There are few artists which can collect that many souls into one place at one time.
The entire balcony was full on Thursday, October 4, at Symphony Hall. There are few artists which can collect that many souls into one place at one time. Pianist Lang Lang is one such artist.
The final movement is a beast, but Joyce Yang was equal to the task.
The event was a special engagement at The San Diego Symphony. Conducting the proceedings was repeat guest conductor Edo de Waart. Maestro de Waart has been the principal guest conductor in all but title over the past few seasons.
Although I’m not associated with the San Diego Symphony I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment based on the attendance. Lang Lang has filled the auditorium in years gone by but this felt different. I really didn’t care much about the quality of the concert or the programming because I was buzzing about the attendance. Maybe the arts do still matter.
Had the programming and the performance been more significant perhaps the attendance would have been lower on my list of enjoyable aspects. The program was a Berlioz overture which served as a placeholder—in my estimation—Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, and Ottorino Respighi's The Fountains of Rome.
Lang Lang played the solo on the Mozart concerto. To my ears it sounded as if he played Mozart in the style of Debussy. I’ll leave it at that except to say that my concert mate, an almost accomplished pianist, really, really, liked it.
Of Respighi’s Roman Trilogy, The Fountains of Rome is the most introspective. The other two, The Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, are on a grander scale. Yet as the vesper-bell toned in the distance as The Fountains of Rome came to a close I found myself full of longing for a tradition which I’ve never known.
I wondered what that bell has meant to the people of Rome as it rang out over the past 1,000 years. I wondered if it still means anything today. As the bell tone faded I felt as though I should be cloistered amongst frowning stone walls while listening to the whispers of mosaic floors.
Saturday, October 6, was the official beginning of The Jacobs Masterworks Series. Edo de Waart still conducted but pianist Joyce Yang was the featured soloist. The program was Nocturne by Michael Ippolito, Edvard Grieg Piano Concerto No. 1, and Beethoven Symphony No. 7. Aw yeah!
Ippolito’s Nocturne was first. It was expressive. I listened to it again on Ippolito’s website. I might even listen to it a third time. That’s super high praise when it comes to me and contemporary music.
Grieg’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is impossible to resist. There are those who might claim that this concerto is ear candy at best but I’m not among them. They are a sad, sad lot.
Joyce Yang is almost an ideal soloist for this piece. Her great strength is in the lyrical quality of her playing and that lines up well with the lyrical strength of Grieg’s concerto. The final movement is a beast but Ms. Yang was equal to the task.
I have a theory. I’d say conscientiousness is probably the number one quality a world class horn section needs. To ensure we’re all understanding the term, here’s the definition:
“Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, or vigilant. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well, and to take obligations to others seriously. Conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly.”
Read between the lines of this theory if you must.
All in all the performance of The Seventh was disjointed and even threatened to fall apart during the third movement but the bass section held to their part and rectified the situation. However, the blessed violas, my favorite section, “showed out” during the second movement when they introduced the famous countermelody to the opening pulses. Beautiful.