Monday, December 2, 2013
San Francisco seen from Rockridge BART Station
San Francisco City Hall, seen from balcony of Davies Symphony Hall
On the evening of the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a beautiful late autumn / early winter evening, we went to San Francisco Symphony to attend a performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, part of Britten centennial celebration.
Davies Symphony Hall, home to San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
San Francisco Civic Center dresses up for the festive season; yet, inside the symphony hall, the modernistic interior kept the festival mood in check, which was rather fitting, considering the theme of the War Requiem, a solemn pieced commissioned for the consecration of Saint Michael's Cathedral, Coventry, severely damaged during the World War II, and premiered in the Cathedral on May 30, 1962, on the ravage of war.
After the informative but a bit too narrowly focused lecture, we took our seats, eagerly waiting for the performance to start. The soprano soloist, Christine Brewer, also took her position, in the far back of the orchestra, just below the chorus:
The performance was a moving account of one of the most shattering works of modern literature, composed by the troubled pacifist Britten, juxtaposes the Latin Requiem Mass with verses by the World War I poet Wilfred Owen, as a cry protest against the brutality of the War and an attempt to console the War's victims. Led by the renowned maestro Semyon Bychkov, soloists Christine Brewer (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), joining the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and the invisible Pacific Boychoir, gave their most sincere responses to the poem and liturgy. The long evening took us through many emotions - fear, anger, grieve, sadness, resignation, protest, tentative hope and consolation.
The tenor and baritone articulated Owen's poems with great dexterity and clarify, accompanied by a chamber orchestra, sitting on stage right; the soprano, rode the wave, led the charge, or cut through the thickets of the great waves of sound emitted from the large orchestra in front of her, in magisterial and beautiful voice, gave an authoritative and heart-felt reading, and at times her fragmented cries poured force like a lightening sent force from earth to heaven, controlled and dignified, nothing sounded like a harridan, rather a great Greek tragedian, or a primordial earth goddess.
The chorus sang with great emotion, beauty and precision, so did the boys, gently lending their other-worldly voices to the ravaged world.
The performance of this shattering and profound music was searing and wrenching. After the final note, the entire hall sank into deep silence for about two minutes. Not a single person made a move and attempted to clap hands during that collective meditative moment. Afterwards, from a section, some gentle hand clapping started and gradually, the clapping sound spread and erupted and the well-earned standing ovation ensued.
The rest of the pictures were taken from the curtail calls:
Christine Brewer (soprano)
The angelic Pacific Boychoir, who sang behind the stair door during the evening
Christine Brewer (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Ragnar Bohlin (chorus director) & Semyon Bychkov (conductor)
Christine Brewer (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Semyon Bychkov (conductor) & Ragnar Bohlin (chorus director)
An utterly unforgettable evening.
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