Monday, June 27, 2022

Adams, Stucky, and Sibelius at San Francisco Symphony

Photo of a man in a blue suit playing a grand piano with a woman in black wearing white glasses seated to his left.

Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson performs John Adams’ Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leading the San Francisco Symphony, June 23, 2022.

If you take a look at the photo above, you'll see a woman seated to the left of and behind Víkingur Ólafsson. She's the page turner. He's playing from a tablet of some kind and she's turning pages with a Bluetooth or other wireless device.

There was a cute incident before the concerto. Alexander Barantschik, the concertmaster, stood up to tune the orchestra, and she hit an A on the piano. was the A below middle C, which is the wrong octave for tuning. The correct pitch is A above middle C, which is in the oboe's range. When there's a piano concerto, whoever is playing principal oboe picks up the C from the piano for the winds, then the concertmaster. picks up the C from oboe for the strings.

When the page turner hit the wrong note, Barantschik looked shocked, stood up very straight, and with a sly smile hit the right A. He smiled, she smiled, everybody laughed.

Anyway, it was one hell of a performance, and the pianist has a new fan. I would have gone back for a second performance if SF Civic Center weren't completely impassible on Pride Weekend.

Here's a pop quiz: which reviewer wrote "In the transition to the second movement, one minute you think you’re in a roaring bar; a minute later you notice that somehow you have relocated to a quiet, darkened lounge" and which one wrote "The slow movement, at its heart, is like a cocktail-lounge take on Ravel, turning its harmonies this way and that, and catching reflections of light from a mirror ball"? Both also used "tender" to describe the Sibelius. Reviewers do not read each other's reviews before filing their own.

I had a bit more to say about Radical Light because I reviewed its world premiere in 2007. It's a wonderful piece and I'm so glad to have heard it again.



David Bratman said...

And which reviewer of the Adams wrote "This struck me as clotted and undifferentiated clanging noise, succeeded eventually by some less clanging noise, followed by a resurrection of the clanging noise"?
That was me, after the LA Phil premiere of the work three years ago. Whether it was the performance, the acoustics, or just me - I was not at my most alert and receptive that day - I don't know. I haven't heard the SFS version.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There is a recording, should you wish to revisit the work.