Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Alan Gilbert Leads the SF Symphony

Friday March 28, 2008 8:00 PM
Davies Symphony Hall
San Francisco Symphony
Alan Gilbert conductor
Richard Goode piano

Stucky Son et lumière
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 18
Nielsen Symphony No. 2, The Four Temperaments

I've heard Alan Gilbert conduct here before, but he never made a big impression on me. Now that he's the in-coming music director of the NY Phil, I thought I should give him another hearing. This turned out to be a very nice program. The Stucky piece is percussion-heavy & audience-friendly. It kept sounding like it was about to turn into something by either Stravinsky or John Adams. Gilbert made sure that the matching opening & closing percussion ensemble was tight.

In the Mozart, I found Richard Goode's interpretation to be very respectful of the composer. His playing is light & crisp. I felt like he wasn't trying to add anything to Mozart. In contrast, Gilbert was much more emphatic & urgent. Oddly, Goode was using a score for his performance.

Nielsen can be a cool customer, but this symphony was very accessible & easy to follow in a programmatic way. Gilbert has a very active podium style & is always doing something from moment to moment. He does a lot of cueing, though at times he is conducting along with the orchestra instead of being ahead of it.

I enjoy reading Opera Tattler's catty remarks about the audience, but in this case I'd like to tattle on the orchestra. A 1st violinist in the 1st movement of the Nielsen went bowing the wrong way for quite a noticeable stretch. The Symphony's strings are quite uniform in their playing these days, so this lapse stood out. The player seemed a bit amused by it himself.

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