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Arabella Steinbacher - Beethoven Violin Concerto

As of June 20, the Mainly Mozart Festival is done for 2015. The final concert was a study in contrasting styles of music. Or perhaps I should say contrasting moods instead of style.

The entire first half of the concert was Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. This is Beethoven at his most contemplative. The opening statement of the solo violin is lyrical and reflective instead of impressive. Even in the more intricate sections Beethoven appears to be exploring relationships.

Tradition tells us to think about concertos as conversations between the solo part and the orchestra. That is so dispassionate. I’m guessing it was a Victorian musicologist who came up with such a sterile idea.

Beethoven’s music wasn’t a conversation — it was a relationship. It was an affair. It was an interaction far beyond the confines of a conversation. Conversations are part of a relationship, yes. However a relationship is also traveling together to new places, eating together, sleeping together and a hundred other things which create a relationship. To call this concerto a conversation would only be scratching the surface.

Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma played her part almost as if she were outside herself. She appeared to be engaged with Beethoven on a level we seldom encounter.

Musicians often speak of letting the music come through them, but in this case it was apparent that Beethoven’s music was coming through her in a pure state. This experience was unsullied by ego or an effort to impress. It was Beethoven via Lamsma as opposed to Beethoven a la Lamsma.

The second half of the concert was a rare J. C. Bach symphony and the famous Mozart Symphony No. 40. This orchestra is such a polite organism.

They went out of their way to not pull focus from the soloist during the Beethoven — compromise also a part of relationship — but in the second half they let it all hang out.

The tempo of the Mozart was aggressive, perhaps even, dare I say, dangerous. Maestro Francis was taking no prisoners. If you’ve got an Aston Martin, such as this orchestra, you’ve got to drive it fast. You’ve got to step on the gas and get "all sideways" in the turns. Perhaps Francis has been taking lessons from The Stig.

Whatever the case may be, the performance was one to remember.

Now we enter the 49-week wait for the mountaintop to return to San Diego in June of 2016.

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