Conductor Alan Gilbert, photo by Mats Lundquist
Dudamel reportedly had the orchestra eating out of his hand, though they generally did not sound markedly better than what Gilbert achieved. Hence, besides a full house and cooperative musicians, what does Dudamel have that Gilbert lacks? Dudamel’s impassioned raw charisma must be truly inspiring for all audiences, yet Gilbert’s objective, northern-European manner and mastery of structural phrasing must not be discounted. Regardless, it is fantastic that a new generation of promising conductors will soon be cultivating their respective American orchestras.
Pianist Richard Goode’s reading (with a score) of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat, K. 456, was truly magical. The potential for the sonic melting of piano and orchestral strings was fully exploited through the subtle shadings of Goode and the orchestra. Flexibility was found only within strict larger beats, while volume and tempi were always reserved, inviting the audience to listen closely. Since themes in the second and third movements both begin with four repeated notes, Goode was sure to vary the inflection of each note. The wind section – in particular the hopping bassoons – impressed in the second movement. It was a pleasure to be able to observe the approach to the keyboard, where each note was struck with the finger first touching the key. Accuracy and control of tone are increased by never striking from above. Goode’s perpetual contortions of his mouth, however, reminded one of a hungry goldfish.
Joshua Kosman, Gilbert brings out fierceness, fun in Nielsen's Second Symphony (San Francisco Chronicle, March 28)
Richard Scheinin, Getting the most out of Mozart (San Jose Mercury News, March 28)
Gilbert, always deft at seeing the big picture while holding together immediate details and nuance, tapped into the full power of Nielsen’s music and the SF Symphony’s confident musicians. Additionally, after years as Chief Conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Gilbert seemingly has an affinity for Nielsen's music. The program opened with Steven Stucky’s Son et lumière (1988), a brief string of percussive jolts and clever orchestral textures.