Sunday, April 15, 2007

MTT Embarrassed

The San Francisco Symphony had a mini-Stravinsky festival the past 2 weeks. I attended the program on Wednesday night which consisted of Symphonies of Wind Instruments, the Apollo ballet music & the Symphony of Psalms, as well as a clarinet concerto, Fantasma/Cantos by Takemitsu.

MTT likes to talk before the pieces, & he spent a good 8 minutes before the Apollo enthusiastically explaining how full of "delights" it is. He had the orchestra play excerpts to demonstrate how some of the part writing works. One of the excerpts was Barantschik's lyrical violin solo, & this amounted to a kind of musical spoiler.

Midway through the Apollo there was a false start to one of the movements, signaled by tentative notes from some violinists. After a pause, there was another false start, then MTT saying "sorry" to the orchestra & flipping pages of his score. At this point everyone in the audience could tell that something had gone wrong. MTT made a joke of it by making a show of shuffling the papers on the podium. He appeared to have lost track of which movement to start. On his third try, he got the next movement going.

I've never seen such an obvious flub occur on the podium before, & it was a bit heart-stopping to witness the performance come to a halt. I didn't feel safe or confident for the rest of concert after that. Joshua Kosman's review of the concert in the Chronicle referred to it as a "mishap".

Happier moments of the Apollo included Barantschik's beautiful violin solo & then a duet with Mark Volkert(?). I hadn't realized what a deep, mellow tone Volkert has.

After intermission, MTT had the soloist Richard Stoltzman speak about the Takemitsu concerto & play the prinicpal theme, which again was a spoiler. For me Stoltzman's playing was the highlight of the evening. He has an incredible sound, almost piercing. There are brillant high notes, mellow low notes, a big dynamic range. The piece is meditative, wandering, & has a dense orchestral texture. The clarinet plays almost continuously, & Stolztman was expressive throughout.

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