750 B Street, Downtown San Diego
There is something about Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn that aches with nostalgia. When the piece started at the Jacobs Music Center on Saturday night, I settled in to experience a happy memory.
The San Diego Symphony got everything right. The performance was tender and introspective with soft rhythms and delicate textures. I will allow Walt Whitman to describe the tone of the performance:
I mind how once we lay, such a transparent summer morning;
How you settled your head athwart my hips, and gently turn'd over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,...
Following the voluptuous ruminations of Debussy was the frenetic Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2.
The solo was played by our concertmaster Jeff Thayer. This concerto is a difficult piece of music. It’s difficult to play and can be difficult to listen to if you’re not used to Bartok. However, this concerto is regarded as one of the great violin concertos not just of the 20th Century but in general.
Bartok repeats the main theme of the opening movement 32 times with slight variations . Believe it or not, he was trying to prove a point to Schoenberg, ”that you can use all 12 tones and remain tonal.”
Mr. Thayer played his part well and received a standing ovation from the audience. I cannot express just how much I enjoy having the orchestra members as soloists from time to time.
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3: Polish was the second half of the concert. I think this music could be considered a great symphony if Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth symphonies weren't — well — Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth symphonies.
I do get caught up in that from time to time. I stop listening to the music and start comparing it to other things the composer has written.
I'd listened to the Third before and decided to try to let it stand on its own merits. I can say, without a doubt, that it is a beautiful and moving piece of music.
The San Diego strings tore their hearts out during the third movement. Tchaikovsky gave them so much of himself to play in this section. The string music was full of unrequited yearning.
It wasn't the satisfied recollection that Debussy gave us. This was wanting and praying and hoping and striving for something or someone unattainable.
However, the finale of the symphony gave us everything the third movement withheld. The pathos of the third movement was put in its place as merely pathetic while Tchaikovsky stormed the heights in the closing minutes of this journey.
While this wasn't the tightest I've heard the orchestra play, it didn't matter because they communicated the spirit of the music. The performance created that magical passage between the mind of Tchaikovsky and the ears of the audience. We experienced, in the present, the creative force of the past.