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Karin Lin

Sarah Chang with the SFS

January 16, 2007 at 8:58 PM

Last weekend I went to hear Sarah Chang perform the Bruch concerto with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of the legendary Kurt Masur. I hadn't seen Sarah in 7-8 years, and the Bruch concerto is one of my favorites.

I was surprised to find that Maestro Masur's hands were shaking continuously; does anyone know if he suffers from Parkinson's or some similar disease? It didn't seem to affect his conducting abilities. The concert started off with a stirring performance of the Mendelssohn "Scottish" Symphony. It was the first time I've seen the SFS concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, which is surprising since he's been in that position for over five years. My seats were far enough in the front that I could hear individual instruments, and I was quite taken with his sound. I'm curious about what kind of instrument he plays.

When Sarah Chang stepped out on stage after the intermission, I could see immediately how much she's matured since the last time I saw her, both in her appearance and her demeanor. She was wearing a gorgeous fuchsia strapless gown that was very long; I was worried a few times that she'd step on it while playing! Her Bruch was quite enjoyable both to hear and see. She does this interesting flourish sometimes when coming off an up-bow. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not; some might find it annoying, but I thought it was rather neat. It was nice to be able to see her so closely, especially because she has small hands like mine, and then I can imagine (perhaps "dream" would be more accurate!) my own fingers perhaps playing this great work someday. I was really touched at the end of the concerto when Chang and Masur seemed to share a moment. She took his hand and looked up into his eyes, oblivious to the audience's applause. I was later told that Masur played a huge role in the development of Sarah's early career, and I loved seeing how she led him back on stage by the hand for their second curtain call...the young but mature artist now taking care of the old man who'd nurtured her in her youth.

After the SFS concluded the program with a spirited rendition of "Till Eulenspiegel", I went out to meet Sarah and have her sign one of my CDs. The encounter was quite rushed, but I did get a chance to tell her how my three-year-old violinist daughter loves the picture of her on the inside of her "Debut" CD (where she's 6 and playing way up high on the E string), and she seemed to get a kick out of that.

My next concert is Joshua Bell with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in March; until then, I'll have to seek other sources of inspiration.

From Sydney M.
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 9:34 PM
Wow! Sounds like a great concert, Karin. That's so cute about Kiera :-)
From Scott 68
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 10:21 PM
check this out
From Neil Cameron
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 10:37 PM
Per Wikipedia:

Alexander Barantschik sometimes plays the 1742 Guarnerius del Gesù that was once owned by Ferdinand David and Sarasate, and that was bequeathed to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco by Jascha Heifetz, who called it his favorite violin. It is on loan to Barantschik via the San Francisco Symphony for three years.


From Marty Dalton
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 11:31 PM
I've seen Maestro Masur before and his hands were quite shakey. He is getting pretty old, I guess that's probably part of it. I'm not sure if he's always conducted like that, though.
From Karin Lin
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 11:31 PM
Ah, thanks, Neil!

Yeah, Sydney, I used to have Sarah's CD in Kiera's music player, and she'd always go, "Mommy, I wanna see that picture!" So I'd show her the black-and-white photo of chubby 6-year-old Sarah with her fingers way up the Eing and Kiera would say, "Eee! She's so little!" Funny to hear my little shrimp of a daughter calling Sarah little... ;)

Hey, Scott 68, long time no see. I'll check out the link later, thanks.

From Amy F.
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 11:35 PM
Sarah is really sweet. Always takes the time to sign autographs and talk to everyone at least a little bit. I love her sound, I think she plays gorgeously.
From b f
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 12:52 AM
i got to hear sarah play tchaikovsky when she was 12. she was absolutely amazing regardless of her age!

i went back to meet her and got her to sign her 'debut' cd as well.

it was really sweet...she signed her name in korean! i still have it!

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 6:24 AM
Karin, thanks for the review. Sarah Chang is giving a concert here in Feb., and I was wondering whether to buy a ticket. I will. Your review of Joshua Bell's concert is what prompted me to hear him.

Scott68, thanks for the link. I had trouble accessing it at first (got an error message), but it worked on the second try. It is a wonderful video of an entire concert (1 hr 27 min) of a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic. They start with Fidelio and continue with Sarah Chang playing Paganini Cto #1. I will post the link in my blog so that more people will get to see it and enjoy it. Thanks so much.

From Karin Lin
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 6:09 PM
Pauline, I'm glad you'll see her. I'll be interested in hearing your impressions of her. Just to be perfectly clear, Sarah's performance didn't move me to tears the way Josh does when he plays the Tchaikovsky, but then again nothing else does (including Josh playing anything else). But it was still a fine performance that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I hope you will too.
From Linda Lerskier
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 10:39 PM
My mom loves that picture too. In fact, she still doesn't believe Sarah's a day over six!

Great review!

From Addi L.
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 11:27 PM
Hi, very nice review too! I was sitting on the center terrace on Sunday and am glad I'm not the only one who thought someone stood out very distinctly in the first violin front stands and that I'm not imagining things. Sarah Chang give a great performance of the Bruch! But Kurt Masur seemed much ill at ease with the Bruch, he was wetting his fingers to flip the score, which was already at the end...perhas it was just on sunday?
From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 19, 2007 at 1:18 AM
Well... this post ended up on Buri's blog. Whoops. Here it is again.

Hey, I was at the concert too! On Sunday. I adore the Bruch, but let me ask you, Karin (and Addy), didn't you feel like she overreached one of the early high notes (don't know which note it is as I've never seen sheet music, but it was in the first few measures) and then did it again when playing with the orchestra? Or I was trying to decide if it was just a particularly wide vibrato she was using, and the fact that the recording I like so much (Gil Shaham) doesn't use very much vibrato at all in those early passages. Probably a matter of interpretation, but it would be interesting to hear someone else's comments.
But it sure was beautiful. And Karin, oh yes, on those comments you made on the "moment" with Kurt Masur. It brought tears to my eyes. And Mr. Masur's shaking hands - wow, that was indeed significant. And yet, only when it was hanging idle by his side, yes? (I had a seat much farther away than you - in the first tier.)

Anyway, great fun to read your comments - they reflect mine as well. Only I'm not scheduled to see Joshua next - I'll be going on Sat the 4th to see Christian Tetzlaff (sp?) Can't wait - I've heard such good things about him.

From Karin Lin
Posted on January 21, 2007 at 6:29 AM
Terez, we seem to keep crossing paths; we should try to find these things out beforehand so we can actually meet. :) Do you have a Sunday matinee subscription by any chance?

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