Symphony Silicon Valley: I wasn't looking forward to hearing David Amram's Triple Concerto again, because I'd found it uninteresting the first time, but for whatever reason it worked better this time. It may have been because I'd been listening to other Amram works and absorbing his style. And The Planets - well, I've heard that done by orchestras a lot more skilled than SSV, so there was a lot to live up to. This wasn't one of their most dazzling performances, but they handled it pretty well, and it's the only time I've ever heard it live with a powerful enough organ. For once, sitting in the sonically overheated front balcony section paid off. Full review here.
San Francisco Symphony: Vasily Petrenko rather won me over with his account of Elgar's First Symphony, a work I've always found stiff and problematic. The Big Tune was noble and not just pompous, and the end of the slow movement actually approached the beatific pathos that everyone always says this movement is supposed to have. One might not expect a Russian conductor to take interest in insular English composers, but I'm glad he did.
The rest of the program was Russian. Glazunov's Violin Concerto, dispatched briskly (good: it's not one of my favorites of his works) with Joshua Bell, all butter and no sinew, rocking back and forth from one foot to the other throughout the whole goddamm twenty minutes. Tchaikovsky's Meditation, Op. 42 - the excised original slow movement of his Violin Concerto - orchestrated by Glazunov in Tchaikovsky's style rather than his own, same thing. And Shostakovich's Festive Overture; why this worthless potboiler that even the composer hadn't a good word for gets played so much, and in such a bloodless fashion, eludes me. Playing throughout was SFS's routinely excellent, but in what cause, guys, to what end?
I don't review restaurants much, but my experiences on the way to SFS are worthy of record. I'd had some business off in the further East Bay, so I took the opportunity to try out Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill for lunch. It's located well within the lunchtime radius of the job I once had in those parts, during which I tried out every Chinese restaurant within driving distance that I could find, but I didn't know about this one then, so perhaps it's newer than that. Yelp reviews recommended the Szechuan boiled fish, so I tried that. Fillets of tender plain fish, plus bits of cabbage, submerged in a bowlful of the most dangerous-looking chili sauce I'd ever seen. I approached it with caution, but though it was spicy, it wasn't that spicy. Have to come back, try the Mongolian lamb next time.
A quick dinner at the Boxing Room, the "southern Louisiana" restaurant that's replaced Citizen Cake, which fortunately has not closed but which did move away so I can't stop in any more for a quick gingerbread treat before the concert, was less successful. It's terribly yuppie in feel, and the staff tried to direct me to a nonexistent seat. Neither very hungry nor flushed with cash, I just went for a bowl of gumbo. The fillings were of good quality, but the roux was terrible: dark and bitter. The waitress offered to change it when I said I didn't like it very much, but I finished it for my sins.
Since I'm mentioning that, I should add that our customary dining place on the way to SSV in San Jose has become Taiwan Restaurant in that hidden shopping district, downtown Willow Glen. I never much cared for its lunch offerings, but for dinner it's excellent, with interesting specials like Aromatic Chicken with Apples.