The San Francisco Symphony's recent concert featuring the talented cellist Alban Gerhardt and the gifted Arabella Steinbacher was one of the most rousing events in San Francisco. Dedicated to the artistic stylings of Brahm and Schumann and lead by guest conductor Marek Janowski, the weekend performance was hailed as an eloquent, stunning success.
Brahms' Double Concerto for Violin and Cello is one of those pieces that's deceptively easy to write off - until you hear it played with the sort of eloquence and vitality that it got during Saturday's wonderful concert by the San Francisco Symphony. Then you start to wonder whether you've been too hasty all this time.
There's a long history of politely condescending to the Double Concerto, the last of the composer's major orchestral works, and it's not too hard to understand why. It has a certain whiff of perfunctory effort, as though Brahms were merely trotting out techniques and practices that he had mastered all too well by that point in his career.