|How much time do you have? Photo by Rolex/Fadil Berisha|
The Center Terrace section at Davies is always interesting people watching. The only regular I espied last night was the drooper in the golf hat, who always sits in the same aisle seat, legs sharply crossed, head hanging down as if he's sleeping, which I'm pretty sure he isn't. But last night an exceptional array came out, no doubt to see what Yuja Wang would do with Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto. There was this guy, resurrected and now wearing a saffron suit in place of a robe, and this guy, who turned out to be a woman on closer inspection, this guy, who's traded in his tux for a bearish lumberjack in a flannel shirt look, and two dowagers dressed to the nines sitting in the center of it all, one of whom kept looking around as if asking herself what had become of all of her peers.
Samuel Carl Adams must feel pretty good right now. Back in October the Symphony premiered his new (and first) work for the orchestra, which they also commissioned- a piece called Drift and Providence, which received good notices and silenced anyone who thought some nepotism may have been somehow involved in this coup for such a young and seemingly inexperienced composer, who has a famous father named John. And here they are, playing it again on a highly popular program featuring the red-hot Yuja, whose appearances nowadays are almost guaranteed sell-outs. Well, I liked the piece the first time I heard it, and I like it as much the second time, where it's form became really apparent and surprisingly easy to digest, though I don't think that's because it's simple music. For some reason, I just started following the tri-tones in it, which actually reminded me of Black Sabbath's eponymous song from their eponymous debut album, which has actually been on my mind lately, but that's another story altogether.
As it opening "Embarcadero" section was unfurling I realized this piece would make the perfect accompaniment to the new light show on the Bay Bridge. Like it was the first time I heard it, we had already drifted into the "Drift 1"section before I realized we had done so. During the Divisadero section, I enjoyed the sound of the lighthouse's foghorns, though it felt incongruous attached to a section with such a name. Somewhere along this section the the man in the saffron suit looked toward heaven, his mouth agape, and never moved again for the remainder of the evening- as if he had suddenly froze in a moment of religious ecstasy or anticipation.
Yuja Wang came onstage wearing a richly-hued purple gown that almost looked sapphire blue, gathered in the back to give her a surprisingly Kardashian-like silhouette, with a crepe-like lower half and black, five-inch, patent leather spike heels that looked divinely painful.
She bowed deeply and from behind the bench, which for some reason struck me as odd, and then sat down. For me, the interesting thing about these concerts was what she would sound like performing a more nuanced, thoughtful piece like this one instead of the finger-busting Rachmaninoffs, Prokofievs and Bartoks we usually hear her perform. A piece that required, well, for lack of a better way to put it, a more intellectual interpretation than a physical one.
MTT helped shape the interpretation by having the orchestra play a gorgeous, sensitive accompaniment that brought the heroic romanticism of it to the fore. Yuja followed, though she exploded a little harshly over the faster parts of the first movement and I detected more than a couple of mistakes from her left hand. That's not a bad thing- she was making calculations and taking risks. Some paid off, others didn't, and if the general impression she left is that she can play anything, she also left me thinking perhaps she should take on this particular piece in another ten years when she can feel it more acutely rather than think her way through it. Her sensitive playing during the second movement changed my mind a bit, except when she would abruptly pull her feet off the pedal. Seeing her take it on at this stage of here career will make it interesting to see what she does with similar pieces in the future- there's no doubt Yuja Wang will be drawing audiences for a long time.
Brahms' Symphony No. 1 followed the intermission, and though I have tried, dear reader, to understand what people find so wonderful about Brahms, I just can't seem to find that particular door. Brahms bores me, and though the second movement featured an exquisite performance by Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik, I found myself happy for all the wrong reasons when it was over.
Note, if you are attending the Friday night concert, Davies After Hours will feature Tin Hat, a really great band featuring the brilliant Carla Kihlstedt- make sure to check them out. Most of the seats for this series are gone, but call the box office for turn backs or see what's available online here.