The length of San Francisco Symphony's season allows the organization to offer a variety of concerts that's pretty staggering when you think about it. In just the past two weeks there have been two world premieres by contemporary British composer Robin Holloway. Two of the most popular female opera singers in the world have just appeared in recital. A multimedia presentation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt involved the music of not just one but three composers. Four more completely different programs will take place during the next week. Like I said, it's staggering to think about it all, much less be able to attend a decent amount of it.

So one must choose because one can't see everything. I'm fortunate to be able to see a lot, and still there's plenty I miss. Usually I make my choices based on the following not-so-random criteria: pieces I haven't heard performed live before; pieces I've never heard by composers who interest me; an appearance by a particular guest performer or conductor; a rarity or oddity; a performance of a favorite piece.

I will usually skip something I know really well (or at least think I know really well) or which feels overly familiar. I've been like this for awhile- after all, one can't attend everything and there is so much music I am already never going to get to experience it saddens me to even think about it. So if I see Mozart, Haydn, Bach or Brahms listed on a program I'm more likely than not to pass on it unless it's paired with something like what I described above.

Tonight I was gently reminded that that's a big mistake on my part. This week's subscription concerts featuring music by Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart really can't be more basic in design- three concertos and two serenades. Everything in the standard three movement, fast-slow-fast format, each lasting between 10 to 15 minutes, performed by 20 piece string ensembles, a harpsichord, and a couple of guests soloists. Nothing radical. Nothing new.

It was the kind of concert I loved when I was discovering classical music that I almost always pass on now, and you know what? It was pretty damn enjoyable to get back to basics and listen to some wonderful music, expertly played. Catherine Payne, looking absolutely ravishing in her Louise Brooks 'do and lavender gown, soloed in Vivaldi's Piccolo Concerto in C major to get things off to a good start. The concert never faltered from there, even if the final Mozart allegro got a bit woolly. Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik ran the show with aplomb. There are three more performances- I heartily recommend you take in one- I'm quite pleased I did.