San Francisco Symphony
Thu, Oct 22, 2009 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Antti Siirala, piano
John Adams, Slonimsky's Earbox
Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 1
Dvořák, Symphony No. 7
I've enjoyed Osmo Vänskä's conducting before, so I was looking forward to this concert. I did not feel disappointed. John Adam's Slonimsky's Earbox is a loud, frenetic ride using the full resources of the orchestra. It begins with a rapid upward run that is a kind of leitmotif. Vänskä made sure that the orchestra kept up a tense level of energy. Mr. Adams himself was in attendance in box A for the entire evening & took a bow on stage after his piece. This was also my 1st chance to hear new principal viola Jonathan Vinocour, who has a prominent & frantic solo to play.
I'm not sure what to make of Antti Siirala, a replacement for Yundi Li in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. He certainly put in an exceptionally clean performance. I liked his efficient technique & the clarity of his line, even when playing extremely fast. His face remained curiously expressionless the whole time. I did not find him thrilling, & yet his playing was not uninteresting either. The rest of the audience had no doubts about him, though. They applauded after the 1st movement & gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion.
Vänskä is an intense conductor who cues everything. Sometimes one can even hear him grunting. I wonder if this doesn't actually annoy orchestras, but he seems to get results. We got a large-gestured & slightly manic Dvořák 7, with exciting, full climaxes. I especially liked the dance-like 3rd movement, which was a bit edgy & sinister. There were many excellent woodwind solos all evening. I loved the beautiful sounds produced by Timothy Day (flute) & William Bennett (oboe).
Vänskä sticks around next week for an equally splashy program of Sibelius & Beethoven.