* Notes *
Last night Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted San Francisco Symphony in the world premiere of Steven Gerber's Music in Dark Times. The piece was commissioned by Ashkenazy and also dedicated to him.The fanfares of the first and last movements did not show off the brass to their best advantage, though the woodwinds sounded beautiful in the second movement. I was most drawn to the third movement, as it was a tarantella, and the various rhythms were of interest. The fifth movement "Elegy for Strings" was played with subtlety.
The main draw of the evening was likely Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. The soloist, Yevgeny Sudbin, played in an almost ridiculously tasteful manner, with such restraint. He was able to find a percussiveness as well when necessary. There was a particular fineness in the strings, a precariousness. There were, however, two times in which the viola and the cello were a bit strident. Oddly, though the concerto did not come off, and by the end, I had the very strange physiological impression being stabbed in the forehead with a fork.
The second half of the concert brought us Belshazzar's Feast of Walton. Though the music was more akin to a film score than an oratorio, the chorus sounded lovely. Bass-baritone John Relyea gave a strong but perhaps unnuanced performance.
* Tattling *
The composer Gerber was in attendance, and he ran from the audience to the stage in a very adorable way. One imagines he was quite excited.
The audience was perfectly terrible. A cellular phone rang four times in the Upper Orchestra during the quietest part of the Beethoven, in the second movement. Hot on the heels of this was a veritable chorus of watch alarms at 9pm.
If you happened to be distracted by some girl in the center of the fifth row who entirely lost her composure at the beginning of the Walton, I apologise.