12 April 2011

beauty and sadness

I hadn’t heard Dubravka Tomsic in several years, possibly not since I left Boston, so I was glad to attend her San Francisco Performances recital last Saturday at Herbst Theater. They present her fairly often, according to the program, so I guess I just wasn’t paying attention. The first half of the program was all Beethoven (piano sonata in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, “Tempest” and piano sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, “Les Adieux”) and the second half was the Four Chopin Ballades. There were three encores, two by Liszt (Valse Oubliée, S215/No. 1 and Concert Étude S145/No. 2, Dance of the Gnomes) with Chopin’s Minute Waltz in between.

Tomsic seemed to have a cold or allergies, since she coughed a bit and wiped her nose between numbers, as did the audience, but it made no difference in her attitude or her performance. She is a stolid player, one of the most unhistrionic pianists I’ve ever seen, but when she sits down and plays, pure glorious streams of precise and poetic sound flow into the hall. The evening needs no impertinent commentary from me. Sometimes the concerts you enjoy the most are the ones that leave you with the least to say.

Like many opera lovers yesterday, I was shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Daniel Catán. I discovered his music at the old Tower records on Bay and Columbus, when I saw a cut-out of his opera Rappaccini’s Daughter, which interested me because I assumed (correctly) it was based on Hawthorne’s short story. The music was so rich and immediately attractive. Later I went up to Seattle and enjoyed Florencia en el Amazonas very much. The older I get, the younger seem the ages at which people die. He was only 62. He should have had many more years of composition.

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