Arts & Entertainment

Review: SFCO closes season with jazz-infused program

(Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra)

Where the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra goes, so goes exuberant performances.

The SFCO’s last concert of the season at Herbst Theatre was no different, and there was a interesting theme to go with the high musical energies.  The objective of the set by director Ben Simon was to prove that Mozart wrote jazz. Did he prove it? Read on.

The orchestra, made up largely of Bay Area symphony, opera and ballet players, represents a superb gift to San Francisco.  The concerts are free and rehearsed to a shine.  The new commission featured on this concert was written by Darcy Rindt, a young viola player who is currently in the pit for “Hamilton.”

First to the new work:  Darcy Rindt composed “Positively Sinful’’ in order to express her “shock, grief, and rage’’ in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. A large order that was well shaped and reasoned. The first movement sounded more like  apprehension than real angst, but the  Barber-like contemplative passages following throughout the rest of the work showed her at her best.

The other two sections were titled “Sloth,” about the fine art of slowing down, and “Lust,’’ which makes the case  through sprightly bird calls and plangent melodic ideas that intimate relationships are enhanced when partners take time to enjoy nature. Look for more from Rindt, whose work is both provocative and tonally pleasing.

Opening and finishing the performance were works by Edward Elgar: a string quartet embedded in the ensemble for the finale, which was Elgar’s practice.

The Catalyst Quartet was in sync with the orchestra, giving a lush, passionate performance of the second Elgar, showing the kind of chemistry that draws audiences to romantic music.  Elgar’s youthful Serenade for Strings was first on the program, marked by grand sweeping phrases and nicely restrained playing.

Paquito D’Rivera’s “Wapango’’ and Astor Piazzolla’s “La Muerte del Angel,” played by the quartet, supplied the fieriest moments of the evening: the Piazzolla, drawing perfectly precise tango timing.

The finale of Mozart’s quartet in F major, one of the three Prussian quartets, was played with silvery strings, including striking syncopations that could certainly be defined as jazzy; Mozart at his most impetuous, youthful self.

SFCO’s enthusiastic audience nearly filled the Herbst and gave the ensemble the ovation it deserved for a rewarding and energetic program of new and old music played with rich intensity.

Watch for the ensemble’s next season, when there are sure to be interesting commissions, surprises and the old romantics played with  vivacity and authority.