In this new golden age of baby conductors - Gustavo Dudamel, 26; Lionel
Bringuier, 21; Nguyen Anh Son, 25; James Gaffigan, 27; Leonard Ganvert,
20; and heaven knows how many yet-unknown Russian and Chinese teenagers
waiting in the wings - here comes the virtually middle-aged Philippe
Jordan. He turned 33 on Thursday. But when he made his debut with the
San Francisco Symphony tonight, it was clear that with those few extra
years came added experience, authority, authenticity, and excellence.
The Swiss conductor named to become music director of Opera National de
Paris is an impressive, heartening presence on the podium. Leading the
San Franciscans in a program transparent with age - Beethoven's "Egmont"
Overture and Piano Concerto No. 3, Richard Strauss' "An Alpine Symphony"
- Jordan presented music that was clean, right, and bright; the two
Beethovens especially were tremendous with their simultaneous discipline
and freedom. Jordan's highlighting of brief woodwind passages infused
solid balances with an unusual, warm sheen. (One wonders if David
Gockley, who provided Jordan's Houston debut six long years ago, may
bring him to the San Francisco Opera any time in the - preferably - near
Of course, Jordan's appearance was helped tremendously by the presence
of Pierre-Laurent Aimard. This great specialist in contemporary and
"difficult" music took to the Beethoven warhorse with all the respect
and brilliance in the world. His flawless and enchanting performance
had a special aspect of shaping and spotlighting silences between phrases
and even between notes the way few of the storied pianists of the past
have managed that ephemeral feat.
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