Sunday, April 01, 2007

Vänskä conducts Sibelius

On Thursday night I was at Davies Hall to hear the SF Symphony lead by guest conductor Osmo Vänskä. The program started with a show piece for orchestra called Louhi, written by Finish composer named Kalevi Aho in 2003 for a Finish youth orchestra. It's only about 10 minutes long, but lots of things happen. You feel like you are exposed to lots of different moods & orchestral colors, but none of them linger for long. The piece ends quietly & ominously.

Emanual Ax played the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat. Ax is one of those famous artists that I don't think I'd ever actually heard before. He has a very low musical profile. He's not flashy & doesn't try to make big points, but his playing is efficient & serves Mozart very well. This is an amazing concerto, by the way. There's as much interest in the orchestra as in the solo part. In the 2nd movement there's a section for woodwinds only. It's like all of a sudden we're listening to the Gran Partita for 2 minutes!

Ax is clearly a well-loved artist. There was a big turn-out to hear him, & he received a bouquet of flowers on stage.

After intermission we heard the Sibelius Symphony No. 1 in E minor. It's standard, un-challenging Romantic fair, & I enjoyed the performance thoroughly. Vänskä has ideas, & he works hard to get them across. His cues look very clear, & he'll shake his arms at the musicians, encouring the most vigorous playing. At times he looks like he's wrestling with the orchestra. I like his conducting. I was originally interested in this concert because of Emanuel Ax, but it turned it out that Vänskä left the bigger impression on me.

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