Friday, November 15, 2019

Captivating music of the highest order with Simone Young conducting the San Francisco Symphony

At Thursday night’s San Francisco Symphony concert at Davies Symphony Hall, in an hour-long resplendent vocal dramatisation, Act 1 of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre headlined the program. And with it, the ongoing exhilaration and wide-ranging temperament achieved in the score certainly would have left many wide-eyed and open-mouthed patrons hungry for the whole lengthy lot. On display was an extraordinary showcase of meaningful singing and captivating music of the highest order.

Stuart Skelton, Simone Young, Emily Magee and Ain Anger
It was great to see American soprano Emily Magee and Estonian bass Ain Anger perform again to remind me of their great gift of expressiveness. But, as a visitor from way way down south, how grand it was to see two Aussies together on the concert stage with heldentenor Stuart Skelton alongside Simone Young commandeering a right marvel.

Skelton sung the role of Siegmund with unshakable, heroic strength in a voice surely at its finest, a voice that captured seemingly infinite nuance of statement, inquiry and thought and that was as intoxicating to the ear as it was gripping for the soul. “Wälse! Wälse! ... Nothung! Nothung!” More! More of that extraordinary sound please, was what the audience seemed to want. With a Skelton kind of ferocity - sitting at the edge of my seat just a few metres away - it seemed every aching desire a human pleads for felt like it could be summoned with ease. And Skelton’s superlative preparation and experience meant he could do without the hindrance of a music stand.

A radiant voiced Emily Magee lived her Sieglinde heart and soul, lifting the high notes to beautifully formed treasures and communicating her condition with utmost exactness. Though not as solid in the depths of chesty lows, Magee’s was a convincing and stunning performance that presented robust and sensitive handling alongside Skelton’s heft.

Simone Young conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra 
Ain Anger! Well, what a handsome presence and, with it, what a strapping fine voice he drenched his audience in!  Anger left no stone unturned in bringing out all the tension and menacing undercurrent in Hunding’s character and did so with such unselfconscious suavity.

The music breathed its internal restlessness and poignancy under Young’s vigour and gestural voluptuousness. In the first part of the program Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen, however much of a contrast it provided, never felt overshadowed. Composed late in life during the end of World War II, it received just as much love from Young and the versatile players of the San Francisco Symphony. Metamorphosen built its appeal over its 26 minute duration to become an absorbing work as it bleeds from the solemn and introspective to yearning for optimism and closing sense of tranquility. In a work orchestrated for 23 stringed instruments, an experience was created that exposed the inner polish of its many layers through impressive drift and charge of the tempi. And the musicians played superbly, both like soloists and synchronisers as they spun it all into rich textures.

Perhaps it was never going to be surprising that this concert ended as one of those nights in the year when one gets smothered in such an illuminating confluence  of forces. On top of that it became a further reminder that art and humankind are indeed a blessed pair.

Simone Young Conducts Wagner
San Francisco Sympathy 
Davies Symphony Hall

Until 16th November 2019

Performance Photos: Stefan Cohen

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