* 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.