Hélène Grimaud

Kirill Karabits & Helene Grimaud at SFS

Grimaud, Helene 4x4 * Notes * 
Kirill Karabits made a promising conducting debut at San Francisco Symphony this week in a program of Silvestrov's Elegie, Schumann's Piano Concerto, and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. Last night's performance began with the piece by Silvestrov, scored for string orchestra. The small ensemble played with grace and the work was rather pretty. Next came the Schumann, the pianist Hélène Grimaud was perhaps ungainly, but perfectly precise and never boring. She listened to the orchestra but sounded quite distinct from the other instruments. The Rachmaninoff dances were fluid and adroit. The trumpets and trombones were clean but slightly harsh. The woodwinds were particularly beautiful.

* Tattling * 
The audience on the orchestra level was exceedingly well-behaved for the first half of the performance, especially when Grimaud was playing. Almost no one left during intermission, but light talking was noted during Rachmaninoff, and more than one person fell asleep.

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.