San Francisco Symphony

John Eliot Gardiner Conducts L'Orfeo

PBP_0527-Monteverdi-Choir,-EBS-at-Buckingham-Palace-(Credit-Paul-Burns)_1* Notes * 
John Eliot Gardiner, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Monteverdi Choir (pictured left, photograph by Paul Burns) performed a beautiful L'Orfeo, Favola in musica at San Francisco Symphony's Davies Hall last night. The playing was elegant, even the brass instruments sounded clean. The singing was even and lovely. The vigorous choristers sounded together.

Despite being billed as a concert version of the piece, there were clearly costumes and choreography. The orchestra was split in the middle, with Maestro Gardiner stage left center, and the choir upstage on risers. This left an aisle for the singers, and much dancing occurred here. The female chorus dressed in bright, short dresses for the acts in The Fields of Thrace and in black, long gowns for the acts in The Underworld. The choir had a lively stage presence.

Most of the principal voices were exceedingly pretty. Soprano Francesca Aspromonte (Music/Messenger) has a bird-like sound with some fire, while Mariana Flores was an ethereal Euridice and warbling Hope. Francesca Boncompagni's breathing was noticeable as Proserpina, but her voice is suitably plaintive. Tenor Krystian Adam was warm and genial as the First Shepherd. Tenor Nicolas Mulroy sang a subdued Apollo.

The bass voice of Gianluca Buratto (Caronte/Plutone) is well-supported and rich with impressive low notes. Tenor Andrew Tortise seamlessly sang the title role. He could have conveyed more mournfulness in Act IV, but his voice is bright and gorgeous.

* Tattling * 
The opera was performed without an intermission but those around me on the Orchestra Level were silent and attentive.

Upcoming L'Orfeo at SFS

Gardiner-col-portrait-Credit-Sheila-Rock@DeccaSir John Eliot Gardiner (pictured left, photograph by Sheila Rock) is touring the United States with the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir from April 19 to May 1, 2015. They are performing a concert version of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo at Davies Hall in San Francisco on April 27, 2015. This concert and others are featured in San Francisco Symphony's Spring Sale, which started yesterday and runs until April 15, 2015.

US Tour Monteverdi | Spring Sale

SF Symphony's 2015-2016 Season

August 20 2015: MTT conducts Schoenberg and Beethoven; Yuja Wang, piano
August 21 2015: MTT conducts Schoenberg, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky; Yuja Wang, piano
August 22 2015: MTT conducts Ives, Bartók, Mahler; Yuja Wang, piano
August 27- September 14 2015: European Festival Tour
September 24 2015: Opening Gala: MTT conducts TBA
September 25-26 2015: MTT conducts Ravel, Chopin, Respighi; Daniil Trifonov, piano
September 30- October 32015: MTT conducts Ted Hearne, Barber, Tchaikovsky; Susanna Phillips, soprano
October 4 2015: András Schiff plays Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert
October 7-10 2015: András Schiff conducts Mozart, Haydn, Schubert
October 11 2015: Chamber Music with members of SFS
October 13 2015: Manuel López Gómez conducts TBA; Lang Lang, piano
October 18, 2015: Paul Jacobs, organ and Christine Brewer, soprano
October 22-24 2015: Susanna Mälkki conducts Jukka Tiensuu, Chopin, Sibelius
October 28-30 2015: Andrey Boreyko conducts Prokofiev, Bartók, Tchaikovsky; Gidon Kremer, violin
October 31 2015: Halloween Concert
November 1 2015: Donato Cabrera conducts SFS Youth Orchestra
November 1 2015: Chamber Music with members of SFS
November 4-6 2015: Yan Pascal Tortelier conducts Bizet, Ravel, Saint-Saëns; Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano
November 7 2015: Día de los Muertos Concert
November 8 2015: Zubin Mehta conducts Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
November 12-15 2015: MTT conducts Sibelius and Schumann
November 18 2015: Leif Ove Andsnes plays Sibelius, Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin
November 19-22 2015: MTT conducts R. Strauss and Schumann; Laura Claycomb, soprano
November 27-28 2015: The Nightmare Before Christmas
November 29 2015: Chamber Music with members of SFS
December 5 2015: Music for Families TBA
December 6 2015: Deck the Hall Concert
December 11-12 2015: It's a Wonderful Life
December 11-12 2015: SoundBox
December 13 2015: Donato Cabrera conducts SFS Youth Orchestra in Peter and the Wolf
December 31 2015: New Year's Eve Concert
January 9-10 2016: Itzhak Perlman conducts Beethoven and Mozart
January 14-16 2016: Krzysztof Urbańsk conducts Kilar, Beethoven, Dvořák
January 15-16 2016: SoundBox
January 18 2016: Itzak Perlman, violin & Emanuel Ax, piano
January 21-24 2016: Marek Janowski conducts Beethoven and Pfitzner
January 24 2016: Pinchas Zukerman conducts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Jonathan Biss, piano
January 25 2016: Pinchas Zukerman conducts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
January 28-31 2016: Edwin Outwater conducts Weber, Saint-Saëns, Busoni, Hindesmith; Stephen Hough, piano
February 5-6 2016: Masaaki Suzuki conducts Mendelssohn, Mozart, Stravinsky
February 6 2016: Music for Families
February 11-14 2016: Pinchas Zukerman conducts Elgar and Mozart
February 12-13 2016: Vertigo
February 13 2016: Chinese New Year Concert
February 18-20 2016: Stéphane Denève conducts Nielsen, Guillaume Connesson, Prokofiev
February 19-20 2016: SoundBox
February 21 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
February 21-22 2016: Mikael Pletnev conducts Russian National Orchestra; Yuja Wang, piano
February 25-27 2016: Herbert Blomstedt conducts Beethoven and Bruckner; Maria-João Pires, piano
February 28 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
March 2-5 2016: Herbert Blomstedt conducts Mozart; Alexander Barantschik, violin
March 5 2016: Music for Families
March 6 2016: David Titterington, organ
March 10-13 2016: Charles Dutoit conducts Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Fauré, Stravinsky; Nikolai Lugansky, piano
March 13 2016: Igudesman and Joo: And Now Mozart
March 17-19 2016: Charles Dutoit conducts Berlioz's Requiem; Paul Groves, tenor
March 20 2016: Donato Cabrera conducts SFS Youth Orchestra
March 20 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
March 20 2016: Jeremy Denk, piano
March 23-26 2016: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
March 25-26 2016: SoundBox
March 30- April 8 2016: MTT conducts Copland and Schumann
April 3 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
April 6-10 2016: MTT conducts Schubert and Mahler; Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano and Simon O'Neill, tenor
April 13-16 2016: US Tour
April 20-23 2016: Pablo Heras-Casado conducts Rameau, Haydn, Biber, Beethoven; Ingrid Fliter, piano
April 22-23 2016: SoundBox
April 24 2016: Thierry Eschaich, organ
April 26 2016: Hilary Hahn, violin
April 27-29 2016: Pablo Heras-Casado conducts Bartók, Mason Bates, Ravel, Shostakovich
April 30 2016: Music for Families
May 6-7 2016: Alan Gilbert conducts New York Philharmonic
May 12-14 2016: Juraj Valčuha conducts Prokofiev, R. Strauss, Webern
May 12 2016: Yo-Yo Ma, cello and Kathryn Stott, piano
May 15 2016: Donato Cabrera conducts SFS Youth Orchestra
May 15 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
May 19-22 2016: MTT conducts Brahms and Schumann; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
May 25-29 2016: MTT conducts On the Town
June 2-4 2016: Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Shostakovich and Elgar; Alexey Stadler, cello
June 5 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
June 8-12 2016: James Conlon conducts Britten, Mozart, Dvořák; Jan Lisiecki, piano
June 16-19 2016: MTT conducts Stravinsky and John Adams; Thomas Hampson, baritone
June 23-25 2016: MTT conducts C.P.E. Bach, Jörg Widmann, Brahms; Yefim Bronfman, piano
June 26 2016: Chamber Music with members of SFS
June 29- July 2 2016: MTT conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 2; Karina Gauvin, soprano and Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano

Paul Goodwin Conducts SFS

NewGoodwin_MannyEspinoza* Notes * 
Conductor Paul Goodwin (pictured left, photograph by Manny Espinoza) is leading the San Francisco Symphony in a rather traditional program of Bach and Mozart this weekend. Goodwin, however, is anything but staid. He has a clear point of view and the orchestra sounds powerful under his direction. Last night's concert began with a stately rendition of J.S. Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3. The trumpets were particularly vital and in tune.

These performances mark the San Francisco Symphony debut of soprano Lydia Teuscher, who sang two Mozart arias and Bach's Wedding Cantata. Her voice is bright and pretty. The tenor clarinets were lovely in "Al desio, di chi t'adora." The oboist sounded quite happy in the Bach, and the string soloists also played well. The bass player seemed to be having a lot of fun.

The evening ended with Mozart, a rousing Symphony No. 31, Paris.

* Tattling * 
There was some whispering noted in the orchestra. Someone seated around Row N Seat 5 left in the middle of the Wedding Cantata, climbing over other patrons while quietly apologizing.

Lydia Teuscher's Upcoming SFS Debut

LydiaTeuscherSoprano Lydia Teuscher (pictured left) is having her San Francisco Symphony debut this Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 2pm with performances on the following two days at 8pm. She will be singing "Al desio, di chi t'adora" from Le nozze di Figaro, "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" from Zaide, and Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten (Wedding Cantata). Teuscher was a resident artist at the Semperoper in Dresden. She has also performed at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Glyndebourne Festival, and Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin.

Paul Goodwin will be conducting the performances, replacing Bernard Labadie, who is being treated for a lymphoma. The program also includes Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 and Mozart's Symphony No. 31 in D major, K.297(300a), Paris.

Lydia Teuscher | Paul Goodwin | San Francisco Symphony

MTT Conducts L'Histoire du soldat

Mahler51213* Notes * 
This weekend Michael Tilson Thomas (pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) is conducting seven members of the San Francisco Symphony in performances of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat. The vivid piece is narrated by Elvis Costello, who does a fine job declaiming his lines. Nick Gabriel (The Soldier) is earnest and Malcolm McDowell (The Devil) certainly is charming. It is adorable when MTT himself speaks the lines of The King in Part II. The playing is incisive and spirited. Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik sounded particularly lovely, as did clarinetist Carey Bell.

The performance starts with John Adams conducting his 1982 piece Grand Pianola Music, which is being recorded for future release. Adams addresses the audience before commencing the piece, explaining the genesis of the piece and its influences. He also notes a tuba solo in Part I, which he called a "bovine moment."

The work, in fact, is startlingly beautiful. The pianists, Orli Shaham and Marc-André Hamelin play cohesively. The orchestra, which included woodwinds, brass, and percussion, sound grounded. Synergy Vocals is wonderfully ethereal, the three singers make for haunting sirens.

* Tattling * 
The audience on the orchestra level was very quiet for the John Adams. For the most part people were also quiet for the Stravinsky, but a woman in Row W Seat 102 was compelled to whisper to those adjacent to her as the ensemble played in Part II.

Dutoit conducts Fauré's Requiem

Charles-Dutoit-4x6* Notes * 
At the moment, Charles Dutoit (pictured left) is conducting San Francisco Symphony in performances of Poulenc, Stravinsky, and Fauré. Poulenc's Gloria began the concert on Thursday. The orchestra sounded bright and the chorus was cohesive. The "Laudamus te" was particularly jaunty. The soloist, soprano Susanna Phillips, sounded gorgeous. The "Domine Deus" was clear and haunting.

The Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms, took a bit to set up, as the piece does not have high strings and also requires two pianos. The flute, oboe, and bassoon had a lovely moment.

After intermission we heard Fauré's Requiem. The soloists were both strong. Bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann has a rich, powerful voice. Susanna Phillips sounded rather sublime as well. The dynamics of the piece were evident, and the chorus' pianissimo was impressive.

* Tattling * 
There was only a brief exchange around me by one couple at one point during the last piece.

Eschenbach conducts Wagner & Dvořák

CE-IMG_2186-Eric-Brissaud* Notes * 
This week Christoph Eschenbach (pictured left, photograph by Eric Brissaud) conducts San Francisco Symphony in performances of Wagner and Dvořák. The two Wagner pieces included "Die Frist is um" from Der Fliegenden Holländer and Wotans Abschied from Die Walküre, with baritone Matthias Goerne as soloist. Goerne sounded characteristically legato. He was drowned out by the brass, and in fact the whole volume of the orchestra was rather loud. There was an obvious sour note in the second piece. There were moments when the first violins had a lovely, open sound, but the low strings were a bit muddy.

After intermission came Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, From the New World. Again, the powerful volume of the orchestra was impossible to ignore. I found myself distracted by the absence of William Bennett's oboe playing, as this was the first time I have heard San Francisco Symphony since his death.

* Tattling * 
There was some chatter, but nothing too obnoxious.

Peer Gynt at SFS

SFSPeerGynt-4668* Notes * 
This week Michael Tilson Thomas conducts San Francisco Symphony in a multimedia production (actor Ben Huber as Peer Gynt and dancer Janice Lancaster Larsen as Ingrid pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) of Peer Gynt. The score included music by Edvard Grieg, Alfred Schnittke, and Robin Holloway. Holloway's Ocean Voyage was used in Part II Scene 3, and had a Wagnerian feel to it. It did seem disproportionally long compared to the other pieces.

The playing was slightly off-kilter at times in the first half, especially with some of the choral entrances. Nonetheless, the music gleamed eerily, and the chorus sounded particularly haunting in the second half. The violin and viola soli in Scene 2 of Part I were played beautifully.

Rose Portillo was convincing as Åse, Peer's mother. Her speaking voice is rich and dark. Soprano Joélle Harvey (Solveig) sounded sweet and pure. Ben Huber's Peer Gynt was boyish and sprightly.

The production, directed and designed by James Darrah, made use of a sculptural scrim placed above the musicians. Adam Laresen's videos were, for the most part, tasteful and the shape of the scrim rendered the images more abstract. This did not work as well for projections of the human face, which became distorted in a cartoonish fashion. The use of the limited space, given the symphony on stage and the chorus in the Center Terrace, was artful.

* Tattling * 
The microphones used were occasionally too loud, and emitted crackles and pops in the middle of Part I.

Renée Fleming at SFS

Renee-fleming-2012-decca-andrew-eccles* Notes * 
Last night Michael Tilson Thomas conducted San Francisco Symphony in a program of mostly Debussy with a smattering of Canteloube after the intermission. The evening began with Debussy's textured, fussy ballet, Jeux. This was followed by seven Debussy songs orchestrated by Robin Holloway. Soprano Renée Fleming (pictured left, photograph courtesy of Decca and Andrew Eccles) sounded shimmery and pretty over the orchestra. Occasionally she was a little difficult to hear, but for the most part, this music is well-suited to her voice.

The three Canteloube songs were all selections from his Chants d'Auvergne. "Malurous qu'o uno fenno" is funny and cute, while "Baïlèro" is more ethereal. The symphony ended with Debussy's La mer, which I find somewhat silly, but was played here with vim and spirit.

* Tattling * 
The audience members were fairly silent, at least those seated near the stage.

MTT conducts Samuel Carl Adams & Mahler

  2ndsVlasMTT-by-Bill-Swerbenski-cropped-4x5* Notes * 
Last night Michael Tilson Thomas conducted San Francisco Symphony (pictured left, photograph by Bill Swerbenski) in the first of three performances of Drift and Providence by Samuel Carl Adams and Symphony No. 5 by Mahler. The Adams piece marks a West Coast premiere. The 20 minute work is scored for many instruments, including electronica, but is surprisingly quiet. It had a rather dry quality to it, and gave me the odd sensation of having the inside of my thoracic cavity gently smoothed by a fine-grained sandpaper.

The second half of the evening was devoted to the Mahler. The brass was quite forward and not particularly subtle. I enjoyed Mark Inouye's bright trumpet playing. The pizzicato in the Scherzo was lively and the Adagietto was neither too fast nor too lax.

* Tattling * 
Someone was excited up in the Center Terrace, and my companion noted this by creating a diagram in his program. I misunderstood at first and thought the Associate Concertmaster was behaving badly, which seemed highly unlikely.

Bychkov conducts SFS in Shostakovich

39ALBychkov2-creditThomasBrill* Notes * 
Semyon Bychkov (pictured left, photograph by Thomas Brill) conducts San Francisco Symphony in Schubert's Unfinished and Shostakovich's 11th this week. The Schubert that started last night's proceedings was elegant. The pianissimo of the strings with oboe and clarinet in the first movement was simply beautiful. The sound was verdant and fresh. In the second movement, the brass was slightly cloudy at two points, but the woodwinds were excellent.

The Shostakovich that came after intermission required many more musicians than the Schubert. Bychkov kept a fine tension in the musical line, the slow parts were not lax, but contrasted with the faster sections of the piece. The quiet moments of the music were exquisite. The volume of the end of the second and fourth movements was rather deafening, and it was clear why some orchestra members wore earplugs. The trumpets played quite well, as did the English horn.

* Tattling * 
There were many cellular phone rings in the second half of the performance. It seemed whenever there was a gorgeous pianissimo was being played on stage, there was some electronic noise happening in the audience.

Bluebeard at SFS

Mtt-bay-taper* Notes * 
This week Michael Tilson Thomas conducts San Francisco Symphony (pictured left) in a program of Liszt and Bartók. The opening performance began with Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1. Jeremy Denk played fluidly, but with clear articulation. Both Denk and the orchestra could sound blustery or playful as the music required.

The staged version of Duke Bluebeard's Castle was directed by Nick Hillel with help from co-director Nick Corrigan, who also did the video and visual design. A speaker, Ken Ruta, gives a theatrical introduction to the piece, unfortunately, he talks over the music, though just a little. Adam Wiltshire's set consists of five tall scrims placed in layers, the ones left and right being more downstage. There is also a large sculpture, made up of different pyramidal shapes, hanging high above the orchestra. Light and images are projected on all the aforementioned surfaces. The most successful of the projections are the more abstract ones. The use of motion can be occasionally overwhelming.

The music, both singing and playing, was most impressive on Thursday night. The role of Judith suits Michelle DeYoung's voice, which has a pentrating quality without being too acid. Alan Held is an effective Bluebeard, and sang with strength. The orchestra shimmered, MTT kept the volume under control, and the music flowed rather beautifully.

* Tattling * 
A cellular phone rang on the orchestra level as Ruta spoke at the beginning of Bluebeard.