Joshua Bell is a virtuoso equal to the programmed show-stoppers by Saint-Saëns: Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, Opus 28; and Ravel: Tzigane, Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra. Both were technically impressive, though not substantial. S.F. Chronicle reviewer, Joshua Kosman, put it: “His playing was so strong that it left the listener eager to hear him tackle something a bit meatier.” Here I am doing something I usually criticize music critics for: that is, writing about the programming rather than the performance. Nevertheless, Bell was superb.
Strauss's wild take on Don Juan [R. Strauss: Don Juan, Tone Poem for Large Orchestra (After Nicolaus Lenau), Opus 20] opened the program. I adore the music of Richard Strauss. He was only twenty-four when he wrote this glorious tone poem. His orchestration is utterly brilliant. It borders on being bombastic, but is so technically proficient and appropriate that I couldn’t refrain from smiling broadly throughout the performance, conducted with “fierceness and finesse” by visiting Italian conductor Fabio Luisi.
Composed in the early 1930s, Franz Schmidt's Fourth Symphony was “reminiscent of a lost Vienna—opulent in sound, by turns wistful & impassioned” as the S.F. Symphony web page put it. Reviewer Kosman wrote: “The San Francisco Symphony introduced two new presences to its roster during Thursday night’s superb concert in Davies Symphony hall. It’s a close call which of them left a more exciting impression. One was Italian conductor Fabio Luisi, who made an invigorating and fiercely dramatic debut with the orchestra. The other was Franz Schmidt’s ravishingly beautiful Fourth Symphony, which joined the orchestra’s repertoire a mere 65 years after its premiere. The combination was breathtaking, a potent display of rhythmic vibrancy, lush phrasing and brilliant solo contributions from all quarters of the orchestra.”
Following the concert we had the opportunity to meet Joshua Bell for a CD signing at the Symphony store in the lobby at Davies Hall. He was gracious, but had a right to look a little tired.
Earlier in the day— after brunch with Adam, Rose and Rupert at Catch— I had intended to go to Fort Mason to the Annual San Francisco Fall Antiques Show. My cousin Clae had given me her free pass. But I was tired and took a nap instead. I plan to go this afternoon. I’m particularly looking forward to the collection of antique architectural models.