Isn’t It Symphonic?

Lovers of both early- and late-19th-century symphonic drama en plein air, start your picnic blankets. Grassy knolls and tormented classical music being two luxuries that play well together, the San Francisco Symphony Concert descends upon the park, hoping les flâneurs du dimanche and their brindled French bulldogs will stop their flânerie long enough to watch the piccolos wax poetic. The first ditty on the docket is John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the stately National March of the United States of America. Two bits from suppressed Russian homosexual and holiday favorite Tchaikovsky follow: excerpts from ballet mainstay Swan Lake, and the “Fantasy-Overture” from Romeo and Juliet. The latter is a work of lush Romanticism and Russian Orthodoxy, replete with impending doom, instrumental noodling, and agitated themes reminiscent of the Capulet-Montague swordfight. Finally, the finale comes from that lovable, half-deaf German hair model Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, also known as “dunh dunh dunh dunhhh … dunh dunh dunh dunhh …” This composition remains the number one drama queen of all European classical music, and its legendary four-note opening motif has been subjected to endless pop-cultural permutations over the past two hundred years.
Sun., July 19, 2 p.m., 2009

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