* Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas is conducting San Francisco Symphony in a program of Wagner and Brahms this week. Yesterday's performance began with the Prelude to Act II of Lohengrin. For some reason, without the rest of the opera, this music struck me as being a bit more absurd than it usually does. The brass sounded clean but the woodwinds bordered on squeaky. The following Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 77 by Brahms with soloist Gil Shaham (pictured above, photograph by Boyd Hagen) was more nuanced, the dynamics were clear. Shaham seemed very happy to be playing with the orchestra, and listened attentively to each section. His own playing is precise but never cold. The woodwinds were lovely, especially William Bennett's solo at the beginning of the Adagio. The Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace was exactly that, filled with an irrepressible joy but never out of control as far as tempo is concerned.
The last piece of the evening was also from Brahms, his Quartet No. 1 in G minor for piano and strings, orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg. The soli from Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik were particularly beautiful. The principal clarinetist also played rather well. The final movement (Rondo alla Zingarese: Presto) was a great deal of fun.
* Tattling *
There was whispering when Gil Shaham was not playing in the violin concerto, and between movements throughout the performance. The person in O 111 hit me (very lightly) in the head with her scarf as she put it on during the ovation for Shaham. I was also elbowed by the person in N 113 as he checked the time on his mobile after the last piece.