Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mälkki 2: Tiensuu, Chopin, Sibelius at San Francisco Symphony

A very short review; I didn't take many notes, and I don't know either the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 or Sibelius 5 very well, so my impressions are...general.

The concert-opening ten-minute work by Jukka Tiensuu was a real delight, alternating giant, whomping chords with slithering sounds throughout the orchestra, starting and stopping, and rather unpredictable. A lot of beautiful and novel sounds from the orchestra, and what a shame it was only ten minutes - but this year, new music is mostly being doled out that way; note, for example, the fifteen-minute piece by Ted Hearn that was on a different program a couple of weeks ago. You might think that SFS has decided that even MTT can't sell audiences on new music - or maybe SoundBox is becoming the de facto new-music series, since it's hip, later than usual, and attracting a noticeably younger audience than the main stage.

Of the Chopin....well, I know Chopin style better than this work, owing to the Stanford Reactions to the Record symposia and a lot of time spent listening to the old dead guys 'n gals. This concerto is a good 40 minutes long, and although James Keller mounts a spirited defense of its form in his program note, I'm going to come down on the side of Donald Francis Tovey and say that yes, the keys of the first and second themes of the first movement are too close, and I'll go perhaps a bit beyond and say that the the concerto is entirely too long.

The performance, with pianist Simon Trpčeski, was more efficient than poetic, with rubato barely there, and that is what I missed most: poetry.

The Sibelius seemed like an excellent performance of a work I find beautiful and enigmatic. It certainly was beautiful, and beautifully played.

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