The San Francisco Symphony Returns to San Jose

When the San Francisco Symphony played at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in October, I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime treat. So I was incredibly thrilled to find out they were putting on another free concert on Tuesday: and now it’s just foosteps away from our office.

In a way, the outdoor concerts are nicer for families than a symphony hall. If you come early enough, you can sit where you want, and if you just want to enjoy the music and not sit at all, you can hear it throughout the park. Like us, most people brought a picnic to enjoy with the music.

I enjoyed the conductor for this concert, James Gaffigan, because he was less restrained than the conductor at the last concert. I liked that because when music is played well, it’s passionate, and it should move you. In fact, it seems a little wrong to stick people in seats and expect them to sit quietly and hold their applause when they’re listening to music with such drama. My father would play maniac conductor to Schumann music and my cousin would dance to Mozart (at home, not in concert halls), and at most of the concerts Peter and I go to, the musicians are happy to see their fans dancing. But then, I’m an uncivilized, untutored music fan, and my end of the family’s no better. To wit, the audio system was playing Tchaikovsky before the show, and Kelly joined some boys and danced to it:

Kelly dances to Tchaikovsky

When the orchestra took the stage, we made her sit down and be quiet, and she complained about being bored, even though two of the pieces were from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number 4.

My favorite of all the selections was the opening piece, the overture to La forza del destino by Joe Green, the Opera Machine, a.k.a Giuseppi Verdi. it’s just the sort of cheesy melodrama completely devoid of subtlety that I love in my classical music. It made me want to get on a horse and do a swordfight. But then it was over. Next the symphony took us in a different direction with Dvorak’s Allegro con fuoco from Symphony Number 9. And last, as I mentioned before, there were two selections from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number 4: really pretty pieces (duh, Tchaikovsky) that highlighted the different sections of the symphony. Peter enjoyed this feature especially. I think the bassoonist rocked it, but ok, I’m just being crude and uncultured again, I guess (though he did rock it).

As before, it was highly appreciated and well received by the culture vultures of San Jose: the symphony received standing ovations after every piece. Here is the conductor and the violin section of the symphony taking one of their bows in front of the crowd:

Peter had discovered that his camera was missing its card, but also that a new video camera he’d just bought was in his backpack. So, mostly to check the camera’s audio quality, he recorded some of the concert (there weren’t any signs forbidding it). As it turns out, video taping the concert was not allowed, so afterwards, someone from the symphony politely but firmly made sure Peter erased the tapings. I just gushed on about how delighted I’d been to see the symphony again. I entered the drawing to win free concert tickets, but I think my odds of winning are slim, given all the other fans who dearly wanted them, too. So I hope we’ll be lucky to see the orchestra in the park again sometime in San Jose.

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