Friday, September 14, 2012

Music I'm Listening to: Semyon Bychkov Conducting the San Francisco Symphony, Pinchas Zuckerman Soloist (September 6, 2012)

I belatedly note that I attended the September 6 performance of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall. Guest conductor Semyon Bychkov led the Symphony in a performance of Wagner's Overture to Tannhäuser followed by Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1, with Pinchas Zuckerman on the violin. After intermission, we heard Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.  As usual, the Wagner left me cold. I don't have anything to say about it except that it seemed competently played. I'm no judge of Wagner.

I was mostly looking forward to hearing the Bruch. Zuckerman tossed it off with apparent ease despite being in pain. I learned after the performance that he had hurt his back recently and was not feeling in top form. With the exception of a little roughness at the outset, it didn't show much. I liked the sound of Zuckerman's violin (from what I can gather, a 1742 Guarnerius)--throaty in the low register. He had been scheduled to sign autographs but bowed out--a disappointment as I had brought with me my autographed copy of Kyung-wha Chung's debut vinyl disc and had hoped to get him to add his signature to it; Chung and Zuckerman were co-winners of the Leaventritt Competition in 1967, and both studied at Julliard under Ivan Galamian.

The highlight of the evening, however, turned out to be the Tchaikovsky. Bychkov gave it a slightly idiosyncratic reading with some unusual emphases here and there, but it worked. I thought his use of rubato masterly. The whole gave a simultaneous impression of precision and flow. Very persuasive. As usual, the orchestra was in excellent form, with the horns and woodwinds standing out in the Tchaikovsky. Had a quick bite and a glass of wine at Absinthe afterwards. The friendly staff said it was nice to have the concertgoers back with the start of the 2012-2013 season, likening us to migratory birds.

Photo of Semyon Bychkov by Thomas Brill. Photo of Pinchas Zuckerman by Paul Labelle. Photos courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.

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