Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Music I'm Listening to: Ton Koopman, Mark Inouye with the San Francisco Symphony

I always wonder how orchestra performers feel when they sit through an encore by a soloist. Impossible to generalize, of course. I imagine some genuinely enjoy listening from the best seats in the house, but I always suspect some may be a little jealous, that some may be in a hurry to get home and hope the encore doesn't go on too long. And usually encores don't. Is two to three minutes normal perhaps? Following his performance of the Hayden Trumpet Concerto last Friday (March 20), a prolonged standing ovation prompted an encore from Mark Inouye, principal trumpet of the San Francsico Symphony. Instead of taking center stage, however, he walked to far stage left and stood beside principal bass Scott Pingel. With a nod of the head from Inouye, Pingel began a jazz riff that morphed into a seven or eight minute-long improvisation by the two based on "Corcovado" (the 1960 bossa nova tune by Antônio Carlos Jobim, known also as "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars"). Inouye is clearly a gifted jazz trumpeter. It was an extraordinary performance. The concert was worth the price of admission just for this unusual bit of stretching out. As I say, I always wonder what the other performers are thinking during encores, but the expressions on the faces of the symphony members suggested they truly enjoyed this extended bit of fun. The audience loved it, too. Afterward, I asked Pingel about the encore from the edge of the stage. He laughed and said they had planned to do something but hadn't thought too much about what. Pingel said that Inouye had told him to do something based on "Corcovado" and that he (Inouye) would just jump in--and so he did.

Before the Haydn concerto, guest conductor Ton Koopman--an incurably jolly-looking elf of a man (although he looks rather serious in the photo here)--led the symphony in the first suite of music from Handel's Water Music, which involves quite a work out for the French horns. After intermission, Koopman gave us a tight, precise, but expressive reading of Haydn's Sypmhony No. 98. Listening to this music from 1792, I was struck in places by how modern it sounds--a feeling I've had listening to Haydn before. There were passages that seemed to point directly to Beethoven and to Brahms. All in all, an excellent night of music.

Photos of Mark Inouye and Ton Koopman courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.

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