Maybe it was cold, wet, and windy up on stage. Susanna Mälkki wore some kind of an overcoat on the podium, and Horacio Gutiérrez sat down at the keyboard in what looked like a windbreaker. Their rendition of Prokofiev's Third Concerto pleased the audience. Maybe I was just tired, but it seemed to me a fairly nondescript, pedestrian reading of what is admittedly an inherently thrilling work.
Mälkki's Sibelius First came out more appealingly. There were some rough joins and clunkers, but at least she avoided the elephant traps of structure that lurk all over early Sibelius, and the sound colors coming out of the orchestra were consistently vivid and varied, almost as if to support pre-concert lecturer Scott Fogelsong's contention, which he was so proud of coming up with that he giggled all the way through it - what drugs is this guy on? - that the work was written to the model of Tchaikovsky's Fifth. But in fact Sibelius's orchestral palette, subdued and shaded, is quite unlike Tchaikovsky's bright, firmly delineated colors.
Also on the program - more spectralism! This one was Modulations by Gérard Grisey, an early essay in the style from the late 1970s that still half wants to be traditional old-timey post-war modernism. One section in which the soft, high-pitched, overtone-laden chords breathed in and out at a pulse of about two seconds a breath came across, no doubt unintentionally, as the wacky speeded-up Keystone Cops version of Morton Feldman.
More interesting than the concert was getting there. Although the weekend's closure of the eastern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't scheduled to start for more than a couple hours later, the road that eventually becomes the western approach was already far more clogged than usual as I drove in to town, so I got off it sooner than I usually do and found myself, a little unusually for concert trips, in the Mission District. Finding myself even more unusually in sight of an open parking space, a true rarity in the Mission, I had a quick meal at the nearest hole-in-wall taqueria, Papalote at 24th and Valencia. This is far yuppier than others in the district. The burrito was a bit mellow, if I can put it that way, and heavily packed in a thick flour tortilla. What was unbelievable was the salsa that came with the chips. This was neither liquid nor chunky nor both, the customary range among salsas, but smooth and creamy and resembling a tomato alfredo sauce more than anything else.