This weekend's San Francisco Symphony program features Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2, Prokofiev's neo-classical Symphony No. 5, and a new work by Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg called EXPO. The new work is of course, first on the program so that people will stay past intermission. But unlike most people, I come for the new work. Though I'm looking forward to the Liszt and Prokofiev, I've heard them before. I've played them before. Familiar masterpieces give me great pleasure and elation, but my ears crave something new.
Lindberg (born 1958) was the resident composer at the New York Philharmonic, which first premiered EXPO in 2009 to a rave review in the New York Times. The internet once again comes through, providing a free recording. The SFS program note describes the music as "highly caffeinated". There are certainly lots of fast notes in the strings with suspended chords in the woodwinds like looming clouds. It is a 10-minute exciting concert opener. Why are so many new works single-movement overture-style pieces? What happened to the hour-long, 4-movement masterpiece? At any rate, this piece is full of surprises, tender moments, exciting storms, and crazy textures. It definitely provides for the inspiring and refreshing "new sound" that my ears have been craving. I can't wait to hear it live.
Liszt's piano concerto is an amazing piece with a vigorous orchestral part and thrilling piano technique. Stephen Hough will be the soloist and Pablo Heras-Casado will guest conduct. Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 is an oddity. It is one of the most self-conscious symphonies I know. It tries to be like Haydn is clearly no Haydn-- Prokofiev takes a page from Haydn's sense of humor and makes fun of him, taking his techniques to ridiculous extremes. Despite this hilarity it also works as a serious piece for those not in on the joke. Music is flexible like that.
Fresh off yet another Grammy win, the symphony should be in a giddy mood, with an extra bounce in their fingers.