James Gaffigan has been named Principal Guest Conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne (Gürzenich-Orchester Köln), starting with the 2012-2013 season. Gaffigan is currently the Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. He was the Associate Conductor of San Francisco Symphony from 2006 to 2009.
* Notes *
James Gaffigan is conducting San Francisco Symphony in a program of Haydn, Thomas Adès, and Mozart this week. Gaffigan is a tiny sprite of a person, brimming with energy from the beginning in the Allegro assai con brio of Haydn's Symphony No. 52 in C minor. The woodwinds sounded slightly squeaky in their entrance for the Andante, and the horns were not clear, though the playing improved as the movement progressed. The strings were a little sloppy in the third movement, a minuet. The finale was oddly not very presto, it was not particularly played particularly fast, though vigorously.
Adès' Violin Concerto (Concentric Paths), Opus 24 has an outer space sensibility and is oddly tactile. I found some of the music rather evocative, though for the most part it seemed both difficult to produce and to listen to. The syncopation at the beginning of the third movement was perhaps the least baffling. The soloist, pert violinist Leila Josefowicz, certainly seemed on the ball and very focused.
The concert ended a delightful rendition of Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major. The flute and clarinets sounded lovely in the Andante con moto, and the Allegro was played with particular zest.
* Tattling *
There were some vague murmurs from the audience, but hardly any other noise.
Gaffigan and Josefowicz answered questions during the post-concert Off the Podium talk. The former is articulate and funny, the latter is endearingly awkward. Josefowicz even good-naturedly explained where she had gotten her striking outfit for the performance.
* Notes *
James Gaffigan conducted San Francisco Symphony in a program of Russian music last weekend. The evening began with Tchaikovsky, first his Voyevoda, which was rather incidental, but played well, and then his Violin Concerto. The soloist in the latter was the famed Hilary Hahn, and she could be both ferociously aggressive and delicately restrained as the music dictated. Her style was not as lush as it could have been for Romantic music, but her technique was flawless.
After the intermission came Glinka's Kamarinskaya, a perfectly delightful piece. The concert ended with Shostakovich's rather bombastic Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10. Both were played with little subtlety, but much vigor.
* Tattling *
People spoke during the music as usual. I was told that people were ill-behaved during the Violin Concerto, phone usage was mentioned, and the audience applauded once between movements.