Friday, March 04, 2011

MTT and Anne Sofie von Otter

Davies Hall Box OfficeThursday evening's San Francisco Symphony subscription concert was well-attended, but the audience was subdued compared to Monday's Israel Philharmonic event. MTT felt the need to speak before conducting Hindemith's Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass, observing that the excellent program notes fail to convey "How much we enjoy playing this piece." We also learned that the work was a favorite of Leonard Bernstein, who used to joke that he wish he'd written it. It's a complex piece, with lots of contrapuntal writing & groups of instruments playing in opposition. It was easy to hear the influences of both Bach & jazz. The whole orchestra had a bright, gleaming sound, especially the string sections. The violins often had to play at the extremes of their range. The end of Part I, with its lush, blazing brass chords, made a ringing impression. A highlight of Part II was Mark Inouye's sustained trumpet solo.

Mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter sang a set of 7 love songs by Wilhelm Stenhammar, Nielsen, Grieg & Sibelius, with texts in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian & Finnish. Ms. von Otter has a pretty voice, & there were many small but expressive details in her singing. She made each song into a little story, for instance sounding like an eager young girl in Stenhammar's Flickan knyter i Johannenatten. She executed a lovely, controlled pianissimo in Grieg's En Svane. She sang with nice dynamic contrast in Sibelius's Kaiutar, giving it an almost operatic feel. The orchestrations, in many cases by different composers, were attractive & shimmering. I liked the way that various solo instruments took turns accompanying the voice in Max Reger's arrangement of Grieg's Jeg elsker Dig! Ms. von Otter offered us a bobbing encore in Swedish, & she could not resist adding her own little dance steps.

MTT & the orchestra gave Brahms's Serenade No. 1 in D a buccollic & soft-textured performance. It flowed simply, from moment to moment. My favorite parts were the beautiful, even-toned solos from clarinetist Carey Bell & oboist Bill Bennett. I generally enjoy Brahms, but I have to admit that the piece seems too long. There was a smattering of applause after the penultimate Scherzo movement. MTT turned to the audience & said, "One more!" He then added encouragingly, "We like this one the best!"

§ MTT and Anne Sofie von Otter
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano

Hindemith, Concert Music for String Orchestra and Brass, Op. 50

Songs of Scandinavia:
Stenhammar, Flickan knyter i Johannenatten
Nielsen, Genrebillede: “Pagen hojt paa Taarnet sad”
Sibelius, Demanten på marssnön
Grieg, En Svane
Sibelius, Kaiutar
Grieg, Jeg elsker Dig!
Sibelius, Var det en dröm

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Aspåkers-polska

Brahms, Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11

Thu, Mar 3, 2011 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

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