To get to Davies Hall on Friday night, my concert companions & I had to walk through a sea of bicycles that stopped traffic on Market Street. When MTT showed up on the podium at 8:10p, he congratulated everyone for having arrived. He also told us to listen for the electronic & metal-on-metal sounds of the Samuel Adams piece that opened the program. Adams's Drift and Providence uses a large orchestra with extra percussion. It lasts about 20 minutes & is in 5 continuous movements, though I did not discern the different sections. The piece is atmospheric & built on various rolling orchestral textures. The slow-moving climaxes reminded me of Debussy's La Mer. The ending seemed to come out of nowhere, during a series of descending scales. MTT peered out into the auditorium looking for the composer, & after a bit of a delay the young Mr. Adams emerged from the stage door to take a fast bow.
MTT led the Mahler 5 without a score, often swaying & making big swinging gestures. He seemed to be conducting along with the orchestra, or even a little behind it. Tempos were moderate. The violins were split, & the strings had a shimmering sound. I enjoyed the violas' articulated & assertive playing. Principle viola Jonathan Vinocour wailed on his pizzicatos in the Scherzo. The orchestra's texture was somewhat shivery & brittle. The brasses played out brashly & were piercingly loud in the climaxes. The audience was chatty, especially between movements, but did not seem bored or inattentive. They gave the performance an immediate standing ovation & cheered especially for trumpeter Mark Inouye & the brass section.
§ MTT Conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Samuel Carl Adams, electronica
San Francisco Symphony
Samuel Carl Adams: Drift and Providence (West Coast Premiere)
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall