Friday, November 10, 2017

Music I'm Listening To: Santa Rosa and San Francisco

Guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen
I've had the fun of going backstage to do photography as a volunteer for the Santa Rosa Symphony this season. I had intended to write in some detail about each of the five concerts serving as auditions for the Symphony's new conductor following the upcoming retirement of Bruno Ferrandis, but, with the fires, I've been unable to write much and many of my impressions are no longer fresh or they have been lost altogether. Two concerts have already finished. Candidates Francesco Lecce-Chong, and Mei-Ann Chen have both led the Santa Rosa Symphony in concerts designed to give audiences a sense of who they'd be if chosen to replace Ferrandis. Both Lecce-Chong and Chen seem enthusiastic and competent, but I thought Lecce-Chong a trifle nervous in his interpretation, a little rushed, a little in need of rubato to vary tempi. Chen seemed more in control of things, more self-assured, and I liked the way she seemed very cognizant of the mid-range instruments like the violas. The next audition concert will feature Andrew Grams as guest conductor with performances at the Green Music Center on December 2, 3, and 4.

Guest conductor Lecce-Chong
The first San Francisco Symphony concert I attended this season featured violin soloist Augustin Hadelich, who gave a very good performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto notable, I thought, for the articulation and the way Hadelich let the inherent romanticism of the piece shine through without exaggeration. So many performances of the piece are a bit over the top and often marred by laziness in the slurred passages. Hadelich's was a model of clarity throughout. I never got around to writing anything about the final SF Symphony performance I attended last season either, which included Joshua Bell playing Lalo's Symphony Espagnole. Bell is not among my favorite violinists. He likes very romantic music and tends to give it more romantic passion than it needs (very much unlike the Hadelich performance noted above). However, he played the piece nicely, I thought, despite a minor mishap; Bell at one point got the tip of his bow momentarily caught in his strings. Guest conductor Vasily Petrenko took the music at a rather faster pace than is usual and perhaps that kept Bell from getting carried away.

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