Friday, February 26, 2010

Blomstedt's Bruckner 6

Herbert Blomstedt conducts Mozart and Bruckner
Thu, Feb 25, 2010 2:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

Mozart: Symphony No. 36, Linz
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6

PhotobucketOn arriving for this weekday matinee at Davies Hall, I headed for the ground floor men's room, only to stop short when I saw women coming out of it. I guess for these performances they convert the men's restroom to a ladies' room to accommodate the numerous female patrons attending by the busload. I'm glad I was paying attention.

Blomstedt used a reduced orchestra for the Mozart "Linz" Symphony. I counted only 18 violins, 4 cellos & 3 basses. Blomstedt stood on the floor instead of a podium, almost in the middle the orchestra. He led without a baton or a score. It was a gentle, low-key performance. He gestured as if he were pushing or rolling the sound out of the orchestra. Blomstedt's range of motion has become smaller as he has gotten older, but he is still vital & alert. He looked very happy, & the final Presto was energetic.

He led the hour-long Bruckner 6 without a score as well. He looked like he was cuing everything, though I feel like the orchestra does not play as precisely & transparently as they did when he was their music director. The romantic 2nd movement had an underlying tension that was held just barely in check. The raucous 3rd movement had a blazing yet controlled ending. The 4th movement built steadily, & Blomstedt ended it with a big upward swoosh of his baton, the music lifting off instead of coming to a weighty finish. It was a feeling of exaltation.

During the 4th movement, a violist had a severe coughing fit from which she could not recover, & she had to leave the stage during the music. I hope she is all right.


David Lasson said...

I'm glad to hear that the music of our beloved Anton continues to be well served by that redoubtable Brucknerian, Blomstedt. Speaking of eschewing the podium, Gergiev did the same thing earlier this week when he led his orchestra in an exciting performance of the Berlioz R+J in Carnegie Hall. A new trend?

Axel Feldheim said...

I wouldn't count myself as a Bruckner fan, but I am a fan of Blomstedt's approach, & he is a big help in getting me to appreciate Bruckner's sprawling works. Actually, Blomstedt reverted to standing on the podium & waving a stick for the Bruckner. I don't know if going podium-less is a new trend, but I will be paying attention during Gergiev's appearance here in a few weeks. Or perhaps the podium wranglers union has started staging random walk-outs.

David Lasson said...

Well, hats off to Blomstedt, then, for helping you to appreciate Bruckner. But the 6th isn't sprawling--at least by Brucknerian standards: it's actually the most compact of his mature symphonies.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, I certainly submit to your superior familiarity with Bruckner. It is hard to think of a piece that clocks in at just under an hour as "compact," but no doubt this is concise for Bruckner. Blomstedt does make it feel well-proportioned despite its length. The program notes say that Bruckner never got a complete performance of the symphony in his lifetime, which must have been incredibly frustrating.