for viola. It was one of the best live Bach performances of anything I have heard in my life.

After intermission, Vinocour introduced a wild piece by György Kurtág, the Hommage a R. Sch. for Clarinet, Viola and Piano accompanied by pianist Elizalde and Carey Bell, the principal clarinetist for the SF Symphony who also finished the piece with a gentle bang on the bass drum. I couldn't stay for the final Schumann set of Fairy Tales, but am sure it was great. Vinocour is one of the happiest additions to the musical life of the Bay Area of the last decade.

Two days later I attended the world premiere of the John Adams Gold Rush opera, Girls of the Golden West, at the San Francisco Opera. Both the music by Adams and libretto by Peter Sellars were savaged by critics, but I loved the piece, and will be writing why after I see it again this Saturday. In the meantime, there is another performance this Sunday afternoon at 2PM and another this Wednesday at 7:30 PM. Do yourself a favor and check it out, if only to hear baritone Davóne Tines (above left with tenor Paul Appleby) sing an operatic version of the Frederick Douglass "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" speech. It's an instant classic.

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