The San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas
Photo: mine 2009
It occurs to me that if one wishes to be treated like an adult, then perhaps it is best to act like one. Or at least this is the cliché on my mind after Tuesday’s second performance from the San Francisco Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The hall was filled with a youthful exuberance, which speaks of many unsold seats and a plethora of rush tickets distributed to individuals excited to find another use for their semi-formal garb and all too eager to splash on cologne. Now I’m not one to dive into the whole hackneyed debate over clapping between movements. But let it be said that it was a distinct pleasure to find a group of young adults so profoundly moved by the first two movements of Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra
that they could not help but express their joy through applause neatly delineating these movements from one another. In fact the excitement was so contagious that they continued this effusive behavior into all the silent spaces between movements of the Brahms’ First Symphony, which followed despite the admonishments of conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.
Ah, youth. Of course juvenile behavior may have been in order given that the concert often seemed like more of a class than a concert. MTT gave an extended introductory talk from the stage in the middle of the show on the Berg piece complete with samples played right then and there by the orchestra before actually embarking on the performance.
Sometimes, even when you try to avoid the pre-concert lecture, it follows you into the show anyway. I’m not sure if it was this didactic introduction that made the performance sound more like Stravinsky than Berg in the end, but, for me at least, the edges seemed blunted and soft. As for the Brahms, I’m not a big fan so it could have been great for all I know, but I suspect it wasn’t. Copland’s film music from Our Town
kicked things off with it’s introspective Americana. So, it wasn’t a completely awful show, but it never seemed to connect for me. But that doesn’t necessarily appear to be the fault of the conductor or the orchestra. They are a fine group of musicians and gave a whiz-bang performance of Mahler’s Sixth just three or so years ago here. It’s a shame that tonight they didn’t get the audience they deserved.