Last week, a friend who is a San Francisco Symphony subscriber took me along to a closed rehearsal for donors. We sat in the 1st row of the loge & watched conductor Herbert Blomstedt rehearse the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto with soloist Carey Bell, the Symphony's principal clarinetist. There was a reduced orchestra, grouped closely around Maestro Blomstedt, who stood on the stage floor instead of a podium. The arrangement had a cozy feeling. The violins were split, with the cellos next to the 1st violins. The piece's important snare drum was right behind the violas. Many of the musicians wore brightly-colored leis, which they had apparently received at a luncheon before the rehearsal. The youthful Mr. Bell, resembling a graduate student more than anything else, wore a t-shirt with a picture of Brahms on it. When my friend pointed out an elderly man with a cane onstage, it took me a while to recognize principal cellist Michael Grebanier.
There was constant starting & stopping, & Maestro Blomstedt gave a lot of instructions to the players. He sang the opening melody before giving them their 1st cue. He seemed to be making sure that everything had a light but clear articulation. Mr. Bell's playing was smooth, tidy & calm, though he got looser in the rehearsal's 2nd half. At one point the orchestra applauded his execution of a particularly tricky passage. Toward the end of the rehearsal, Maestro Blomstedt attempted a run-through without stopping, but just as they got into the home stretch, a union timekeeper appeared onstage, began stealthily approaching the conductor, like a cat stalking its prey, & cut the music off mid-stream.
For those who arrived early, there was a lecture by Alexandra Amati-Camperi of USF, who gave a detailed breakdown of the concerto. A woman seated next to me asked if I played the clarinet, because she saw me writing notes.
§ FRIENDS Private Rehearsal
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
Carey Bell, clarinet
Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 12:30p
Davies Symphony Hall