The SF Symphony opens 2011 tomorrow with the San Francisco debut of the young and exciting Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits, and the return at the keys of French pianist Hélène Grimaud in the Schumann piano concerto. The orchestra will also play a local premiere by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances.

The Schumann concerto is a somewhat of a signature piece for Hélène, and you can see her talk about it in this preview for the recording she made with Esa-Pekka Salonen. A recurring visitor with the SF Symphony, her career took off in the eighties, which is hard to believe considering how youthful she now looks. That's the benefit of starting work in your teens.

We chatted with her from her home in Switzerland just before the holidays. Since she lived in the US a good chunk of her life, first in Florida, then up in New-York state (where she co-founded the Wolf Conservation Center), she preferred to converse with us in soft-spoken English rather than French. So you could read her exact words.