photo by George Kelly
My pals Liane and Kevin tipped me off to a special “citizen media” night at the San Francisco Symphony last week that Kevin organized. Now I don’t normally clock up a lot of ear time with classical music generally, but l can throw down to some Tchaikovsky and Strauss now and again. As luck would have it, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet and Strauss’ Don Juan were on the bill this evening.
I invite Audra and we show up at the appointed time outside the side entrance to the Davies Symphony Hall. There’s maybe a couple dozen of us milling about until we are escorted into the famed Green Room where Pepperidge Farm cookies and wine await. Yes, this is a high class affair. The carpet is green but not much else, thankfully. After an introduction from the Symphony’s Communication Department, we get our complimentary tickets and head up to our seats in the orchestra section.
Good seats, beautiful hall, the band, I mean orchestra is already seated and ready for the conductor to enter. He does and we get under way with Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture. I’m digging it but I can’t seem to stop my mind from wandering. I keep thinking about work related crap and repeatedly try and eject such thoughts from my mind so I can fully take in the romance emanating from the stage.
I look down and notice a brass plaque on my seat with David Packard‘s name engraved on it. I ponder if the famous HP co-founder had ever plopped his cheeks in the very seat in which my cheeks now sat snug. Just as I think that might be a weird thought, the first piece seems to quickly end.
After Don Juan, it’s intermission and we hurry back to the Green Room for a meet and greet with the short, young conductor James Gaffigan. The polished communicator from the Communications Department does a lot of communicating, leaving only a enough time for a couple of questions before Mr. Gaffigan has to hurry back upstairs to prepare for the second half of the program. There’s also a horn player from the orchestra present, who’s name I missed. He sticks around a bit longer and takes on a few more questions, some regarding the influence of online communication on the orchestral fraternity. No, he doesn’t have a Myspace page but his 13 year old daughter does.
The second half of the program is a long and often energetic piano concerto by Rachmaninoff entitled Piano Concerto No. 3. The pianist is a young and beautiful Venezuelan graduate from Juilliard named Gabriela Martinez. (She has one of the cleanest, easiest to read Myspace pages I just discovered). While the accompanying orchestra are all glued to their sheet music, Ms. Martinez nails the highly technical concerto from memory. A brilliant performance, easily deserving of the four rounds of applause she garners.
We stick around for the open Q&A with the conductor and Ms. Martinez and then a few of us head off to Sauce for a late night dessert. This was the first time I’ve experienced the SF Symphony in her home and I am dully impressed. I think I could really get into this.