Monday, January 21, 2019

Music I'm Listening To: So Many Concerts

Musician's case backstage at The Green Music Center
The last couple of months of 2018 were unusually busy months for me. I had art work in multiple shows. I was curating a new show on The Art Wall at Shige Sushi. I was more than usually busy with other work. I did three Audubon Christmas bird counts this year, leading a section of one of them. I attended a larger number of concerts than usual, concerts of both the San Francisco Symphony and the Santa Rosa Sympony. I've fallen far behind in mentioning them. That bothers me not so much because I think anyone will have missed my comments or photographs but because, by posting here, I keep a record that I can return to when trying to remember who I heard where and when.

Concerts I've failed to mention include an extraordinary performance of Ravel's Bolero, Friday October 19, 2018 in San Francisco with Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the San Francisco Symphony (I can't remember what else was on the program). Bolero is extremely familiar, but I'd never heard it live before, never seen it before. Visually, what was striking was the way the snare drum was positioned not at the back of the stage in the percussion section but right in the middle—in front of the woodwinds and just behind the violas. The snare drum sounds from beginning to end, without a break, establishing and maintaining the beat throughout. It is central to the piece in more than one sense. How hard it must be to keep it going flawlessly for the 15 minutes or so that Bolero lasts. It was an extraordinary performance—in its entirety, not just the percussion, although the snare drummer enjoyed a long and enthusiastic spell of applause.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Gauthier Capucon take a bow
And then there was Gauthier Capuçon and Jean-Yves Thibaudet in recital, also in San Francisco, on Sunday December 2, 2018. They played Debussy's Sonata No. 1 in D minor for Cello and Piano; Brahms' Sonata No. 1 in E minor for Cello and Piano; and Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata in G minor, along with a number of encores, which, at this remove, I can't recall. Capuçon, as always, exuded confidence and a kind of strong but contained joy in playing. A joy to hear and to watch. Thibaudet was mostly hidden by the piano from my vantage point, but you could feel a presence nonetheless equal to that of Capuçon. Grabbing a bite to eat after the concert, my mother and I were surprised to see Capuçon, Thibaudet and their entourage come into the same restaurant about half an hour after we had arrived. Usually we eat at Absinthe after concerts, but the place closes early on Sundays. The only restaurant I could find a space at was Monsieur Benjamin, where the food was very tasty but boldly overpriced--particularly the wines by the glass. I resisted the temptation to intrude on the musicians, to say something, but it was fun to see them offstage.

Nokuthula Ngwenyama and Jayce Ogren coming offstage after Harold in Italy
Francesco Lecce-Chong conducting the Santa Rosa Symphony
The day before, December 1, I was backstage in Santa Rosa taking pictures for the symphony during a concert at The Green Music Center. On the program were the William Tell Overture (Rossini), Berlioz's Harold in Italy, and Vivaldi's Gloria. The concert was led by guest conductor Jayce Ogren. Nokuthula Ngwenyama was the viola soloist in Harold in Italy. 

On January 12, in the new year, I was backstage again for a concert conducted by new music director Francesco Lecce-Chong. He led the Santa Rosa Symphony in a couple of short brass fanfares by Takemitsu, Mozart's Symphony No. 40 and Mahler's Symphony No. 4. Soprano Marie Plette was soloist in the Mahler.

Not to mention the Santa Rosa Symphony concert with Sharon Isbin on November 8, 2018 and also seeing Hilary Hahn in recital in San Francisco on the following day—two concerts I wrote about briefly here—or to mention the several art shows I saw in those months that I never got a chance to write about, notably the Muslim Fashions show, the René Magritte show, and the Pre-Raphaelites show, all in San Francisco.
Soprano Marie Plette and Francesco Lecce-Chong
coming offstage after the Mahler

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