Gemma New with the San Francisco Symphony (Photo credit: Brandon Patoc)
Gemma New Shines In Debut With the SF Symphony
By David Bratman
San Francisco Classical Voice
July 15, 2019
The music was only the centerpiece last week to the San Francisco Symphony’s first visit to Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater in nearly 40 years. Guest conductor Gemma New led Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with, as a prelude, Ravel’s song cycle Shéhérazade on Saturday, in the second of three concerts. The newly refurbished amphitheater was as much the focus of attention as the music or performance.
Surprisingly, since painting with a large and garish brush is the rule at outdoor summer concerts, Ravel’s light and delicate music fared better than Beethoven’s on Saturday. It was helped immeasurably by New’s brilliant conducting of the piece. She coaxed a bold lyric flow from the instruments in their accompaniment. Between verses, the orchestral sound would surge into passion, enough so that the listener could almost pretend to be hearing Rimsky-Korsakov instead.
New’s interpretation of Beethoven was solid and satisfying. She took the first two movements in a moderate tempo but with tremendous drive. Varied expressive treatment of Beethoven’s repeating phrases kept the evenly-paced performance interesting. By contrast, both the slow movement and the Ode to Joy, though they built up energy as they went along, began very slowly, with hushed contemplation. The introduction of the main theme in the Ode gave off a sense of holy reverence.
Read the full review, here.