Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dawn Upshaw at the SF Symphony

On Saturday night I was at Davies Hall to hear Dawn Upshaw. She sang an atonal song cycle called Time Cycle by Lukas Foss. I'd never heard her before, & I was at this performance with a friend who is huge fan of hers. She has a very easy-going, down-to-earth stage presence & a very pleasant, even voice, so it is easy to see what her appeal is all about. With unfamiliar music like these songs, the only comment I can make about this performance is that she sang absolutely everything, & this went a long way towards selling the songs. The piece itself is not obviously lyrical & has the disjointed lines characteristic of serial music, but Upshaw made everything sustained & connected. It never came out declamatory or sounding like sprechstimme, which is another way that the songs could have been delivered.

The rest of the program consisted of Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Berlioz Benvenuto Cellini Overture & Brahms 4. I like MTT's programming, but as usual I did not find him a very interesting conductor. He wanted a lot of sound for the Berlioz, but the brasses were too loud & covered the strings whenever the played. I've heard MTT conduct Brahms 4 before, & I think his loud opening for the 2nd movement completely strikes the wrong mood.

1 comment:

St Antonym said...

The 2nd movement started loud? Horrors. It's not easy to wreck a piece as complete as Brahms 4 but, yes, that would be one way to do it.

There's an appreciation of Upshaw here: