Of course I am going to start with the dress because it would be impolite to do otherwise.  After all, if you don’t think that, yes, she does want us to notice, discuss, and think about what she’s wearing, you’re missing the point of why she’s wearing it.  It was again red (she does look great in red), but a deeper, warmer shade than last year’s model, with horizontal pleats similar to those of a cummerbund running its length, the hemline stopping well above the knee but further south on her thigh than the one which caused last year’s ruckus.

It fit like a glove- an expensive, perfectly tailored, hand-sewn glove made of the finest calfskin and it ravished her curves. Ravished them, I tell you! But the most alluring part was the back, which had a wide, vertical seam running down her spine, cinching everything together so the contours of her body were always presented in perfect, high relief. I kid you not, and during the moments when she would lift her right hip slightly off the bench, leaning into the keys, physically giving herself to the performance, carried away by its rhythmic thrust, a most wondrous curved silhouette would take appear. I sat there spellbound, awed, convinced there was no better seat in the entire house.
This is the dress, seen in a photo taken somewhere in Europe in October 2011. The picture doesn't do it justice, but I thought it would be cruel not to provide one. Source: Getty Images/Getty Images Europe.
Yeah, Yuja Wang looked fantastic on Friday night as she slayed Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony, turning in a performance that probably cemented her status as one of the most talented musicians currently playing. So what if she missed some notes and doesn’t burn as intensely as Argerich. What of it?
Wang brought speed, clarity and precision to the extraordinarily difficult passages of the first movement, her fingers and then her hands soon becoming a blur above the keys as she articulated each note. The second movement was gorgeous, so much so that I noticed the orchestra’s musicians craning their necks to watch her- something I’ve never seen them do before. As the second movement flowed into the third, it became obvious she was on a tear, breaking loose from Michael Tilson Thomas’ lead to the extent he glanced over his shoulder as if say, “Whoa.”
But it was too late, Wang was on her way, out there on her own, and though the orchestra sounded wonderful, playing with her in equal volume, instead of behind her, as this score rightfully demands, it was still her show all the way, and even during the sections of the last movement when the soloist and orchestra combine to create those huge waves of Rachmaninoff’s unique romanticism, she could still be heard clearly through it all. If the rolling conclusion didn’t quite deliver on the promise of all that led up to it, it still felt like the final five notes were dispatched with triumphant verve. The applause was huge, as were the smiles onstage and off. She returned for a clever, charming encore of “Tea for Two,” in an arrangement by Art Tatum, which pleased everyone, including MTT, who sat onstage with a look of extreme delight on his face. If she’s this good at this still-early stage of her career, it somewhat mind-boggling to ponder what she’s going to be like ten years from now.
There was more. The first half of the concert began with Faure’s “Pavane”- a bit of pretty-sounding French fluffery which featured principal flute Tim Day quite nicely, and was followed by Sibelius’ Third Symphony, the allegro of which MTT led with a gallant loping, rendering it highly reminiscent of the 2nd movement scherzo of Beethoven’s 9th.
This was the first of the final three programs of the Symphony’s Centennial season, and if you missed Wang, there are still two more must-see programs in the next two weeks. The first is a semi-staged performance of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle featuring the fantastic mezzo Michelle DeYoung and the versatile Alan Held in the title role, and those concerts open with Jeremy Denk performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. I can’t believe there are tickets available for these performances on Goldstar, but as of today there are, so get yourself one. The final program of the season, for which there are likely few tickets left, has MTT conducting Beethoven’s 9th, with works by Ligeti and Schoenberg also scheduled. If you can find a ticket, get one. It should be a memorable conclusion to what’s been a marvelous 100th anniversary season.

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