Saturday, November 2, 2019

Music I'm Listening to: Jacob Nissly and The San Francisco Symphony

After the concert: The composer, conductor, and soloist
I attended the October 18 performance of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall. I had intended to write about it sooner, but, with the fire scare and blackouts that began on October 23, I've been unable to until today. Guest conductor Cristian Măcelaru led the orchestra in a world premiere performance of Losing Earth, a percussion concerto commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony from composer Adam Schoenberg.  After intermission, the orchestra played Lili Boulanger's D'un Matin de Printemps, of 1918, a San Francisco Symphony first performance. That was followed by Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Ravel). The Symphony's own Jacob Nissly was soloist in Losing Earth.

Two pieces entirely unfamiliar, one quite the opposite. It always astounds me that soloists can, without a score, remember their part when playing a concerto on one instrument, much less on an array of percussion instruments. Nissly must have played more than a dozen instruments, mostly on the stage, but he entered with his instruments strapped to his body, as if playing in a marching band. As always, it's hard to say much about an unfamiliar piece with any precision. It takes multiple hearings to really get to know a piece of music, but I enjoyed the varied textures of the Schoenberg piece, some of which were quite striking, notably the sound of the rotating cymbals that rather dramatically ended the piece. Likewise the short, impressionist tone poem by Boulanger, whose story I had never heard before.

Pictures at an Exhibition, is, of course, very familiar, but I had never heard it live before. It's one of those pieces of music that is as much fun to watch as it to listen to, as all sections of the orchestra have a lot to do throughout and have moments where they are featured as well. As always, the San Francisco Symphony woodwinds were strong but Mark Inoue and the trumpets were particularly brilliant, I thought. Coincidentally, the Santa Rosa Symphony concert I will attend tonight, while it features a banjo concerto, also includes Ravel's orchestrated version of Pictures at an Exhibition.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails