MTT Conducts Brahms at SFS
May 24, 2008
* Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony end a 3-week long Brahms Festival tonight. The chorus was in fine form during Friday's performance, the singers were very much together, in tune, and their German diction was fairly clear. The first half of the performance included Geistliches Lied, Opus 30 and Gesänge für Frauenchor mit Begleitung von zwei Hörner und Harfe, Opus 17. The organist for Geistliches Lied played well. The first of the Songs for Women's Chorus, "Es Tönt ein voller Harfenklang," was a bit cloying, though it was no fault of the harpist, horn players, or singers. The music for "Lied von Shakespeare" was quite pretty, and it was interesting to hear one of Feste's songs from Twelfth Night sung in August Wilhelm Schlegel's translation. The somber "Gesang aus Fingal," with a translated text from Fingal: An Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books by James Macpherson, was lovely.
The performance ended with the very grand Ein deutsches Requiem, Opus 45. Baritone Matthias Goerne sang "Herr, lehre doch mich" beautifully, his voice is rather light, but was always audible. I did not, however, care for soprano Laura Claycomb. I remember her Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at San Francisco Opera as being well-acted but difficult to hear. This time I had no trouble hearing her during "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit," but rather wished I did, as I found her vibrato unpleasant.
I am not sure how I arrived at the notion, but the sentimentality of Brahms inevitably reminds me of green meadows and cows at pasture. I suspect I must have formed this opinion early in life, which goes to show that early exposure to culture and high art are not an unqualified boon. In any case, such thoughts made "Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras" particularly memorable. However, there were some beautiful moments in which I was able to forget my absurdity, especially during "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" and "Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt." Brahms nearly had me in the latter, the sixth movement, but the effect was ruined by the mawkish strains of harp in the seventh and final movement.
* Tattling *
Laura Claycomb's jewel-toned purple gown was becoming, the color enhanced the paleness of her skin and her pretty red hair. There was some speaking during the music, and premature applause after the third song of Gesänge für Frauenchor. Most distracting were the watch alarms marking the hour during the second and seventh movements of Ein deutsches Requiem.