Last night Hilary Hahn joined guest conductor Osmo Vänskä and the San Francisco Symphony for what turned out to be a rather exhilarating evening of music. The concert opened with modern Finnish composer Kalevi Aho's one-movement Minea, a piece composed in 2008 on commission from the Minnesota Orchestra. Hahn was then soloist in Prokofieff's Violin Concerto No. 1. After intermission, the Symphony played the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6.
Minea, debuted by the Minnesota Orchestra in November 2009, has not yet been released as a commercial recording. I heard it last night for the first time. The opening was memorable--a sustained tone held by many of the instruments on stage seemed to float over odd sounds produced on the brass instruments that suggested waves beating against a beach. The woodwinds were very much present, especially the flutes and bassoons, fluttering in long scale-like passages using many half steps evocative of Arabic or Arab-influenced Spanish music--something oriental anyway. Minea kept building through the addition of more instruments and a faster tempo. Eventually, the very large percussion section seemed to take the lead. By the time the piece was coming to a climax it had something of the relentless forward motion of Ravel's Boléro. Every section of the orchestra seemed to get a turn, which reminded me of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Difficult to describe, but a lot of fun.
Hahn delighted the audience by playing two encores, one modern, one not. She first played The Blue Curve of the Earth, which she herself commissioned from composer Tina Davidson--a scintillating piece of restrained energy with much use of pizzicato playing that I rather enjoyed. Hahn seemed almost apologetic when she took up her violin a second time, eliciting a laugh, this time to play a portion of the Bach A minor Sonata No. 2 for solo violin. "They gave me permission to play another one," she announced, and she played it very sweetly indeed. Hahn signed autographs after the performance. I asked her to date mine. She said matter-of-factly, "You'll have to tell me what the date is," no doubt a symptom of much travel.
Photo of Hilary Hahn by Peter Miller. Photo of Osmo Vänskä by Ann Marsden. Both photos courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony web site.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Music I'm Listening To: Hilary Hahn with Osmo Vänskä Conducting the San Francisco Symphony (May 25, 2012)
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Good beer, like good wine, should be distinctive, and enthusiastic people in love with the product they make always seem to enhance the experience. Coedo has got both. I spent a pleasant fifteen minutes talking with Coedo president and CEO, Shigeharu Asagiri, who led me through a tasting. The blue-labeled Ruri (the word means "lapis" in Japanese: All of the beers are named after something Japanese associated with the beer by color) is a pilsener type (5% alcohol). Kyara (a yellow-brown traditional dye) is a lager (5%). Shikkoku (black) is a dark Schwarzbier (5%). Beniaka (red) is a barley lager (7%) that also uses the local sweet potatoes. Shiro (white) is a non-filtered hefeweizen, or wheat beer (5.5%). I enjoyed them all, but particularly Kyara, which had a clean, refreshing taste but not at the expense of flavor and body. Kyara has a rich malty aspect but manages to be quite crisp and dry at the same time--wonderfully balanced. These beers were a welcome change from the often overly hoppy local beers of northern California. Recommended--I just wish the stuff weren't so expensive.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
It will be only a matter of time--and not much time--before all the new space has been filled. The crack fillers will begin to appear again. Then little stacks of books will rise here and there on furniture and on the floor, and very little will have changed.
Of course, the cat has been helping. He said something about inspecting the drop cloth....
I must have been close to the location of what became known as The North Platte Canteen, but I saw no sign of it and didn't think to look, although I had heard something of the story before. Bob Greene's Once Upon a Town (Perennial, 2003) tells that story in detail.
The North Platte Canteen disappeared when it was no longer needed. The building that temporarily housed it has been torn down. North Platte--then and now a place known mainly as somewhere on a road to somewhere else--for a few years was an overflowing well of the most generous hospitality. Once Upon a Town, based mainly on interviews with people who volunteered at the canteen and of the soldiers that found brief solace there becomes somewhat repetitive because of the use of personal accounts (many of which are necessarily similar), but the cumulative effect of the many little stories is to create a vivid picture of one corner of the home front during WWII--a picture that seems worth handing on to future generations.