Friday, May 22, 2009

Gloomy Sibelius, Sunny Bates, and Demonic Prokofiev

This week's San Francisco Symphony program, with music director Michael Tilson Thomas back in the saddle, is a fascinating tour all over the map and emotional landscape. The first work was to be a world premiere by Mason Bates called "The B-Sides" followed by Sibelius' rarely heard Fourth Symphony, but for some reason their order was switched.

Though I'm a big Sibelius fan, this is a very gloomy, strange, inconclusive symphony and it seemed a depressing way to start a concert. The best parts were in the solo sections for cellist Peter Wyrick (above) who as usual was astonishingly good.

Both Cedric of SFist and Janos Gereben of the San Francisco Examiner (talking above) loved the performance, but that may just speak to their sophistication.

"The B-Sides" by Mason Bates (above) was a beautifully orchestrated set of five miniatures for large orchestra and electronics controlled by the composer's laptop which he was playing live. The piece sounded a bit like John Adams Goes to The Love Parade (dressed as an Astronaut), and it was thoroughly enjoyable, passing the only test I have for a new piece of music which is "Do I want to hear it again?"

After intermission, the 22-year-old Yuja Wang tackled Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto, which is fiendish in its demands. Next to me, Cedric whispered, "This is ridiculous," by which he meant amazing and flawless. Lang Lang better watch his back.

The program will be repeated Friday and Saturday evenings, and if you go tonight (Friday), there is going to be a post-concert birthday party in the upper terrace for me, with composer Mason Bates playing DJ. The symphony hasn't announced that this particular party is dedicated to yours truly, but that's only because they probably didn't want to embarrass me.


Matthew Hubbard said...

Happy Birthday, Mike! Enjoy the party in your honor.

jolene said...

Happy birthday, Mike!!

I saw this concert yesterday - if I get a chance, I may do a short writeup on it. I think Yuja's already better than Lang Lang - she's still young, but her technique and musicality is impressive. I too found the Sibelius really depressing and the odd-man-out in this program. This concert's definitely a good one.

Ced said...

Happy birthday. You are lucky to go back, it is a wonderful set. And the Prokofiev should get even better!

Your driver said...

A very happy birthday!

Lisa Hirsch said...

Happy birthday!

The Sibelius Fourth is a tough piece; very introverted and gloomy. I heard E-PS do a great job with it at Disney in 2007, but, boy, it is hard to understand.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!