Recent News
12.12.18
Keith Lockhart
KEITH LOCKHART JOINS THE ROSTER
12.10.18
Vienna Boys Choir
Classical Album of the Week: Vienna Boys Choir Sings Strauss
WRTI
12.07.18
JoAnn Falletta, Mariss Jansons, David Alan Miller, Peter Oundjian, Patrick Summers, Alexandre Tharaud, Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider , Mason Bates, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Munich , Academy of St Martin in the Fields , Les Violons du Roy , Anthony Roth Costanzo, Nathan Gunn
2019 Grammy Nominees
Grammy Awards
12.07.18
New York Philharmonic String Quartet , Yefim Bronfman
Bronfman, NY Philharmonic Quartet impress at Linton Series
Cincinnati Business Courier
12.06.18
Aaron Diehl
Pianist Diehl in jazz trio plays varied concert in Palm Beach
Palm Beach Daily News
12.06.18
Julian Wachner
This Is the Best ‘Messiah’ in New York
The New York Times
12.04.18
Sir Andrew Davis
ELGAR The Music Makers. The Spirit of England (Davis)
Gramophone
12.03.18
Chanticleer
Chanticleer Christmas concert, 11/30/18
Divamensch
12.01.18
Ward Stare
Twin pianists deliver impeccable style in ‘Perfect Pairs’ concert
Sarasota Herald Tribune
11.27.18
Richard Kaufman
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA HAUNTS THE SOROYA IN REAL TIME
Broadway World

News archive »

S.F. Symphony review: 'Rite of Spring' blossoms

06.21.13
Gil Shaham
San Francisco Chronicle

By Joshua Kosman

There is a line of thought that says the difficulties in playing Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" - the treachery of the unpredictable rhythms, the pinpoint orchestral balances - are woven into the essence of the piece, and that a performance in which the musicians aren't heard to be struggling is somehow less than authentic.

Thursday afternoon's superlative "Rite" by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony put that notion to rest - or at least offered a pretty dazzling counterargument.

In the second of a series of concerts celebrating the piece's centenary, Thomas and the orchestra showed how much can be done with the piece when all its technical challenges have been brushed aside.

Instead of craggy, rough-hewn explosions and jagged shards of sound, this was a performance that drew strength from unimpeded rhythmic momentum and broad, impeccably shaped instrumental textures.

But the splendor of this rendition went further than mere precision or unanimity of sound, and reached the point where Thomas and his colleagues began to play with the music, juggling its components in witty and unpredictable ways. This was the performance that comes after technical mastery.

Like Duke Ellington leading his orchestra, Thomas pushed and pulled against the beat in the ensemble sections, leaving minuscule pockets of silence that amounted to knowing quasi-syncopations. The full-orchestra attacks, hitting on the offbeats, boasted a sense of rhythmic looseness and freedom that only enhanced the music's power.

In the score's more transparent sections, the orchestral musicians seemed to be playing off one another's contributions with utter spontaneity. I don't know when I've heard "The Rite" sound so improvisatory or unconstrained.

The first half of the program featured the ballet score "Agon" and the Violin Concerto to complete a reverse-chronological survey of the composer's career. (Subsequent concerts feature "Les Noces" and selections of Russian folk songs by the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble.) If expansive rhythmic flexibility was the order of the day after intermission, the first half was executed with sleek determination.

The collection of terse instrumental miniatures in "Agon" provided a chance for individual members of the orchestra to step into the spotlight - particularly concertmaster Alexander Barantschik, whose solo turns were both suave and appropriately dry. And Gil Shaham was a magnificent soloist in the concerto, bringing vigor and clarity to the outer movements and a certain clipped lyricism to the paired instrumental arias that serve as a double centerpiece.