Mark Inouye - Principal trumpet, San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony Principal Players – Superlative Indeed!

[twocol_one][dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast Saturday night the San Francisco Symphony performed an evening of music composed by the Bach Family: Johann Sebastian and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel. As always, the performance was spectacular, featuring two principal players, and J. S. Bach‘s music always feeds my soul. But I want to highlight a few specific things about the evening.

Carl Philipp Emanuel

James M. Keller, who frequently writes the program annotations for the concert booklets, presented the 30 minute talk prior to the concert. He said that, at parties, he is frequently asked who his favorite composer is. More often than not, he said he slightly twists the question: “Let me tell you who, without any hesitation, I believe is the most under-appreciated, under performed, over looked composer of all time, barring none: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach!” He stated that Haydn, Mozart (a good friend of C. P. E. Bach), and even Beethoven, all contemporaries of C. P. E., frequently spoke of their admiration for Carl Philipp Emanuel’s work. Beethoven even said he often sought inspiration from C. P. E. Bach’s music.

When you study centuries of the world’s greatest music, your encounters with that greatness can become superficial or cursory. Such had been the case with my exposure to the music of C. P. E. Bach. Last night, however, I had the opportunity to let his music soak in to my being, and if only based on these two works, I understand James M. Keller’s perception of this master’s work.[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

Peter Wyrick

Peter Wyrick - Associate Principal cello, San Francisco Symphony
Peter Wyrick – Associate Principal cello, San Francisco Symphony

The second movement of C. P. E.’s Cello Concerto in A major, Wq 172 (H.439) (1753) was sublime! Peter Wyrick’s (associate principal cellist for the San Francisco Symphony) masterful performance made this work resonate deeply in the hearts of last night’s 21st century audience. Both the work and the performance were beautiful.

Ton Koopman, the conductor for the evening, a renowned performer as well as conductor, brought an effervescent sense of happiness and joyful energy to the concert. In fact, his emotive presence was so pronounced as to almost become distracting for an ensemble performance, but I stress the word almost. He presented an extraordinary evening.

Ton Koopman - conductor
Ton Koopman
[/twocol_one_last][hr] [twocol_one]I also wanted to write about the final work presented during the concert:

Mark Inouye

I’ve known a small number of excellent trumpet players in my life. The guys who typically play this instrument seem to be rather athletic and what we called “hot dogs” back in college days—skilled show offs who thrived on a lot of attention. The athleticism and agility with which the trumpeters of my youth performed music scored in an extremely high tessitura was only exceeded by the sheer volume of their performance. It was always impressive if not sometimes deafening.

So, I was very eager to hear J. S. Bach’s Cantata Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51 (1730), which features a soprano soloist in duet with a trumpet, and not just any trumpet player—the principal chair of the San Francisco Symphony, Mark Inouye. The brass section of this symphony, as with any great symphony, can peal the paint off interior walls in city hall, across the street. I was very skeptical. Would we hear the soprano at all? Would she have to all but scream her part to even be heard?

Well, I have never in my life heard such an extraordinary musical duet: two equal instruments (one vocal, one brass), and even the vocal melody exquisitely accompanied by the most lyric trumpet counterpoint I’ve ever heard.[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]

Mark Inouye - Principal trumpet, San Francisco Symphony
Mark Inouye – Principal trumpet, San Francisco Symphony

Mark Inouye did the impossible: he performed in a full, rich brass tone in the high registers of the instrument; yet, when required, he did so softly with beautiful, sensitive and subtle melodic arch that perfectly highlighted the soprano’s musical line. When he was to accompany the soprano’s melodic line, he was flawlessly in sync with her. To be certain, Carolyn Sampson‘s performance was also beautiful, even glorious, but Mark Inouye’s performance last night was nothing short of perfection—sheer musical perfection. I’ve just never before heard the trumpet sing along so effortlessly with the human voice without demanding center stage. He made it look so easy! Easy it is not!

Carolyn Sampson - Soprano
Carolyn Sampson – Soprano

I’ve really enjoyed this season of the symphony, getting to hear the principal player’s performance skills highlighted with such significant solo work. (See my previous post about the principal trombonist.) This orchestra always delights.

Thanks, SFS. You totally rock!