The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra stopped at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Thursday. It’s the farewell tour for its Conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, and the first time the orchestra has been in Lincoln in about 20 years.
First up was the Maurice Ravel “Le Tombeau de Couperin.” Four movements were orchestrated by Ravel from the original six pieces for piano.
Flowing reeds in the prelude led to gentle triplets in movement two, with the conductor keeping the tempo restrained. Precise orchestral balance marked movement three with a lovely reed solo wafting over the ensemble.
The “Rigaudon” finale was rapid-fire as all sections worked to keep the orchestra shipshape. It worked, and the full house of more than 2,000 in the Lied Center granted warm applause.
Violinist Alexander Kerr joined for the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Opus 64. Everyone knows the melodies in this work, so violinists don’t dare err.
Precision in runs and arpeggios marked Kerr’s stance with this classic. Good interaction between Kerr and the conductor was key to the success of the performance. After a swift opening, Kerr launched into the sweet second movement, full of emotional melodies.
But it was the finale that was to be the evening’s display. There are a lot of recordings of this work, but few take movement three at the furious pace conductor Tilson Thomas set. It was intriguing; Kerr kept up precisely and never missed a note. Huge applause and cheers came at the work’s end.
The Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 43 of Jean Sibelius came after intermission.
Pizzicato strings achieved exactness in the first movement. For the second movement, low strings brought quiet plucked notes and the low winds inspired the audience with sumptuous melody phrases.
Movement three was a contrast of fast and slow, with orchestra sections mirroring the conductor’s demands. Dynamics moved from quiet to cacophony in unison, never flirting with imbalance. The crowd was enthralled, standing and offering cheers and whistles at the symphony’s conclusion.
Thomas was pleased with both crowd and orchestra, so the ensemble offered a small piece for treble instruments as an encore. It was a fitting Lincoln farewell for one of the world’s great conductors and the world-class San Francisco Symphony.