Posted tagged ‘San Francisco Symphony’

San Francisco Symphony at the Proms

September 2, 2007

Playtime is over… Rehearsals started (for us) at the Royal Opera House today. But I still managed to fit in two Proms – yesterday after an afternoon in the office, today a totally crazy day (Sunday!) which started with a lunch party in Barnet (thanks, Tony and all – very nice collection of family and old friends, sorry I couldn’t stay longer), then three hours of Iphigénie en Tauride, then a dash to the Albert Hall for a 7.00 start…

The San Francisco Symphony, under Michael Tilson Thomas (or Captain Beaky and his Band, as I shall henceforth unavoidably think of them), are one of the world’s top orchestras, and these concerts were a rare treat.  Yesterday’s began with Charles Ives’ Third Symphony, which rather passed me by (I know I ought to ‘get’ Charles Ives, as he was a great guy and I love his ideas, but it largely hasn’t happened yet).  Then the final scene of Salome, which was terrific (and reminded me why I love this opera;  can’t wait for our revival later this season) – though the orchestration seemed strangely subdued, maybe because MTT was trying (not always successfully) to avoid drowning Deborah Voigt – a problem when the orchestra is stacked up behind her instead of hidden away in a pit.  She did in fact sound a bit underpowered, and her German pronunciation seemed lispy and American (I was standing next to a German couple but didn’t pluck up courage to ask them what they thought). 

Then came Shostakovich 5, which was a knockout.  Such characterful orchestral sounds – this is not just subjective, as I was hearing overtones in double basses, trumpets and even violins that I’m not normally aware of in a live concert setting.  I particularly loved the reedy, uninhibited oboe (a very American, slightly old-fashioned sound), and the big jolly bassoon, and the fact that the brass (especially the horn solos) were always spot on, totally secure and in tune.  A tremendous performance.  Sometimes hard to see how Michael T T does it – his beat (waving those incredibly long arms about) often seeming to bear no relation to the music that comes out. It obviously works for them, though.  (Difficult to tell whether there actually was a certain lack of synchronization at times – that darned Albert Hall echo makes it impossible to be sure.)

The encore was Bernstein’s Candide Overture, at a rollicking pace.  When it came to the juicy second-subject tune, the German lady next to me burst into tears.  Bless. (more…)