Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Masur at SF Symphony

This past Saturday night I sat in the 2nd tier of Davies Hall for Kurt Masur's SF Symphony program. Masur is 80 now, & I was glad to see that he is still very vigorous & alert on the podium. There was no question that he was in charge of the proceedings. He was always well ahead of the orchestra & giving good preparatory cues.

It was a program that requires an impressive line-up of performing resources. The Lizst is one of those insane virtuosos pieces, but Lortie gave a very tasteful rendition, dispatching all the technical challenges without seeming to show-off.

I've known about the Beethoven Choral Fantasy, but I don't think I'd ever actually heard it before. It is a curious piece. It probably only makes sense in the context of that famous program (including the premieres of the 4th Piano Concerto & the 5th & 6th Symphonies) for which it was the encore. It reminded me of the Triple Concerto in that in lesser hands it can probably sound like much ado about nothing. Masur did a good job keeping the disparate sections sounding like they were all really part of a whole. It was fun to hear the vocal soloists drawn from the SF Chorus. They did a great job. There were 6 soloists for what seemed to be 4 vocal lines Is it usually performed with the soloists doubled up?

Masur led a weighty & driving performance of Alexander Nevsky that seemed to go by very quickly. The singer for the Prokofiev, Nancy Maultsby, had to sit on stage the whole time waiting for her one big number near the end of cantata. I imagine it must be tough to be silent for half an hour then have to deliver this intense solo.

Liszt - Totentanz
Beethoven - Choral Fantasy
Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky

Kurt Masur, conductor
Nancy Maultsby, mezzo-soprano
Louis Lortie, piano
SFS Chorus

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