Dave and I went back Monday evening to hear Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic in Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Piano Concerto in G (with Hélène Grimaud again as soloist) and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony. I don’t know the Mother Goose Suite well at all, while the other two pieces are old favorites of mine, so it seemed like an attractive program, and of course we’d had a great time just the night before at the first of their two concerts.
The evening got off to an unpleasant start, though. Dave and I usually sit in the second tier, where the sound is best and the tickets are cheap, but for reasons I won’t go into we were able to take any as-yet-unsold seats, and the guy in the box office talked us into going for the loge. The loge, though, is a pricey section, and on our way to our seats we got a big helping of Snotty Attitude from the usher. Whether it was because we weren’t in expensive business suits or were two men attending together or are a racially mixed couple or some combination of these things, or whether our need to ask for clarification about which section of seats she had meant to indicate with that vague flip of her hand branded us as being interlopers in this upscale neighborhood, I don’t know, but the usher made sure everyone in hearing distance knew that as far as she was concerned We Didn’t Belong There. Another usher apologized to me for this — “we aren’t all like that,” she added in a whisper. But Dave tells me that he has gotten similar treatment from ushers in the loge a number of times before, and I was in a black mood when I took my seat. Fortunately we still had 20 minutes or so before the concert began, so I could lose myself in a crossword puzzle for a while and regain my even temperament before the concert started.
The Mother Goose Suite was enchanting — graceful and nuanced and shimmering and all that. The Piano Concerto was terrific, too, very sassy and full of spirit. Best of all, I thought, was the vivid, fiery performance of the Prokofiev. Mr. Nézet-Séguin took over the Rotterdam Philharmonic from Valery Gergiev and is evidently carrying on Mr. Gergiev’s fierce and intense style of music-making; I thought it suited the Prokofiev particularly well.
The loge seats turned out to have very good sound, though not quite as good as the second tier (the first and second violins were a little hard to hear from where we were sitting, though I also have to say that I hadn’t consciously noticed this until Dave pointed it out to me at intermission), and being closer to the stage meant we had a very good view of Ms. Grimaud’s hands flying around on the keyboard during the concerto. Next time, though, I’ll have to remember to wear an expensive business suit.