Ingo Metzmacher

Metzmacher and Grimaud at SFS

Grimaud* Notes *
Last week Ingo Metzmacher conducted San Francisco Symphony in a program of Ligeti's San Francisco Polyphony, Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3, and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6. Pianist Hélène Grimaud was the soloist for the Bartók, and she played splendidly, without any of the silly dramatic flourishes one often sees with famous pianists. Her pianissimo passages, particularly at the end of the first movement, were sublime and the more aggressive parts of the music were played effortlessly but not without passion.

Overall, the program sounded rather insectile, each piece had bits of humming strings. The Ligeti was nerve-wracking, a bit like traffic crossed with a hearing test, and the ending was quite witty. The woodwind soloists all sounded lovely in the Shostakovich, and I had a strange hallucination that the violas were human voices in the first movement. Metzmacher had a good handle on the musicians, they sounded perfectly together.

* Tattling *
The audience was typically well-behaved, though a person in Row B of the First Tier read some printouts during the Bartók using a flashlight that was difficult to ignore. A pair of women next to me were disturbed by this but only discussed it at intermission, and chose to leave, though probably not just because of said flashlight.

The only two things I knew about Hélène Grimaud before hearing her were that she has a fondness for wolves and that she was unable to complete her solo recital last year in Los Angeles, a performance some friends of mine attended. I did not have high hopes for her performance here, but was pleasantly surprised. She looked elegant in black, wearing a subtle sparkled halter top and wide-legged trousers with a side-tie sash.


Große Messe No. 17 in C minor K427

Masscminor* Notes *
Ingo Metzmacher conducted Stravinsky's Orpheus and Mozart's C minor Mass last weekend at San Francisco Symphony. The former is ballet music, I had no ear for it, I found it rather dull, though it had some pretty moments in the harp part. Perhaps it would make more sense in the context of ballet. As for the Mass, I enjoyed it thoroughly. The work was edited by Monika Holl with Karl-Heinz Köhler, with the Credo, Et incarnatus est, Sanctus, and Osanna reconstructed and completed by Helmut Eder. The lead soprano, Camilla Tilling, seemed a bit nervous at the beginning of the Friday night performance, but was calmer on Saturday night. She had good control of her vibrato, but some of her higher and lower notes were not clear. She was much more strained in this part than in the role of Susanna she appeared in last summer. The other soprano, Sarah Fox, had a lot of vibrato and more dark hues in her voice. I found tenor Timothy Robinson somewhat lackluster, and I couldn't hear him that well. Bass-baritone John Relyea only sang at the end in the Benedictus, by then his voice was cold, he was also somewhat quiet after waiting on-stage for 45 minutes.

* Tattling *
This is the first time I've sat in the rear boxes at San Francisco Symphony. During Stravinsky on Friday, some people wandered into the box, talking as they came in, but they were confused and in the wrong place.

We wanted to hear the Mozart again, but not the Stravinsky, so we waited in the lobby and read during the first half of the Saturday night performance. When we went to our seats in the second row of the orchestra level, a middle-aged woman in B 111 had her foot propped up on my seat. Her ankle was wrapped up, so perhaps it was sprained. I mentioned that B 112 was my seat, and she rolled her eyes and only unapologetically moved. My companion gave her a cutting look, and her companion might have scolded her, because some angry words were exchanged between the two of them. Thankfully, they were both quiet the entire performance. It just confused me, I do not believe I was outside of my rights to want to sit in the seat my ticket was for, and there was no reason to be hostile.