I went to San Francisco to hear Dawn Upshaw and Emanuel Ax at Davies Hall. The main attraction for me was the announced debut of a new piece by Oswaldo Golijov. Well.... I ran into Stephanie Friedman, and she said that the piece by Golijov was not ready. Now that he's so famous maybe he's having composer's block.
On the program instead was a song cycle by Stephen Prutsman called Piano Lessons. It is possible to hear in these pieces a connection to such American composers as Bernstein, Copland and Barber. The poems are charming, the music is nice, blah, blah, blah. But don't you think maybe pieces about practicing scales should have here and there a few scales? Perhaps he is avoiding the obvious. I like to hear a specific character for each song and instead got a lot of sameness. To be completely unobvious the singer would have to sing the scales.
This year is the 200th anniversary of the births of Frédéric François Chopin and Robert Schumann, and this concert may be regarded as a celebration of that. The Chopin songs were sung in Polish--Dawn Upshaw does that--and were accompanied by a Polish pianist. They were pleasant.
The highlight of the evening was the playing of Emanuel Ax. Between the songs he played four mazurkas and two nocturnes by Chopin.
The encore was by Hugo Wolf who is having his 150th anniversary this year. It was all fine, but I went for Golijov. It was known but not announced that his songs would not appear by the time I bought my ticket.