Michael Tilson Thomas and The San Francisco Symphony
If Leonard Bernstein was a heavy, Zuben Mehta was passionate,
Dudamel excitable, than Michael Tilson Thomas might be considered
rather light hearted. Light as a feather. His conducting style is easy,
calm with a bit of a sway rather than a swing, a punch or a wield.
Reminiscent of say, the Mayor of Whoville from a Dr Seuss film.
He slides to the left and right, hints at direction and rides the wave
of music with an easy to and fro. Where Leonard Bernstein throttled,
cajoled and exclaimed, Thomas, suggests, points and intimates.
It is a light hearted style, he trusts his collaborators and indeed,
one gets the sense that that too trust him. The BUREAU of Arts
and Culture recently visited the Bay Area and caught an unveiling
of a new composition by John Adams as well as The 4th Symphony
by Beethoven. The Adams piece was riveting, entitled, " Absolute
Jest " and inspired by Ludwig Van, co - commissioned by The San
Francisco Symphony and featuring a string quartet.
We thought it was a fabulous performance, although, it might
have been not so anti-climactic if the Beethoven work had been
performed first and the Adams piece, following suit. After the
excitement of the Adams work, the 4th seemed a bit tired and
even stepped on. Figuring that the work was actually created
from Beethoven, or ' inspired by… ' we were left wanting a bit
more at the end of the evening.
The San Francisco Symphony is well supported by a group of
extremely wealthy and some what conservative supporters.
Not unlike most classical music and other institutes of this
variety, they depend on the support of companies like Chevron,
Bank Of America, AT&T, VISA, Emirates as well as individual
donors. I sometimes wonder what classical music would be like
if we put it in the hands of say, the homeless, the dock workers,
the truck drivers, the bus boys & waitresses or just the everyday
kids on bicycles, skateboards, and people at the bus stops.
Why does classical music have to have that air of superiority ?
When Leonard Bernstein created West Side Story which is now
being celebrated by Thomas & the San Francisco Symphony,
he meant to break down that snooty style and bring classical music
back to the streets. we hope Thomas and his cohorts as well as
our own Los Angeles Symphony and the sometimes uptight
classical Disc jockeys here in Los Angeles, remember that
this music was built to shake things up. Not the opposite.
We sometimes get the sense that classical music is some thing
that is for the wealthy, the conservative, the establishment.
Sorry folks, just like most of the great Shakespeare plays, this
is, was and will always be for the people. In many cases it was
meant to enliven passions, not suppress them. So, heres a note
to D.J.'s such as Dennis Bartel at KUSC, loosen up pop, this is
the modern age, don't forget who's listening, we are pal, and
were the people. By the way, where are the female conductors?
Where are the female disc Jockey's at KUSC ? Why are they
relegated to late night and week ends ? We think KUSC Radio
needs some feminine voices during the weekdays. Enough of this
all male commentary by guys like Dennis Bartel & Brian Lawrenson,
who provide a daily, child - like and somewhat elitist narration.
We applaud the instrumentalists, the composers, the supporters.
We applaud the new as well as the old, though, we we abhor the
tired old view that anyone group owns classical music, rock and
roll music, jazz music and even punk rock music. Music belongs
to the people. Lets keep it that way. Beethoven, Stravinsky,
Rokmonanoff were passionate people who broke the rules of
society and shared what their experiences were through original
compositions that to this day, excite, enthrall and entertain.
The only way were going to get the next generation into this
music without wringing them out to dry is to let the passion flow.
So look out all you bores, squares and wanna-be's. Classical
music is not about a tuxedo, a bank account, a foundation,
classical music is about life, love, passion, danger, death, loss,
war, peace, nature, the planets, and the universe as well as god
and even the idea of no god at all. Music is music is music is music.