Friday night's program at the San Francisco Symphony, led by Osmo Vänskä, began with a big orchestra on stage for Minea by Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. The 20 minute tone poem began with a startling burst from the percussion & brass & continued loudly. In the 1st half something made a whooshing, surf-like sound, & a percussionist made a sound by dropping a heavy chain. The contrabassoon had a prominent solo, & I liked William Bennett's twisty oboe solo, played with a dense tone. The 2nd half was a continuous crescendo led by drumming from the percussion section, which included bongos. The orchestra played blazingly throughout. I noticed a couple of violinists with earplugs. The audience cheered for the noisy finale, & some people stood.
Violinist Hilary Hahn was soloist for Prokofiev's 1st Violin Concerto. She has a cool demeanor & sounded consistently graceful & pretty, even when tackling aggressive passages. In the 2nd movement she made a striking effect with her truly glassy ponticello tone. The concerto's unusual soft ending was controlled & airy, & the audience responded with a standing ovation. Ms. Hahn gave us an encore by Tina Davidson, which begins with the violinist making sounds by pressing down forcefully on the strings with just the left fingers. The piece was lovely, & its use of multiple voices evoked Bach. When Ms. Hahn returned for another bow, she told us, "I got permission to play one more" & gave us a fluid & ringing movement from Bach which complemented the Davidson piece nicely.
After intermission, Maestro Vänskä led a brilliant Shostakovich 6. He does a lot of knee bends & cues everything. His left hand is often up in the air. I agreed with a friend who described the sound Maestro Vänskä got as "bright & sparkly." The drawn-out 1st movement maintained tension, & Timothy Day's flute solos were intense & forlorn. The following shorter movements had a manic energy. Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik dug in for his 3rd movement solo & sounded very Russian. The evening's final seconds were like a train about to run off the rails, both frightening & thrilling. The audience coughed demonstratively between movements & gave the concert a rousing standing ovation. After the performance, I saw Ms. Hahn signing CDs in the lobby.
§ Hilary Hahn plays Prokofiev
San Francisco Symphony
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin
Kalevi Aho: Minea
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No.1
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6
Tina Davidson: Blue Curve of the Earth
Bach: Allegro from Sonata No. 2 in a minor, BWV 1003
Fri, May 25, 2012 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall