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Tough love at Summerfest

Certain performances may be just beyond our reach

Deborah Hoffman
Deborah Hoffman

“Besides the Faure, that concert was tough. I’m glad you couldn’t make it. It would have put stress on our friendship.”

“Hahaha. Best critique ever. Put that in your review. After the Mainly Mozart introduction our friendship is solid for a long time.”

That was the brief exchange of text messages between myself and a friend I had invited to The La Jolla Music Society Summerfest on Sunday, August 9th. I'm going to write more than that but my text message up there at the top pretty much says it all.

As you might imagine, I got my friend to go to the Mainly Mozart Festival this year and he went bananas for it. After Saturday night’s concert at the Summerfest I thought I could once again share the blessed gospel of chamber music.

Sunday’s concert was something of a memorial for harpist Deborah Hoffman who died of LAM disease. There was a roundabout explanation of why the program was chosen. There were two pieces which included harp. One of them was written by Deborah Hoffman’s brother, Joel.

Side note: anyone who will be speaking at an event with the prestige of The La Jolla Music Society needs to be active in Toastmasters before hand.

Debussy was the first composer up. His Danse sacree et danse profane is not Claire de lune or Prelude to the afternoon of a fawn. This is hard core impressionism and it’s not really easy listening even though there is a harp involved.

Part of the issue is that piece really needs a full string ensemble instead of a quartet. The texture of a string quartet isn't thick enough to support what Debussy is doing with his harmonics.

Video:

Debussy Danses Sacrée Et Profane

Video:

Claude Debussy: Danse sacrée et danse profane

Following Debussy was Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major. This is even more hardcore impressionism. Whenever you thought Ravel was finally letting his music arrive somewhere he would shift and pull the rug out from under your feet.

You know that feeling of “Ah” when a composer finally let’s the resolution occur? Wagner started the whole thing with Tristan where he makes us wait five hours before the opening measures of the piece resolve in the closing measures.

That “Ah” moment never really happened in the first half of this concert. That’s just the nature of the music chosen.

After intermission Joel Hoffman came out and talked about his sister and the music he wrote in her memory of Deborah, for Deborah. The lower case letters were how the piece was titled.

Then we heard the music. This was a world premiere and as such we didn’t get any resolution.

Some people left after this piece. I can only guess they were mentally exhausted.

The concluding piece of music was by Faure. God bless Faure.

This was a difficult concert to review. I feel as though maybe I’m not sophisticated enough.

Imagine, if you will, repeatedly singing “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti.” and never getting to the concluding “do”. That feeling permeated this concert. It's not about good or bad. It's just beyond my current ability to listen.

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Deborah Hoffman
Deborah Hoffman

“Besides the Faure, that concert was tough. I’m glad you couldn’t make it. It would have put stress on our friendship.”

“Hahaha. Best critique ever. Put that in your review. After the Mainly Mozart introduction our friendship is solid for a long time.”

That was the brief exchange of text messages between myself and a friend I had invited to The La Jolla Music Society Summerfest on Sunday, August 9th. I'm going to write more than that but my text message up there at the top pretty much says it all.

As you might imagine, I got my friend to go to the Mainly Mozart Festival this year and he went bananas for it. After Saturday night’s concert at the Summerfest I thought I could once again share the blessed gospel of chamber music.

Sunday’s concert was something of a memorial for harpist Deborah Hoffman who died of LAM disease. There was a roundabout explanation of why the program was chosen. There were two pieces which included harp. One of them was written by Deborah Hoffman’s brother, Joel.

Side note: anyone who will be speaking at an event with the prestige of The La Jolla Music Society needs to be active in Toastmasters before hand.

Debussy was the first composer up. His Danse sacree et danse profane is not Claire de lune or Prelude to the afternoon of a fawn. This is hard core impressionism and it’s not really easy listening even though there is a harp involved.

Part of the issue is that piece really needs a full string ensemble instead of a quartet. The texture of a string quartet isn't thick enough to support what Debussy is doing with his harmonics.

Video:

Debussy Danses Sacrée Et Profane

Video:

Claude Debussy: Danse sacrée et danse profane

Following Debussy was Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major. This is even more hardcore impressionism. Whenever you thought Ravel was finally letting his music arrive somewhere he would shift and pull the rug out from under your feet.

You know that feeling of “Ah” when a composer finally let’s the resolution occur? Wagner started the whole thing with Tristan where he makes us wait five hours before the opening measures of the piece resolve in the closing measures.

That “Ah” moment never really happened in the first half of this concert. That’s just the nature of the music chosen.

After intermission Joel Hoffman came out and talked about his sister and the music he wrote in her memory of Deborah, for Deborah. The lower case letters were how the piece was titled.

Then we heard the music. This was a world premiere and as such we didn’t get any resolution.

Some people left after this piece. I can only guess they were mentally exhausted.

The concluding piece of music was by Faure. God bless Faure.

This was a difficult concert to review. I feel as though maybe I’m not sophisticated enough.

Imagine, if you will, repeatedly singing “do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti.” and never getting to the concluding “do”. That feeling permeated this concert. It's not about good or bad. It's just beyond my current ability to listen.

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Comments
3

This IS a half-assed review, but the essential truth is there: that Sunday concert was an uninspired dud and was only saved by the last exquisite selection, Gabriel Faure's Piano Quartet No.2 in G Minor, Op. 45. The brilliant musicians were pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violinist Augustin Hadelich, Father Christmas-looking violist Ori Kam, and cellist Andrew Shulman.

I feel vindicated to read this critical opinion, because I felt the same way and so did a lady I sat next to last night at a redemptive extravaganza of all-baroque works from Germany and Italy, featuring expressive tyro-violinist Aisslinn Nosky and a gorgeous turquoise and gold- harpsichord with bucolic scenes painted inside the lid. To die for.

Aug. 12, 2015

Thanks for the support monaghan. You're right, this IS a half-assed review. This was almost the most disappointing concert I've been to all year. However, it's difficult to say that when someone's family is there and on the stage and wrote the music. I felt manipulated.

Aug. 17, 2015

Garrett, music reviewing is not for the faint of heart. Go for your own truth. "Manipulated" is an understatement: the audience should have been paid to sit through that Hoffmann-freres insider-baseball treacle.

Aug. 19, 2015

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