Monthly Archives: February 2018

SF Symphony & Boyreko: Entertaining and Enlightening

The San Francisco Symphony, led by Guest Conductor, Andrey Boyreko, February 24, created a world of exciting, entertaining music and deep, desperate music exposing the reality of Stalinist Russia. Boyreko showed that he was the master of the lyrical, dynamic, and challenging Bernstein works as well as Shostakovich’s Symphony. The program included Divertimento (1980) and Serenade (1954) by Leonard Bernstein. These great pieces were performed with verve, enthusiasm and tremendous musicality by the SF Symphony. Part of the salute to Bernstein in the year of his 100th Birthday, the performance proved that the artists of the SFS have wholeheartedly embraced Bernstein’s music and do a brilliant job of communicating it to their audiences. Divertimento has eight movements, each one completely different: from the Waltz and Mazurka to the Samba and Turkey Trot, and because it is Bernstein, the Blues. Sometimes fun or funny, always totally original, was a terrific example of Leonard Bernstein’s inventiveness and ability to make music of every kind.

Andrey Boyreko (Left), Leonard Bernstein (Right)

Vadim Gluzman, the Guest Artist, solo violinist, demonstrated why he is celebrated world wide. In his comments online, quoted from the music journal, Strad, he says that Serenade is about love. That sums it up. Bernstein uses the theme of Plato’s Symposium with each philosopher in attendance choosing to express a different kind of love: physical, mythic, dancing, dedicated. Mr. Gluzman truly captures the high spirited and loving feelings of what is actually complex music. His whole presence played with the characters of the music and the visions of Bernstein. If you have any chance to hear him perform, do not miss it.

Vadim Gluzman

The second half of the program was Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Opus 47 (1937) by Dmitri Shostakovich. It is interesting to me that I heard several times before the concert the “official” response from an unnamed, Soviet critic*, saying that the Symphony No. 5 was “a Soviet artist’s reply to just criticism.”

Dmitri Shostakovich

The problem is more with those who hear or read that without knowing what Shostakovich faced in his life or cannot imagine living in a totalitarian state. There were those who took that comment to mean that this enormous work by one of the greatest composers was somehow a step back from his true art. I cannot accept that idea. To hear this music is to hear protest in the rapid, almost rasping repetitions by the violins and the nearly ear splitting high notes that come again and again. It is a symphony of beauty and rage. Its militaristic sound comes to the audience as irony, making bitter fun of the militaristic regime which put poets and artists in the gulags to die and persecuted Shostakovich to the point that he would stand outside his house late at night so that when “They” came to take him away, “They” would not disturb his family. This brilliant, heart wrenching symphony is no step backward. It is a blatant, powerful act of resistance available to all who will listen. Guest Conductor Boreyko and the SF Symphony propelled this alert to all humans into alarming, moving, completely unique music. Lengthy, standing applause for Vadim Gluzman, Boreyko, and the Symphony demonstrated that the San Francisco audience got it.

*There are various theories of the identity of the critic. some believe Shostakovich himself put it out. If it did come from him, the irony runs deep.

African Rhythms & Dance at IDF@SV: Meet Keith Hames!

   The International Dance Festival@Silicon Valley is proud and excited to announce that Keith Hames, Founder & Director of Akoma Arts, based in San Jose, CA, will teach and perform in IDF@SV 2018. Students will experience African rhythms and dance. This is an amazing opportunity to work with a very special artist and human being. Sign up now! Join in the Festival, the only festival west of western Massachusetts and North Carolina to offer multiple movement forms in classes & workshops for movers of all levels, beginners to pros. Are you a ballerina? give African rhythms or tap dance or physical comedy a try. Are you just starting to explore movement? Come to Full Day of Dance© to sample the most delicious array of dance and movement. PUT THE HEART BACK IN YOUR ART! Come to IDF@SV 2018!

SF Symphony Tonight! Boreyko, Bernstein, Shostakovich

The Hedgehogs are very excited about tonight’s performance at the San Francisco Symphony. Andrey Boreyko will conduct two exquisite pieces by Leonard Bernstein, Divertimento and Serenade, and the Symphony No. 5 of Shostakovich. Featured artist is Vadim Gluzman, violin.

Just a week ago, we heard Maestro Boreyko conduct his orchestra, the Naples Philharmonic, in Naples, FL. It was a memorable, outstanding performance. There he conducted Bernstein’s Serenade and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. As both Hedgehogs had never before heard the Serenade, we were delighted by the beauty, wit, and inventiveness of this work. Our wish to hear it again comes true tonight. The Naples Philharmonic, under Boreyko’s direction, presented a deeply moving, triumphant performance of the Mahler. Even Mahler lovers brought up by Michael Tilson Thomas could stand with hats off for this musical journey from pain to glory. Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 is an enormous work which may present deeply coded messages about the Stalinist regime which often persecuted Russian artists, including Shostakovich. Though he won some approval for this symphony, his art was always a passionate resistance.

Pictures: Top: Leonard Bernstein, Middle: Shostakovich

CASANOVA: The Seduction of Europe at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor

If you have ever wondered about time travel, the ability to wake up and live in an entirely different era, the exhibition CASANOVA: The Seduction of Europe comes very close to letting you live surrounded by the greatest luxury in 18th century Europe. On view in the Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco, February 10-May 28, the paintings, decorative art pieces, furniture, period costumes, sculptures, plus your imagination may whisk you back to a luxurious era which may have seemed – to those who lived at the top tier of their societies – to promise to continue in an unchanging bubble of perfection forever. It did not, of course, as the century ended before its due date with violent revolutions in England’s American colonies (1776) and France (1789). However, it was gorgeous fun for those on top while it lasted.

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798)

Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice to a family of actors. He left home when young to study in Padua and received his doctorate in law at age sixteen. He was an avid reader with a gift for witty conversation and the ability to fit in to ever higher classes of society. He became an autobiographer, writing an enormous multi-volume work that is as much an autobiography of the 18th century as it is of him;  spy; world traveler; gambler; and, most certainly, every bit the seducer-womanizer extraordinaire as he is most remembered. The exhibition is less about Casanova than it is about the world through his eyes. Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of SF said, “The cosmopolitan Casanova is a fitting guide to lead our tour of the glittering art capitals of eighteenth century Europe…” Casanova lived a quarter of his life in Venice, but he also traveled extensively in an era when getting around the globe took serious efforts. Casanova traveled to the Ottoman Empire, Russia, what is now the Czech Republic, and lived in Italy, France, and England. The idea of creating an exhibition through Casanova’s eyes originated with the Kimbell Art Museum, Ft. Worth, TX. The Legion of Honor and the Fine Arts Museum of Boston collaborated in creating the exhibition which features works on loan from many great museums.

Melissa Buron, Director, Art Division for Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco, and Museum Director Max Hollein discuss the approximately 200 art works of the exhibition.

The significant painters whose works are featured include Francois Boucher, Jean-Honore Fragonard, Canaletto, Tiepolo and William Hogarth. Canaletto’s works place the viewer within Venice’s unique city-scape of light and water.  As Melissa Buron pointed out, indoors, the world was lit by candlelight. Candles were expensive; one way to show wealth was to be extravagant with candles. In addition to the imprecise glow of the candles, an air of mystery characterized Venice. The Venetians, known for  masks and masquerades, often wore their masks from October to Mardi Gras. This enhanced their ability to change or hide their identity, a useful ruse for seduction.

(Left) Franceso Guardi (Italian, 1712-1793) The Ridotto of Palazzo Dandolo at San Moise with Masked Figures Conversing ca. 1750. The ridotti were state sponsored gambling rooms, sometimes places of music and dancing. Everyone was required to wear masks which made it easier for thieves and prostitutes to mix with the elite. (Right) 18th c. Sedan chair which belonged to Alma Spreckles, founder of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor

CASANOVA: The Seduction of Europe offers a look at the intimate, erotic and sensual arts which stirred passions in 18th century nobles as well as the opportunity to see the grandeur of porcelains, silver objects, fanciful and exquisite snuff boxes which were all part of the matchless luxury of palaces from St. Petersburg to London. Especially useful for those visiting the exhibition to aid time travel are three tableaux vivants — displays of life size mannequins dressed in richly embellished period costumes. The one representing Venice shows a man visiting a convent where he will have an assignation with a young woman he desires. The Parisian tableau, described by Martin Chapman, Curator-in-Charge of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, presents an aristocratic woman sitting by a small table covered with vessels to “make her toilette,” cleanse and make up her face and hair. Nearby a male caller who faces the lady is holding hands with the lady’s maid. In London, there are elite gentlemen gambling; one has just discovered the other is cheating.

(Left) Parisian tableau. (Right) Nathaniel Hone (Irish, 1718-1781) Kitty Fisher, 1763. Kitty Fisher was London’s famous courtesan. Outrageous accounts or her life appeared in the 1750s. She was determined not to be an ordinary prostitute. She secured her fame when she posed more than twenty times for three portraits by Joshua Reynolds.

Visiting this exhibit is a rare opportunity to enter another world through its art. The last gallery has paintings and sculptures of great individuals Casanova met: Catherine the Great, George III, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire. Walking through the door on the far end of that gallery, one might feel the balance of the 18th century slip.

See famsf.org for more information.

All photographs by Jonathan Clark

BEETHOVEN & STENHAMMAR: BLOMSTEDT & OHLSSON, FEB.8-10

The San Francisco Symphony has a great program coming up, February 8, 9, & 10, Davies Symphony Hall. Herbert Blomstedt, Conductor Laureate of the SF Symphony, will lead the SFS and pianist Garrick Ohlsson in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and the SFS in Stenhammar’s Symphony No. 2. The concerto is so exciting, one sometimes feels not just on the edge of one’s seat but on the edge of one’s seat on a roller coaster. There is an exultant, thrilling sense to it which makes audiences embrace it. Ohlsson is well known for his mastery of Chopin’s perfect piano jewels; the Emperor concerto will reveal him in Beethoven’s expansive energy.

from left: Beethoven, Herbert Blomstedt, Garrick Ohlsson

Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) is considered by many to be Sweden’s greatest composer. He was also widely admired as a great pianist.

Wilhelm Stenhammar

Herbert Blomstedt, Music Director and Conductor of the SFS from 1985-1995, has led San Francisco audiences to discover and love the works of other Scandinavian composers, Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius. While Stenhammar began his music studies in Stockholm, he continued in Berlin and became attached to the works of Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner. After writing his Symphony No. 1, Stenhammar decided to “free” himself from late Romantic German music. His later work, such as Symphony No. 2, leans toward a more classical style. He was Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony, Sweden’s first, full time, professional Symphony. He died very young, age 56, of a stroke. However, February 7 is his birthday. This is a great opportunity to hear his work and celebrate this great Swedish artist.