868 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
The final concert of the Mainly Mozart Festival was off the chain.
"Off the chain" — what does that even mean?
From Urban Dictionary: "Out of control, wild fun. Just like when your pitbull gets off the chain in the back yard and tears through the neighborhood."
Conductor Justin Brown definitely let this big dog of an orchestra off the chain. I believe he described the orchestra as astounding. I think this orchestra was astounding, but like a big dog running flat out at Dog Beach — tongue wagging — looking to play with everyone and everything it finds.
I would dare anyone to attend one of the Festival Orchestra concerts next year and then try to claim that classical music is dying.
Based on what I've seen and heard the last few weeks, classical music is joyous, living, breathing, enduring, exciting, emotional, delightful, and wonderful.
The final concert was all of those things and more. Kodaly, Mozart, and Beethoven were the big three for the concert.
I must say that Kodaly's Summer Evening wasn't off the chain so much as in the flow. This was Kodaly's graduation composition and the audience enjoyed it so much that half the house erupted into applause at the false ending about two thirds of the way through the piece.
Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 was the middle child on this evening. I can't help but think of the movie Amadeus when I hear this music.
The middle movement was the music playing as the credits rolled, and Salieri declared himself the patron saint of the mediocre. Unforgettable.
Likewise unforgettable was the performance by the festival orchestra and soloist. Soloist Shai Wosner had to be on top of his part in order to hold a clear conversation with the orchestra. He played admirably and I liked the flavor of the cadenzas he chose to play.
Beethoven and his Symphony No. 4 was the closing act of the festival. Should we talk about letting the big dog run? Yes we should, because holy moly was it a party.
Beethoven's symphonies fall into two very broad categories. The odd numbers Third, Fifth, and Seventh, are dramatic. The even numbers Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth are more lighthearted. The Ninth is, of course, a different animal all together.
This Fourth was a romp and a half. Maestro Brown declared his allegiance to the Fourth and how it was his favorite Beethoven symphony except for all the others. I think I agree with him.
The final cello entrance at the end of the symphony sounded like a swarm of happy bees. It was a breathtaking sound and a fitting conclusion to a memorable festival.
I spoke with William Preucil about this year’s festival. Bill, as everyone seems to call him, is the concertmaster of the Festival Orchestra and taught several of the festival violinists while they were at conservatory in Cleveland, where he is also the concertmaster of the legendary Cleveland Orchestra.
“Everyone keeps saying that this year was one of the best ever. We always have a very good time playing together but this year we had different conductors for each concert. It was challenging and enjoyable to adapt to each conductor. We also had a concert without a conductor at all.”
There were four different conductors this year because David Atherton, the Founding Artistic Director, retired after 25 years with the festival.
I wanted to know who was in charge of putting the orchestra together.
“People have been coming back for years. Every now and then there is a scheduling conflict but we have a great pool of players to choose from. Maestro Atherton was usually the one who invited players to come to the festival. Every now and then he would ask me for a recommendation.”
What about all the happy faces in the orchestra?
“This orchestra plays with a lot of contact between the players. It just happens naturally. Musicians should look like they’re enjoying the music. That’s what great about this orchestra. We are able to express ourselves almost as if we’re playing chamber music. We love playing here in San Diego. If fact, the joke that always comes up at the end of the festival is what to do during the off-season. The off-season is the 49 weeks when we’re not in San Diego.”