I think it's to make up for the rather awesome weekend I just had. On Friday night I went to the San Francisco Symphony to hear Michael Tilson Thomas conduct a few Stravinsky pieces and one Takemitsu piece. MTT has a reputation as a great interpreter of Stravinsky, and he's one of my favorite composers, so it was a nearly ideal opportunity to finally check out Davies Hall and the SF Symphony. I caught the pre-concert talk, which didn't really help me understand what was going on later, but was still enjoyable. Someone apparently had a heart attack or something like it right after the talk, and someone actually shouted out "Is there a doctor in the house?" I never thought I'd hear that said seriously. Given the absence of EMTs in the lobby, I think it turned out okay.
The performance did not disappoint. The first half was two Stravinsky pieces: the Symphonies for Winds and the short ballet Apollo (not staged). Both were great, but Apollo really stood out. After the intermission was Fantasma/Cantos by Takemitsu and Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. The piece by Takemitsu is for clarinet solist and orchestra, and the soloist was Richard Stoltzman, for whom it was written. The piece really didn't do much for me—it relies on big washes of sound, while I tend to prefer pieces where it feels like every note counts—but I did like Stoltzman's clarinet tone, which almost felt jazzy in places (I was not terribly surprised to read in his bio on the program that he had done some work with jazz artists). The Symphony of Psalms involved the SF Symphony Chorus as well as the orchestra, and was dazzling. The second movement is a double fugue between chorus and orchestra!
Then on Sunday I took my dad to see Dave Brubeck playing at the Masonic Auditorium as part of the SFJazz series. Dave is looking a little shaky these days (he's 86!) and his voice is cracking, but he can still play piano like anything. He played two sets: one with his current quartet, and one with a big band. His quartet is very cool: his saxophonist doubled on flute for one piece, his drummer can pound out some great rhythms, and his bassist played with a bow for one piece. The big band included his quartet as well as additional saxes, brass, and a percussionist (marimba, glockenspiel, and miscellaneous untuned percussion, I think). I didn't catch the titles for the quartet set. The big band played, among other things, his Theme to Mr. Broadway (for a TV show that had the misfortune to go up against The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in its heyday) and expanded arrangements of Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk. They also played a fairly recent piece titled Elementals. It's based on a simple heartbeat rhythm and the melodic motif A B C, and from there branches out into a Gregorian "chant" (instrumental), a Bach-style chorale, polyrhythm, polytonality, and swing, and finally ends up in a Schoenbergian twelve-tone form. Fantastic stuff. They ended with a version of Take the "A" Train.
After that we went to Absinthe for cocktails and chatted about current events, philosophy, education, etc. over our drinks and desserts of fruit and cheese.