The mix sounded intriguing, and when we showed up there, there was a line the length of a football field out at the door. Alas. But the place was packed with a young, hip crowd there to see for composer/DJ Mason Bates spinning some neat beats. Shwartz was there conducting some chamber ensembles into pieces by Ligeti or Webern, and those are the composers that we had heard of; the rest was even more far out.
We asked Benjamin if his concert on Sunday was not too staid, after the invigorating Mercury Soul performance.
He laughed, as if Bartok or Prokofiev weren't 20th century enough. "This is part of the program going on tour this summer," he said, "and we're taking this and the next concert with the Youth Symphony to Europe in June and July. Bartok and Haydn, we don't play very much. It's all great music, and the youth orchestra has a different responsibility and a big and loyal audience. It's an educational institution, and it's part of our mission to introduce the musician to the canon of classical music. We try to play them new music as well, but in building an orchestra, we need to build the skills to play new, old music, and playing Haydn, Beethoven, develop the skills of an orchestra more than Bartok. People have to expand a rythmic sensibility to play Bartok, but it does not build the sound of an orchestra the way that Beethoven does. So with the SF Youth, we're a bit more conservative than other programs, we're more pedagogical."
Photo credits: picture of Maestro Shwartz (getting out of jail?) by Jennifer Hui Bon Hoa above; below Mercury Soul and Mason Bates by Guru Khalsa.