* Notes *
The Schubert/Berg Festival over at San Francisco Symphony ends this week with performances of Berg's Violin Concerto and Schubert's Mass No. 6 in E-Flat major, D. 950. The soloist for the former, Gil Shaham, seemed very immersed in the work, and made frequent eye-contact with the members of the orchestra. Shaham played assiduously, the strings sounded clean, the woodwinds were expressive, and the brass had a warm but muddy sound. The piece itself seemed very constrained and prickly, though not overwhelmingly sorrowful, at least, not in this particular reading.
Last night's performance of Mass No. 6 was this symphony's first. The chorus sounded nice, very together, and not strained in the least. The playing was likewise fine, but without any fire. The five soloists had little actual music, but their voices blended beautifully. Tenor Bruce Sledge sounded more delicate than tenor Nicholas Phan. Laura Aikin's voice, on the other hand, has both heft and a lovely ethereality.
* Tattling *
The amiable Michael Tilson Thomas spoke at length about the Berg piece, and helpfully gave live musical examples. At times, one does wonder about conductors who may have more to say verbally than musically.
There was scattered speaking during the music, especially during the second piece. I even caught myself daydreaming about Spanish cognates to the Latin text of the Mass.