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San Francisco Symphony Ushers "The Rite of Spring" in the Fall

Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony. Photo by Jennifer Taylor
The exciting new season of orchestral music at Carnegie Hall may prove to be outstanding if one is to judge by its stunning second concert—an exhilarating program devoted to the work of Igor Stravinsky—that was given on the evening of Thursday, October 4th, by the fabulous San Francisco Symphony under the brilliant direction of the celebrated Michael Tilson Thomas, who collaborated with the composer as a young musician in the 1960s. (The ensemble presented the opening night gala performance on the previous evening.)
The event was preceded by an informative talk by the appealing and enthusiastic Ara Guzelimian—the Dean and Provost of the Juilliard School—in which he interestingly commented on the sources in traditional Russian music at the basis of The Rite of Spring, the concluding work on the program, as discovered by scholars such as the eminent Richard Taruskin. The proceedings proper began with a thrilling, crystalline account of the 1947 version of the composer’s first ballet score, the dazzling Pétrouchka, after the original orchestration completed in 1911. The musicians received an enthusiastic ovation.
The remarkable virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos then took the stage for a masterly reading of the extraordinary Violin Concerto, a performance notable for the somber intensity of its more introspective passages but equally compelling in its more ebullient registers. Passionate applause elicited a fine, all-too-brief encore, the Adagietto from the Sonata for Solo Violin by the Greek composer Nikos Skalkottas.
The program finished astonishingly with a glorious realization of the magnificent The Rite of Spring. The artists earned another ardent reception—I look forward eagerly to their return to the New York concert stages.

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