Louis Lortie and his hands.
  • Louis Lortie and his hands.
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Jacobs Music Center/Copley Symphony Hall

750 B Street, Downtown San Diego


Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby

Someone tell please tell me that they don't like Ice, Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice. You might say you don't like it, but you'd be lying through your teeth. Everyone loves that song even if we don’t want to.

Now that we've established that, where the fudge were all of you on the night of November 15, because Sibelius is the one who wrote Ice, Ice Baby. Don't believe me? We have video evidence.

The program this weekend at the San Diego Symphony was a crowd pleaser. The only thing missing was the crowd. Make no mistake, y'all missed it.

I was shocked at the attendance. Just because we're not exactly sure how to say Saint-Säens doesn't mean he didn't write some of the best music we will ever hear. Do we say the "s" at the end of Saint-Säens? It doesn't follow the careful rule but since it's a proper name then yes, yes we do.

The other thing we do is go to hear his music whenever possible. His Fifth Piano Concerto is straight-up entertainment.

Trust me, I understand. Orchestral music is sometimes communicated poorly by those who would serve it. As soon as I started reading pianist Louis Lortie's bio, I understood why folks might not be excited. "...Louise Lortie has attracted critical acclaim across Europe, Asia, and the United States."

Please excuse me while I scratch my eyes out, because that sentence has no meaning. What the crap does that mean? Think about it for a while and I think we can agree that it's ridiculous.

Louis Lortie made love to our ears with his hands on the piano. He deserves a better description of his playing than "critical acclaim."


Sibelius : Symphony N° 1 (mvt. III)


Sibelius : Symphony N° 1 (mvt. IV)

The big theme drops at the nine minute mark

The big theme drops at the nine minute mark

His promotional photo seems a bit dramatic until we hear and see him play. There is something about his hands. Just like there's something about a sprinter's stride.

Every sprinter in the Olympics is fast but some of them have strides that look faster or smoother.

Maybe that is what was going on with Lortie's hands. All world-class pianists have a staggering technique but his hands looked different. It’s difficult to quantify but the way his hands moved prompted a feeling of ease and enjoyment.

Ravel’s La valse was there and it is a tremendous piece of music. Much has been written about it and Ravel’s interpretation of Viennese Waltz. Carl Schorske writes:

“At the close of World War I, Maurice Ravel recorded in La Valse about the violent death of the nineteenth-century world. The waltz, long the symbol of gay Vienna, became in the composer's hands a frantic danse macabre.”

Although Ravel said, “I feel this work a kind of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, linked in my mind with the impression of a fantastic whirl of destiny.” That can be taken any number of ways — none of which matters because the meaning of the music is based on how each individual feels while listening to it.

The performance on Saturday made me feel good and I felt more of Ravel’s sense of humor present than the destruction of Habsburg Austria. I suppose if I were a Habsburg I would have felt differently.

As mentioned at the top of this article, Sibelius got some airtime. His First Symphony has often been called Tchaikovsky’s Seventh Symphony. Some mean it as a compliment, others as a criticism. Whatever the case, it’s an effective and emotional piece of music.

When the big theme hit us in the final movement, it was intense. It was like being in love for the first time — or the last time. If anyone had a cold heart, it should have melted at that moment.

The performance throughout the evening was beautiful and like I said, San Diego, you missed it.

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Garrett Harris Nov. 18, 2014 @ 9:45 a.m.

So we're clear--the third movement of the Sibelius has a musical figure throughout that sounds like Under Pressure or Ice, Ice, Baby...and when I put it that way, it sounds idiotic. Well, there it is.


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