Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax and Dawn Upshaw

Dawn-upshaw * Notes * 
Last night pianist Emanuel Ax and soprano Dawn Upshaw performed a recital as part of San Francisco Symphony's Great Performers Series. The evening started with a selection of Chopin's Polish Songs, Opus 74. Upshaw sounded warm and clear, she was never upstaged by Ax, who stayed with Chopin in the following Four Marzurkas, Opus 41. The playing was lively. They came back to a few more Polish Songs, the spare "Nie ma czego trzeba" (Sorrow) was particularly fine.

In contrast, Stephen Prutsman's Piano Lessons was rather wry, set to the poems of Billy Collins. This marked the West Coast premiere of this SFS co-commission of the work, hot on the heels of the American premiere on Thursday at Carnegie Hall.

After the intermission Ax played Chopin's Two Nocturnes, Opus 27. The performance was brilliant, with perfect dynamic control. Dawn Upshaw returned for twelve Schumann songs, her voice had a wonderful ease and lightness as she sang. The encore was Hugo Wolf's "Er ist's" and Upshaw mentioned that it was just the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.

* Tattling * 
There was electronic noise during the second Chopin song, "Smutna rzeka." Someone in Row K of the orchestra level was scolded for unwrapping a cough drop between two songs, and people were hushed for clapping between pieces. Otherwise, the audience seemed silent and respectful.