CAS 2013: A Brief Musical Interlude with Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony

CAS4All of the audio shows I’ve attended have been blessed with live music, but I’m sorry to say that I haven’t often taken advantage of this for more than a few minutes. There’s always something else calling my attention away, even as I walk through the bar area, grab a drink, and say, “Hey, that sounds great! I wish I had more time to listen…” before toddling off to cover more rooms. I suspect that many attendees have had the same experience.

Thus, Constantine Soo has chosen to do something a bit daring: at CAS, he arranged for two closed-door concerts. No cell phones. No wandering in and out. Nope, you’re going to sit there and listen to some good music, and he’s going to make sure you get a couple of good concerts for the cost of your admission to the show.

I was unable to attend the Steve McQuarry Jazz Quartet on Friday, much to my disappointment, but there was no way I was going to miss Saturday.

Saturday’s concert was a trio from the San Francisco Symphony, playing selections from Beethoven, Mozart, Taneyev, and Dohnanyi. The trio consisted of David Chernyavsky on violin, Victor Romasevich on viola, and Jill Rachuy Brindel on cello.

Let me be clear: I’m not terribly well-versed in Classical music. There are some pieces and performers I very much like and can name. Most of the rest of it is incredibly pleasant to me, but I couldn’t name the composer or the piece if my life depended on it. Still, my grandmother took me to the Alma College Orchestra on Sunday afternoons regularly throughout my childhood, and if she found out that I’d passed up a chance to hear members of the SF symphony, I think she’d come down from heaven and let me know that she was very, very disappointed in me. So I made the time. And I’m glad I did.

The musicians played four selections, beginning with the first two movements of Beethoven’s String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9, No. 3. This was followed by the first and last movement of Mozart’s Divertimento in E flat Major, K. 563. From there, the trio moved on to the opening movement of Sergei Taneyev’s String Trio in D Major. The trio closed with my personal favorite from the performance, the first, second, and fifth movements of Emo Dohnanyi’s Serenade in C Major for String Trio. This piece tapped heavily into Hungarian folk music, and left me marking exclamation points in my booklet so that I would remember to look for a recording later.

Turnout from attendees for this performance was reasonably solid, although probably not quite what the organizers would have hoped: at the start, there were 50-60 attendees in the audience, but a few more trickled away after every selection, the result being that by the end it was probably closer to 35.

I won’t chide folks for slipping out; when you have a limited amount of time, it can be hard to ignore the pressure to keep going going going, see more of the show, talk to more people, all of that. But the people who did sneak away missed out on a wonderful performance. I walked out of that room feeling almost as though I’d had a nap: I felt rested, and calm, and as though my ears had been reset. I felt ready to face the rest of the show, although I was regretfully reminded that very, very few systems can approach the immediacy of sitting in the same room as a cellist, let alone capture the tone and texture. But I was also reminded of why so many try, and why I keep looking for systems that do it right: I want to have that music in my home, or at least enough of an approximation to keep the fires burning until I’m able to recharge again.