It really wasn't a concert I was all that interested in, but when the Sly Wit asked me if I'd like to accompany her I said yes in no small part because I looked forward to catching up with her. After coffees at Arlequin, we headed over to the Sunday matinee performance at Davies to hear the almost all-French program led by Stéphane Denève.

Denève. Photo by Drew Farrell

Denève reminded me of a stay-puft version of Dudamel, with his dirty blond curls and hyperkinetic movements, but he worked wonders with the orchestra and I enjoyed the entire concert much more than I expected. Leading off with a fleet version of Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, some of the musicians looked to be a bit behind from where we were seated, but it I didn't notice it in the sound. However, as it remained visually apparent throughout the rest of the performance that certain performers seemed behind, it did leave some questions in my mind about the effects of age on musicians and how things are supposed to be played- that is, are two players performing from the same score supposed to be in sync or is there sometimes a deliberate difference to create a desired musical effect? It's something I need to learn- if you know this, feel free to drop me a note.

Thibaudet. Photo credited to Kasskara.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet came onstage next, sartorially splendid in that low-key Liberace way of his, now toned down a bit from years past, to give a dazzling account of the peculiar Saint-Saën's Fifth Piano Concerto- a work that has little critical respect and no aural explanation for its nickname Egyptian. The Adante had an especially lovely finish as it disappeared into stillness then silence. Say what you will about the piece, but Thibaudet slayed it. 

After the intermission came a wholly unexpected treat in fragments from The Spider's Feast by the rarely performed (around here at least) composer Albert Roussel. It did indeed conjure up the image of a tremendous arachnid waiting for its prey and then devouring it with a hungry glee. The piece featured some really nice work by principal flute Tim Day. This was followed by Stravinsky's Firebird Suite-  a piece whose popularity I've never really understood, but this was the most pleasing performance of it I've heard yet.

During most of this season, at almost every concert I've attended, I've spotted a man with a blond brush cut in a Billy Zoom-ish, 80's-style 50's retro look, seated in the front row of the terrace seats on the left side of the stage. He's a mover-  usually rocking out to the music to a degree that more than once has prompted me to wonder if he was a distraction to the conductor. At first he seemed to show up alone, but for the past few months he's had the same brunette seated beside him. He was there in his usual spot, which I only thought odd because I don't usually attend matinees and yet here he was again. I wonder if he's at every performance.

There was also a rather ravishing blonde in an orange dress I noticed as we headed into hall, the kind you always assume is never there by herself. Turns out she was, and seated on the opposite side of the terrace, where from my vantage point she seemed quite enamored with the blond rocker, as she apparently couldn't keep her eyes off of him even though the brunette was on hand. Well, what of it- the French are different, no? Perhaps she was just inspired by the thought of a ménage-à-trois with the two of them. It was an amusing side-show and I do wonder if a connection was forged somewhere, sometime after the show.