|Cartoon from The Stranger|
First of all, I'd like to apologize to anyone seated on the right side of the front row at Davies last night hoping for a show that never materialized (see my earlier post). I guess I should have kept my mouth shut, because when Yuja Wang walked onstage last night the mini dresses from Tuesday night's performance had been replaced by a full-length, gorgeous purple dress, which was quite ravishing, but certainly not as interesting as what she had on the other night. I'm sure my uncouth previous comments had something to do with this return to staid, if elegant, propriety. I'm very sorry about that.
This was the first concert by the San Francisco Symphony since their return from a successful European tour. The first piece of the night, Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances" started off with jolt but then the pacing seemed get a bit lax, and I couldn't quite figure out if MTT was going for a gentle, relaxed rhythm or if the orchestra was suffering from a bit of jet-lag. Nevertheless, strong solos came from the usual suspects: Carey Bell, Catherine Payne and Alexander Barantschik.
Wang came out to a great round of applause from the seemingly full house and sat down at the bench. To my surprise she used a score, and though this isn't unheard of, it is rather rare for the featured soloist to play the piece with the score in front of them. But Bartok's 2nd Piano Concerto is a bit of a beast, a fingerbuster, so I get it. There are probably quite a few minefields one could get lost in without a map.
In the first movement Wang played with demonic percussive force, making me wonder about the injury to her arm. She held nothing back, and her hands just flew across the keys, pounding out flurries of notes. There was no applause when the movement ended.
The second movement found Wang again on fire during the little scherzo-like part between the slower adagio tempos which bookend them, but the orchestra fell behind her and all of a sudden I wondered why Bartok was suddenly starting to sound like Bernard Herrmann. This movement drew some applause, but it quickly died. This was certainly a different audience than the one present for Tuesday's concert.
The third movement again seemed to lack precise synchronization between Wang and the orchestra for a good portion of it until the last few moments when they both came together to finish with an exhilarating swoosh, resulting in a climax that was actually felt in the audience as if it was a physical sensation. Seriously. I mean it.
The second half of the concert was Act III of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake but I have to admit to taking my leave after intermission.
There are three more performances this weekend.
On a side note, I was pleased not to encounter anyone I've slept with at the performance.