Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anderszewski plays Mozart

San Francisco Symphony
Fri, Apr 10, 2009 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Stéphane Denève, conductor
Piotr Anderszewski, piano

Jennifer Higdon: blue cathedral
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24
Fauré: Pelléas et Mélisande
Debussy (arr. Jarrell): Ibéria from Images pour orchestre

I came specifically to hear the Higdon & the Mozart Concerto & didn't really pay attention to what was on the rest of the program until I sat down. It's a bit of a peculiar line-up, the Higdon, Fauré & Debussy being picturesque & very much about orchestral colors, while the Mozart, an exemplar of classical form & proportion, is something of an interloper.

blue cathedral uses a large orchestra & begins with quietly tinkling bells, to which strings are eventually added. There are serene & melodic solos for flute, clarinet, English horn, violin, & a quartet of violas & cellos. The piece pleasantly put me in mind of soaring through an endless blue sky. It could be the soundtrack for the flying scene in an animated movie. It has a wonderfully atmospheric ending in which the orchestra gradually fade away to uncover 2 ethereal sounds: crystal glasses played with moistened fingers by the brasses, & the jangling of Chinese reflex balls.

Anderszewski is an intense & focused performer with a big mop of hair that falls over his forehead. I liked his pellucid playing, every note individually clear, even when very quiet. His phrasing in the 1st movement had a lot of variety & detail, & he played an unusual, heavy-sounding cadenza that was probably not Mozart's. I got the feeling that he is a moody player, though he smiled often. I don't know if it was because of my seat on the 1st tier side, but for some reason the 1st bassoon stuck out frequently during the concerto.

We were back to dreamy movie music for the rest of the program. Tim Day was a wonderful flute soloist in the Fauré, & Jonathan Fischer (I think), played beautiful, pure-toned oboe solos in the Debussy. Even though Debussy, according to the program notes, only ever visited Spain once on a day trip, Ibéria seems to evoke feelings of Spain better than actual Spanish music (thanks, Entartete Musik).

Stéphane Denève made me think of a young James Levine, with his big head of frizzy hair & good eye contact & involvement with the orchestra. On the other hand, I felt like he didn't always quite connect with the Symphony on this particular evening.


Patty said...

Sounds like you had a better experience than my husband & I. We went to the Flint Center performance. I enjoyed the Higdon. The Mozart was dull. Things woke up for the second half.

The orchestra looked like they don't like playing at Flint. At all. I think I"ll avoid Flint Center concerts from here on out.

Mozart was the most disappointing. The soloist hit wrong notes, and the orchestra was muddy. Perhaps it was all due to the hall. I wonder. We nearly left after the first half. I'm glad I stuck around so I went home a bit happier.

... and yes, that was Jonathan Davis on oboe this set.

Hope you don't mind this random "drop in". :-)

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for sharing your experience at Flint Center, Patty. I don't think I've ever attended a symphony performance at Flint, but that was petulant of the musicians to appear unhappy playing there.

My impression is that Anderszewski is an idiosyncratic performer. I can well imagine that he delivers divergent performances from night to night. He did miss notes on Friday as well, but I suppose I am pretty lenient about that & it did not bother me.

I agree that the French works in the 2nd half were the substance of the program. It just happens to be repertoire that I don't have much of a feeling for.

Gavin Plumley said...

Thanks for this report. I have heard Anderszewski a number of times in this country, both in concerti and solo recitals. He is a tasteful performer and I occasionally think his Mozart is a little too caged-in. True, it is sublime, but Mozart is also incredibly witty and sometimes Anderszewski stands back from the piece and worships it, rather than getting his hands (ever so slightly) dirty. His Bach can likewise err on the safe side, though his inner-voicing is out of this world and his performances of Chopin and Szymanowski are exemplary. He is, it has to be said, incredibly pleasing to look at... you'll have to forgive me for my lesser thoughts.

Gavin Plumley said...

And thank you for the 'Shadow City' link... ersatz Spain is frequently better than the real thing. It's the text that records the loss and all that...

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for sharing your observations of Anderszewski, Mr.Plumley. I have to admit that on this 1st hearing, I didn't quite know what to make of him, though I do find him intriguing. His playing is so clear, so I can imagine that his Bach is very good. I hope I will have more chances to hear him. No worries about your thoughts on his appearance; you should hear me try to talk about Immanuel Pahud or Nathan Gunn.

Yes, I believe I have learned some of the lessons of the Shadow City. Thank you for directing me to Andre Aciman. I've read "False Papers" & "Call Me By Your Name" by now. The latter did get me a bit worked up.