Monday, March 14, 2011

Kurt Masur conducts Mendelssohn

SFS Program
Conductor Kurt Masur looked thin & frail as he walked to the podium to conduct this all-Mendelssohn program with the San Francisco Symphony. His movements were minimal, & his left hand often dangled at his side, shaking with a tremor. Yet he was very much in control of the music & always well ahead of the orchestra. The Italian Symphony felt taut, transparent & sun-lit, & ensemble was very tight. The orchestra was re-arranged so that the woodwinds, brass & timpani were all on the right side. The violins, filling the left side, predominated, & their sound was shimmering & bright. Oboist Bill Bennett made the most gorgeous sound of the evening with his slow crescendo on a single note at the end of the development. The performance clearly pleased, & the audience applauded for the 1st & 2nd movements.

After intermission, we got Mendelssohn's complete music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was nice to hear the familiar Overture & Wedding March, but this experience did not convince me that it makes sense to perform all the music in concert. There is a lot of repetition &, since Mendelssohn focuses on the play's fey elements, not much variety of mood. Everyone did a good job of sounding airy, but I tired of admiring how well Mendelssohn depicts insects in flight. The San Francisco Girls Chorus, around 50 strong, was well-prepared & made a smooth, floaty sound. The vocal soloists participate only briefly, so Susannah Biller & Maya Lahyani had an assignment that consisted mostly of sitting at the back & smiling.

Interspersed with the music, & sometimes over it, narrator Itay Tiran performed speeches from the play, though the selected texts did not convey a narrative. He used different voices for each character. His Puck was a leprechaun. The audience gave the performance a standing ovation & responded warmly to the SF Girls Chorus, Mr. Tiran & Maestro Masur.

§ Kurt Masur conducts Mendelssohn
San Francisco Symphony
Kurt Masur, conductor

Susannah Biller, soprano
Maya Lahyani, mezzo-soprano
Itay Tiran, narrator
San Francisco Girls Chorus; Susan McMane, Director

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4, Italian
Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (complete, sung in English)

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall


sfmike said...

So leprechaun is what he was aiming at with Puck? I thought he was going for nouveau Borscht Belt schtick, but your guess makes more sense. Gosh, that was painful. I kept reorchestrating his narration with Britten's music in my head, which of course got in the way of Felix's music.

Axel Feldheim said...

Maybe because St. Patrick's Day is coming up, I had leprechauns on my mind, but I think Borsch Belt works just as well. I don't know Britten's version, so I don't have that comparison, but I do not think that this evening made a good case for doing all of Mendelssohn's version.