Dawn to Twilight
A Schubert/Berg Festival
MTT and Gil Shaham
Wed, Jun 10, 2009 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas - conductor
Gil Shaham - violin
Laura Aikin - soprano
Kelley O’Connor - mezzo-soprano
Bruce Sledge - tenor
Nicholas Phan - tenor
Jeremy Galyon - baritone
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
Ragnar Bohlin - director
BERG: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
SCHUBERT: Mass No. 6 in E-flat major, D.950
I attended this program looking forward to the Berg Violin Concerto, though I remain skeptical about these Schubert/Berg pairings, which result in programs with a pronounced split personality. After MTT & the soloist Gil Shaham came on stage, MTT turned to us, reiterated his theme of the composers' belief in the "power of notes", & gave a lengthy tour of the Violin Concerto, complete with excerpts played by the orchestra & the soloist. Mr. Shaham gave an extroverted & assured performance of what must be a very technically challenging concerto. I liked watching him adeptly execute the finger-tangling left hand pizzicatos. He had the music on stage with him, though he didn't seem to refer to it much. Instead, he made a good deal of flirtatious eye contact with the conductor & concert mistress Nadya Tichman. MTT worked to make the orchestral counter-melodies clear. I think this is a very sad piece, but Mr, Shaham's interpretation was far from sad. I was close enough to the stage to enjoy the mellow & burnished sound of his instrument, especially in its extreme lower & upper ranges.
I don't believe I had heard the Schubert Mass before. It is a major work, lasting around an hour & dominated by the chorus. It is melodic & sometimes grand, though it seems to replace symphonic development with much repetition. The soloists sing for only a few minutes each. Schubert doesn't really give them enough material to justify their presence as a separate on-stage force. The large number of personnel kept together well, though I felt that more could have been done to give the performance an over-all musical shape.
As far as the whole Schubert/Berg concept goes, I stay unconvinced. However, I am very glad for the chance to hear Berg's tight & overwrought music.
More Opinions (06.12.2009)
The Opera Tattler posted an exceedingly polite reaction. The Ambassador had a very satisfactory experience. Joshua Kosman definitely got more out of the evening than I did. SFMike was impressed (& captured yet another revealing photo of yours truly). Cedric was an attentive listener.
In my original post I failed to mention that this week's performances of the Schubert Mass are dedicated to the memory of Peter Shelton, a member of the cello section for many years & a very nice guy. I met him once many years ago when he was my sister's coach.