Monday, February 01, 2010

MTT Plays Mozart

San Francisco Symphony
Sat, Jan 30, 2010 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor and piano
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
Bruce Sledge, tenor
Eric Owens, bass-baritone

Stravinsky, Octet
Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488)
Stravinsky, Pulcinella

I found this a playful SF Symphony program: Mozart sandwiched between Stravinsky in a classical mood. The Stravinsky wind Octet was performed crisply & without a conductor. The piece made me think of film music for a silent comedy.

After the orchestra was assembled on stage for the Mozart concerto, there was a long pause as we awaited MTT's entrance. As the wait lengthened, orchestra members & then the audience became amused & were just short of laughing as MTT came on. MTT led without a score & seated at the piano, which was surrounded by the orchestra. To make sure we were watching, he sometimes turned & mugged for the audience. He extended the 1st movement cadenza with his own improvisations, wandering off into snippets of other pieces. Several times the orchestra prepared to enter, but then put down their instruments as he mischievously continued to improvise. He finished the movement by pulling out a handkerchief & mopping his brow, to the delighted applause of the audience. He addressed something to us during the pause, but I didn't hear what he said. He continued to improvise freely around the long, spare melody of the 2nd movement.

In the 2nd half we got a bright & vibrant performance of the Pulcinella suite, which I somehow got the idea was about sexual frustration. There were many wonderful instrumental solos, especially by oboist William Bennett, concertmaster Alexander Barantschik & bassoonists Steven Dibner & Rob Weir. In her brief role, soprano Sasha Cook had a meaty sound, & I especially liked her lower register. Bass Eric Owens had an even shorter part, but his solid, dense sound was very welcome. Leaving the hall, I had the inapt sensation that I had just seen a Broadway show instead of the symphony.

No comments: