San Francisco Symphony Celebrates Sibelius, Rediscovers Schumann

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas led the San Francisco Symphony in a great, very great performance of the Violin Concerto in D minor, Opus 47, by Jean Sibelius, and Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Opus 97, Rhenish, by Robert Schumann, November 13-15, at Davies Hall. If by any chance you missed hearing one of these concerts, you have a chance for more Sibelius tonight, Nov. 18, when pianist Leif Ove Andsnes performs works of Sibelius, Beethoven, Debussy, and Chopin. And, another chance for a grand Schumann symphony, Nov. 19-21, when MTT and the SFS perform Schumann’s symphony, No. 1, Spring.

220px-Jean_sibelius-2  This is the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’s birth, Dec. 8, 1865. Thanks to the milestone quality of that event, the SFS and others are performing more of his extraordinary music. One may hear Finlandia on the radio from time to time, and its stirring beauty is ample reason for Finland to celebrate Sibelius as a national hero, but he did write more. This program opened with his tone poem, The Swan of Tuonela, Opus, 22, no. 2. Written in 1896, it is one of a group of works based on Finnish legends, Four Legends from the Kalevala. Its beauty is misty, ethereal, and even a bit eerie. Tuonela was the “land of death” in Finnish myths. The Swan of Tuonela floats on a large river which circles Tuonela and sings. The images of the tale evaporate into the music or the music calls the mythic characters into being. From which ever direction one experiences it, The Swan of Tuonela, as performed by the SFS is beautiful and chilling.

Leonidas Kavakos Photo: Marco Borggreve Leonidas Kavakos performed the Violin Concerto (1904) with stunning virtuosity. This is not stunning in the sense of “looking good.”  This was stunning in the sense of shivers up the back bone and eye popping brilliance. Mr. Kavakos made the first recording of the original version of this Violin Concerto, in 1991. That version is said to be even more demanding than the one more often performed. The winner of major international violin competitions, he is far more than a majestic technician; he is a magical musician. The concerto moves from very delicate, dream-like music into deeply passionate music with the full orchestra. As a moody, pessimistic sound takes over, the solo violin emerges to play an astonishing cadenza. Sibelius uses the voices of the orchestra and of the soloist in opposition and also brilliant unity. As a composer, Sibelius can only be described as Sibelius-esque. The music finds enchanting melody and also heart pounding syncopated rhythms. This SFS performance with Leonidas Kavakos took one’s breath away.

220px-Schumann-photo1850Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a pianist, conductor, music critic, journalist in addition to being a great composer. We are all lucky that MTT and the SFS are launching a project to record Schumann’s four symphonies. The performance, Nov. 15, was the first of the performance recordings. It was glorious. Maestro Tilson Thomas captured the energy and motion of the music. One could almost feel the rolling power of the water in the waves of sound. The SFS played as though their hearts were unleashed. The symphony opens with lively music; we are there on the Rhine, that ever present symbol of Europe. The second movement has the rhythms of dances. The minuet and a German folk dance combine. Schumann had called it “Morning on the Rhine.” He and his wife, Clara, had taken a trip to the Rhineland together and remembered it as a tranquil, happy time. Schumann had seen the cathedral at Cologne and the installation of a Cardinal there. The solemnity of the fourth movement is his representation of the grandeur of the place and event. In the end, wisps of the early themes reappear; the timing slows as the great river swells and travels toward the sea. The the symphony has an internal effect on the listeners. The audience was buoyant, energized, smiling as though the movement of the music had infused them all with the spirit of the natural force of the river.

mtt_09-black_0598-5-120x67 Three cheers for MTT’s Schumann project with the San Francisco Symphony. This great, Romantic composer has not been given his due in recent decades. Music lovers should not miss this experience. The time has come to rediscover his music.

Pictures, from top: Jean Sibelius; Leonidas Kavakos, courtesy of San Francisco Symphony; Robert Schumann, photograph from 1850; Michael Tilson Thomas, courtesy of San Francisco Symphony.

Israel Philharmonic in San Francisco: Bardanashvili, Ravel, Beethoven

The Israel Philharmonic, Zubin Metha conducting, performed at Davies Symphony Hall, November 8. The concert presented challenging music with excellent results: A Journey to the End of the Millenium, by Josef Bardanashvili; La Valse, by Maurice Ravel; Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Opus 55, Eroica, by Ludwig van Beethoven.

bardanashviliThis writer confesses to trying to like music by contemporary composers and mostly not succeeding. A Journey to the End of the Millenium is an exception. The composer calls it a symphonic poem; it was inspired by Bardanashivli’s opera of the same name , but is not a suite from the opera. The music has a dramatic path which captures the listener’s emotions and attention. The opera asked, “What are the mores of society at the opening of the 21st century?” The symphonic poem takes a journey with a woman. About to die, she looks back to her wedding day in a marriage in which she will be the second wife. Bardanashvili draws from deep sources: Moroccan music, ancient Jewish music, classically beautiful music, abrupt sounds. It has a three dimensional texture, like a rich wall hanging made in ikat colors of rubies and lapis; it is sometimes knotty and sometimes silky smooth. Most of all it was interesting, original, full of musical ideas which reached into the imagination and plucked at one’s nerves. Josef Bardanashvili was born in Georgia and moved to Israel in 1995. He is the composer of operas, ballets, and symphonies, music for theater and film.

RavelRavel’s La Valse changed its character from 1906 to 1919. Ravel intended to write a piece titled Wien (Vienna) in appreciation of Johann Strauss. When World War I began, the composer had not finished it, and his world was not the same. Diaghilev, the ballet impresario, commissioned the composer to complete La Valse. They had had success with Daphnis et Chloe for the Ballets Russes, but Diaghilev rejected La Valse, ending the partnership. The music is violent. One can visualize waltzing couples circling the dance floor, the brilliant chandeliers, the colors of the gowns becoming a blur as they spin faster. Ravel wrote a note for the music which suggests the scene at “An imperial court, about 1855.” Perhaps 1855 signifies a time of the old order, the time before civilization spun out of control and stopped looking like “civilization.” La Valse premiered in 1920. It sounds modern. It is recognizable as a waltz, but it is turbulent and frightening, a refusal of all the grace, ease, and pleasure that a waltz could incorporate. This may have been the best performance of La Valse that The Hedgehog has heard.

14708And then, the Eroica. Beethoven conducted the first public performance in 1805. On his own, Beethoven over turned the music world’s old order. Symphony No. 3 announced that music could not be the same as before Beethoven. It is bigger than previous symphonies both in its length and the universe it encompasses. It is grander, more powerful and accomplishes more revolutions than those enforced by Napoleon Bonaparte to whom Beethoven had originally meant to dedicate the work. Napoleon declared himself Emperor. Beethoven, yearning for a leader who would make the rights of man the basis of government, was furious at the betrayal. Beethoven changed his mind back and forth on the dedication to Napoleon, but left the name off the final manuscript. This article is being written on Veterans Day. The second movement, Marcia funebre: Adagio assai/Funeral March, is not to celebrate one Great Man. It commemorates each individual whose life was diminished or finished by war. It was played at Mendelssohn’s funeral, another great life lost. Beethoven introduces the lively boldness of heroes, the painful waste of their loss. The rights of man belong to every one; the Eroica is for every individual. Through the individual, Beethoven knows he reaches all humanity. The Eroica ends with a “YES,” Finale: Allegro molto. Having fought his way through loss and pain, the human is still himself and that is the human victory. The Israel Philharmonic and Maestro Mehta presented the Eroica with the musical integrity and passion it requires.

ZMehtaZubin Mehta, much honored conductor and music director of orchestras around the world, has been with the Israel Philharmonic since 1969. Since 1981 he has had the title, Music Director for Life. The very good news is that he is as handsome and charismatic as ever.

Bharatanatyam Ballet Premieres Nov. 14 & 15: Shilpa Torvi’s New Work

Shilpa Torvi presented her choreography in the IDF@SV Festival Concert, Aug. 16, 2015, and also in the Showcase performance for the IDF Choreo-cubator© artists. Now it is only a week until the world premiere of her major new work, La Bayadere. There are two performances, both at 4 p.m., at the Jackson Theater, Ohlone College, Fremont, CA. Ms Torvi found an exciting, creative approach to combining elements of Western classical ballet and Indian classical Bharatanatyam dance. She bases her work on La Bayadere, a French ballet which is about an Indian temple dancer. In her choreographic experiments this summer, she also explored using the stage space in ways more associated with Western classical dance. Bharatanatyam can be very linear. Its positions derive from sculptures on the walls of ancient temples. Western classical dance makes more use of the depth of the stage space. Ms Torvi has experimented with space. It’s an exciting way to open up the visualization of a story that is jumping through space across continents and through time from ancient India to Nineteenth Century Europe to the present. The flyer pictured below has ticket information for what promises to be a wonderful dance experience.


Barantschik, Nel, Wyrick Meet Beethoven, Chopin, Shostakovich

Chamber music at the Palace of the Legion of Honor is always a high point of San Francisco’s musical season. Remarkable musicians playing some of classical music’s finest selections in a theater that looks like the inside of magical music box: it’s great. Sunday, November 1, opened the season with Beethoven’s Trio in G major, Opus 1, no. 2; Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 in E major, Opus 54; and Shostakovich’s Quintet in G minor, Opus 57. Each one was a gem. The character of each was entirely different from the others. I mention that for readers who may think narrow thoughts about chamber music. You have been misled; these are peak musical experiences. 14708Alexander Barantschik, the Concert Master of the SF Symphony, violin; Anton Nel, piano; and Peter Wyrick, Associate Principal Cello of the SFS formed the trio for Beethoven. Michael Grebanier, SFS Principal Cello was scheduled to perform but replaced by Wyrick. The music was delightful. Beethoven plays with bright emotions, letting his lyricism and great heart carry the listener into an ideal natural world. The Scherzo movement offers syncopation and suggests a folk dance. The Finale: Presto sweeps aside any constraint, calling upon the pianist for virtuosic performance and yet keeping all three in an exciting ensemble. It was thrilling to watch and to hear these artists.

800px-Frédéric_Chopin_by_Bisson,_1849Extraordinary pianist Anton Nel heads the Division of Keyboard Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has performed frequently with the San Francisco Symphony as well as the Cleveland, Chicago, London orchestras, and in partnership with Alexander Barantschik in the Chamber Music series. His performance of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 was a gift. Although a life long Chopin devotee, the Scherzo was not familiar to this Hedgehog. It was performed with exquisite style and taste. Nel gave Chopin the leading role and by doing so showed his own brilliance. It is a big piece, not at all a piece of another, grander work. The listeners were given much to embrace and absolutely stellar musicianship.

600full-dmitri-shostakovichIn the Shostakovich Quintet, SF Symphony musicians Florin Parvulescu, SFS violin, and Jonathan Vinocour, SFS Principal Viola, joined Barantschik, Nel, and Wyrick. Concert goers who feel they know Beethoven and Chopin could have been quite surprised by the selections by those composers on this program. They were both fresh and profound. They may have been most impressed and surprised by the Shostakovich. His music is not played so often, was shut out of programming for decades, and when presented now opens the mind and heart with forceful, beautiful, sometimes soul wrenching music. While Shostakovich suffered greatly when out of favor with Stalin and his henchmen, this Quintet was written and premiered during a brief interlude of acceptance. It is glorious. Its premiere was 1940, but it sounds new and full of life. Its performance by this quintet of champion musicians provided music that could send the entire audience aloft. The persistence of the Russian dances in the last movements whirled us along while a thoughtful, musical spirit appears as if to whisper a reminder of a quiet secret. The audience called the quintet back for multiple bows. Each of the performers deserved whole hearted cheers.

Pictures from top: Beethoven, photo of Chopin by Bisson, 1849; Shostakovich.

Beijing Opera Star in San Jose, October 17

Beijing OperaAnn Woo, Director of the International Performing Arts Center, 6148 Bollinger Road, San Jose, invites the public to a unique arts event, October 17, 9:30 a.m. Madam Pei Yu Wang of Beijing will lead a seminar/demonstration of Beijing Opera. She will bring a troupe of seven to demonstrate the elaborate make up, singing, and acting of this 400 year old art form. Ms Woo explains that the Beijing Opera was actually created from diverse regional theatrical traditions and includes choruses, recitatives, martial arts, acrobatics and magic. It made “a very entertaining performance to the common folks as well as to the royal families.” In earlier centuries, the performers toured distant cities. As they could not afford to carry sets, props and costumes, they had to develop ways to convey their stories through expressive movements, singing and facial expressions. Developed long before electricity, the art required that the performers learned how to be heard without any amplification except their own voices. The program will be bilingual, English/Chinese and is free of charge. There is parking available near the International Arts Center’s entrance.


LF Angel hi-resINTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL@SILICON VALLEY, 2015 began just two months ago. It was a whirlwind of dance, energy, creativity. Comments keep coming in from participants about how much they loved their experiences. The word most often, and most appropriately, used is AWESOME, awesome teachers, awesome dancers, awesome new friends. Here are just two sent to Dr. Leslie Friedman, founder and director of IDF@SV.

Amity Johnson“Boy, did I have fun taking those classes!  I am glad you offered Pilates because I have always wanted to try it, and I just loved it—and Amity is awesome! What a wonderful, fun experience and I just adore all the people I’ve met at the festival this year and last…Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making all this possible. Love & admire you to pieces!”     C

Ann Woo 12“Leslie, Thank you so much for the wonderful forum to present dance to the Silicon Valley!  Loved the teachers, classes – (yours was awesome!) and beautiful environment you created!  Great to see Ann Woo again too!  Much appreciated, Leianne

COME DANCE WITH US! it really is that wonderful.

Pictures: top to bottom: Artist/teachers Leslie Friedman, Contemporary Dance & Choreo-cubator©; Amity Johnson, Pilates; Ann Woo, Classical Chinese Dance.


SAM & DAVE: The Nashville Soul Sessions

220px-Sam_&_Dave_(2)I am listening to a Sam & Dave cd. I saw it in a catalogue and thought, “Wow I loved their music; I’m going to spend $6 on these tunes.” My big indulgence, I won’t buy cds just for background sound. I thought, hearing these songs will be making me happy. It turns out the cd has recordings they made when they were trying to make a come back. The first song on the cd was Soul Man. It didn’t sound right at all. I can hear that song in my head like it’s still 1967. I looked at the liner notes. What a let down. It even says these recordings in Nashville, late 1970s-early 1980s, did not do the job for them. If you do not immediately hear the sounds when you hear their names, you should check them out. Their singing is the real thing; do listen. My age cohort and dear friend, Jackie, claimed she’d no idea, said, “Was I living in a cave?” She looked on youtube and found them. She wrote that she especially admired their moves. That’s right. They were famous for working up major sweat in every performance. They did it. The tenor is Sam Moore; the baritone is Dave Prater. The heart of their soul music was produced at STAX records, in Memphis. The truly big years were 1965 – 1968. It’s Soul Man; Hold On, I’m Comin’; You Don’t Know Like I Know; When Something is Wrong With My Baby; Wrap it Up. As it turns out, great duo that they were in the studio and on the stage, they did not get along. For years, they couldn’t speak to each other; always arrived separately at recording sessions. STAX records were distributed by Atlantic Records. There was a fight between the companies. Atlantic scooped up Sam & Dave and took them to New York, but somehow their work there didn’t top the charts like the songs of the STAX years.

220px-Sam_&_DaveThey are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, won the Grammy, had multiple Gold Records. They had more success on the R & B charts than anyone with possible exception of Aretha Franklin. Soul Man, according to the Grammys is one of the most influential songs for 50 years. I think that means a lot of other acts tried to sing it. They broke up in 1969, reunited in 1972. Dave found a new Sam, Sam Daniels, 1982 until Dave’s death in a car crash, 1988. Sam Moore continues to perform. More power to him. Regarding this cd, I might donate it to the library book sale just not to be depressed by it. 
Time passes. Damn.

pictures: top, Sam & Dave, 1967, bottom, Sam & Dave, 1966.  Sam & Dave: the Nashville Soul Sessions, FUEL 2000 Records.

Andras Schiff Recital: Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert

AndrasSchiffNo matter how difficult the pieces he chooses to play or how impossible it would be for another to play them as Andras Schiff plays them, the Hedgehog contends that it is at least if not more difficult to write about his performance.** On October 4, at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, Sir Andras Schiff performed the last piano sonatas by Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert so brilliantly, so truly, with such passion that one felt as though in the presence of those four great artists themselves. The pianist’s integrity is on view and available to experience in his dedication to the music and lack of behaviors that would draw attention to himself rather than the music. It was an astonishing, great performance of astonishing, great music.

October 7 (tonight), 8, 9, & 10 Andras Schiff will be leader and pianist with the SF Symphony and Symphony Chorus in a concert of Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 27, Haydn, Lord Nelson Mass, and Schubert lieder. There might still be tickets. GO. Box Office: 415/864-6000 or 

HaydnFranz Joseph Haydn was the Father of the Symphony, Father of the String Quartet, probably the inventor of the piano trio, too. We all benefit from the absence of TV, movies, fast cars in his era and the fact that writing great music worked for him as a way to earn a very good living after a difficult childhood. He made time to write 106 symphonies, 68 string quartets, piano sonatas, masses, minuets, more. “Papa” Haydn’s creativity led not only to new music, but also new forms for his endless musical ideas. His Sonata in E-flat major for Piano, H.XVI:52 is last of the three piano sonatas which he wrote while in London, 1794-95. The playfulness of this sonata sweeps away any image of the rigidity of the late 18th century. Just when it seems like the listener might anticipate a style or rhythm, Haydn has surprises to delight the imagination. There is almost a drama in the music; it changes direction, flutters, jumps, and cascades. There is surely drama in watching the liveliness of being made audible by this great pianist’s artistry.

14708Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Sonata No. 32 in C minor for Piano, Opus 111: Do you love a mystery? A very big mystery? This sonata is a comet, a ball of fire, an extravagant expenditure of energy, ideas, one might say foresight. Perhaps Beethoven decided to share his experience of traveling to the stars and back; perhaps his understanding of the stars; perhaps he found the formulae in this music to describe the pulsating star of his existence. Listening, one feels one’s own head opening up to experience the music. It is not possible to reflect upon it and experience it, too. It is happening in time and so there is no time but to be there as it happens: breathing, blood racing, images in one’s eyes, tingling skin, and the explosion of the moment. The ultimate thrill comes paired with an inner calm: life. The music rolls over itself in exuberance which suggested to this Hedgehog a celestial ragtime. Heaven is here. Before beginning this sonata, Sir Andras Schiff rested his hands on the top of the piano, then crossed his arms across his chest, then gently placed above the keys. After the sonata’s end, the entire audience stood to cheer.

mozart-kraft-1819Mozart’s Sonata in D major for Piano, K.576 has another kind of  extravagant energy, sometimes witty, sometimes lyrical, sometimes a vast game in which Mozart finds the maximum number of arrangements and rearrangements of multiple harmonies and forms. Overall, it is beautiful. One can simply enjoy it knowing that Mozart’s intricate, perfect puzzle building is there for our pleasure. The late music writer Michael Steinberg wrote that this is Mozart’s most difficult work for solo piano. Sir Andras Schiff performed it as though it were written especially for him. He seemed to know it from the inside as though he and Mozart were nodding to each other as each new, unpredictable — except to them — variation presented itself. Together, Schiff and Mozart shared the composer’s rueful humor in this exquisite performance.

SchubertThough born 27 years after Beethoven, Schubert outlived him by only one year. Musicians, composers, writers so often compare the two that it brings to mind play ground conversations about which is stronger, a lion or a tiger. Undoubtedly that is because your current writer is not sufficiently knowledgeable to analyze the comparisons. It seems only amazing that they both existed and wrote music that we are so fortunate to hear and ponder, learn from and enjoy. Franz Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat major for Piano, D.960 closed this concert. There was no more to say. Before beginning, the pianist rested his hands on top of the piano, then clasped them together in front of himself, then again gently placed them on the keys. We do not know how he prepared himself to begin his Haydn and Mozart  selections as he entered from off stage, but this silence was apt for Beethoven and Schubert. In fact, distinguishing characteristics of Schubert’s sonata were moments of silence that came unevenly in the midst of the music. It was like trying to remember a prayer to calm oneself, being interrupted, beginning again at the beginning, the mind being agitated by anxious thoughts, beginning again. The sonata contains beautiful, song-like passages that lift us up while the troubling undercurrents make their own music. It is a huge sonata, lengthy and encompassing searching, heart-breaking love. Sir Andras Schiff’s relationship with Schubert is different; he sings Schubert’s songs as he sees the tragedy that Schubert knew.

**Previous Hedgehog Highlights, see: Andras Schiff/Bach & Beethoven, Oct. 19, 2013; Andras Schiff/Bach, Oct. 11, 2013. Pictures: Andras Schiff courtesy of San Francisco Symphony; Haydn portrait by Thomas Hardy, 1792. Ok, I accept that it is not so difficult as playing these works. Exaggeration seemed necessary to convey the idea.

Sir Andras Schiff is now touring. Do not miss an opportunity to see/hear his performance. Oct. 18, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; Oct. 30, Carnegie Hall, NYC; Nov. 10, London, Royal Festival Hall; Feb. 16-20, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has extensive recordings on ECM. 

San Francisco Symphony: Tchaikovsky and Barber

mtt_06-white_0403-400x400The San Francisco Symphony, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas conducting, presented Russian and American classics, October 3, 2015. The program embodied the great, universal emotions and actions of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #6 in B minor, Opus 74, the Pathetique, and the intimate, personal emotions of specific memory in Samuel Barber’s, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Opus 24. The fascinating program led to thoughts of how great art connects us to one another by starting with the most singular, immediate experiences to find the universal or starting with the grandest, earth spanning experience to find it  again in the solitary, human heart.

Samuel_BarberComposer Samuel Barber wrote Knoxville: Summer of 1915 soon after reading James Agee’s prose poem of that name. Although Barber grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Agee in Knoxville, Tennessee, they shared childhood experiences of lying on family back yards in the summer evenings, porches, main streets, trolleys, family characters. The music matched to Barber’s selections from Agee’s work encapsulates that time and place so clearly imprinted in individual American lives. Program note writer, James M. Keller, quotes American opera star Leontyne Price: “As a Southerner, it expresses everything I know about my roots and about my mama and father…my home town….You can smell the South in it.”               Guest artist, soprano Susanna Phillips has a lovely stage presence and sang well. She was sometimes overpowered by the orchestra which made the lyrics hard to understand, but, when she was heard clearly, she succeeded in presenting the peaceful contentment of a summertime full of familiar events and happy to be uneventful.



composer_05_2Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #6 can trick the listener into a mistaken, waltz induced optimism. The first movement, Adagio–Allegro non troppo, begins with very low, very quiet notes. It is slow and serious; it may foreshadow doom. The next two movements are so unlike the first that one might think they were randomly put together for the Pathetique. They demonstrate the extent of Tchaikovsky’s gift for variety of emotion and style. He expresses the range of human feelings in the glorious melody and inventive rhythms he creates. The second movement, Allegro con grazia, seems to promise triumph, life embracing life. Then, in the third, Allegro molto vivace, a march insistently piles cloud upon cloud and marches onward as though lines of marchers overtake each other in near collision, force multiplying force. It ends with enormous bursts of energy, always convincing the listener, even the listener who has heard it before, that this is how it will end. It does not. Out of the breath between the movements, the lament arises. Adagio lamentoso –Andante, the final movement, harkens back to the beginning but takes us further as we have already traveled through other worlds created by the life in the middle of the symphony. The music has changed and has changed us. Its nearly unbearable sadness encompasses the greatness of human life and the painful secret of human life. It ends quietly as though the sound itself has no sound. Tchaikovsky died just nine days after the premiere. The San Francisco Symphony contributed a noble performance of this universal masterpiece.

The program opened with the West Coast premiere of Dispatches (2014) by Ted Hearne. MTT introduced the work by offering an idea of how to experience it, greatly appreciated advice.The work was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and the New World Symphony, based in Florida and founded by Michael Tilson Thomas. Dispatches challenges the audience by abrupt changes between expressing traditionally “musical” music and excursions into sound design, the composer’s re-do of Stevie Wonder, mechanically rearranging electronic sounds, and more. At one point, a voice emerged, shouting out something hard to understand. It was easy to assume it was part of the sound mix, but from the looks on the faces of the musicians, it was not.  The work was conducted by Christian Reif.

th-4POST-SCRIPT: THE AUDIENCE  Performers say they can feel the energy or attention or lack of either in their audience. The other 1999 people in the concert hall can affect one’s experience of the music. Antsy, noisy, clasping their brightly lit cell phones, quiet, attentive; they make a difference. The convention of not applauding after a movement in a symphony is not something everyone knows. In the course of experiencing Tchaikovsky’s 6th, it can make a huge difference if many in the audience burst into applause at the end of the third movement which is not the end of the symphony. That and a loud call for “Encore” happened October 3. MTT turned part of the way around on his podium and said that he just happened to have something more. Yes, the fourth movement. While feeling prickly, after a while one must recognize the good news: this audience cadre is (1) here and (2) excited and pleased about what they are hearing. All of that is good.

This Hedgehog has maintained the childhood habit of counting up how many movements are coming at the beginning of each piece on a program. Many in the audience read their programs while the music is being played; one might hope they would count, too. On October 21, 2001, Maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski led the SFS in performance of his own work, Music at Night, and Tchaikovsky’s 4th. Before beginning the symphony, Skrowaczewski turned to the audience and asked them to remember that despite the long pause before the final movement, the symphony was not yet over. It helped, though this Hedgehog gasped audibly at the end of the third movement, her emotions having been strained to breaking. SEE: Interview with Skrowaczewski in The Hedgehog, Vol.4, No.1, Fall, 2006.

Pictures: Michael Tilson Thomas, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony; Samuel Barber, photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1944; Susanna Phillips; Tchaikovsky; Davies Symphony Hall, courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.





The International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley loves to follow the work of its artists. Shilpa Torvi participated in the Choreo-cubator© this summer; two of her group works were presented in the Festival Concert and she also presented work in the Choreo-cubator© showcase. That makes the upcoming premiere of her major new work all the more exciting. Shilpa discovered a wonderful vehicle for her desire to expand the movement horizons of Bharatanatyam. The heroine of the ballet La Bayadere is an Indian temple dancer. What a perfect opportunity for Shilpa’s creative explorations: using the elegance and narrative power of Bharatnatyam within the enchanting tale of a dancer’s passions. Original music for the Ballet in Bharatanatyam is by Australian Satyajeet Samant. Choreographic Support was contributed by Pratima Shah. The new La Bayadere should become a classic. Be there for an extraordinary experience. Nov. 14 & 15, Jackson Theater, Ohlone College, Fremont, CA. For tickets & information: www.dikshaadanceacademy.comaarohi