Since we are at the end of a decade, I’m feeling an obligation to name the top concerts I’ve experienced in the past 10 years. That’s a lot of pressure so I’ve decided to ease into it by sharing the three best concerts I witnessed in 2019.
In years past, the three best concerts were clear. This year, the best concert was head and shoulders the best concert but two and three weren’t as obvious. To be honest, there aren’t a two and three but rather two very different yet equal concerts tied for two.
The first of the two was the Miró Quartet at the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest on Saturday, August 11, 2019. The all-Beethoven concert featuring an early, middle and late quartet by the master, was all anyone could wish for.
The setting was intimate and elegant at the Conrad, in the heart of La Jolla, and the house was full. The programming was all-Beethoven. The playing was accurate and expressive.
In 2019, The San Diego Symphony finally gave us a Vaughan Williams symphony, concert number two. The first half of the concert was underwhelming as a consequence of the repertoire. It was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 which is his weakest piano concerto. I expressed some doubts as to whether or not the conductor, Robert Spanos, was going to exhibit any personality.
For Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 2, maestro Spanos exhibited a magisterial conducting personality which led to one of the most satisfying concert experiences I’ve witnessed at Symphony Hall.
My top concert of the year was two concerts at the Mainly Mozart Festival. I am an employee of the festival but I’ve expounded upon the merits of the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra for years within these pages.
Beethoven is a player in this narrative. The final concert of the 2019 Mainly Mozart Festival included Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. No one exceeds the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and Music Director Michael Francis in this repertoire.
Earlier in the festival, Francis programmed Mozart’s David Penitente with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The David Penitente is Mozart’s reworking of his unfinished Mass in C Minor. Mozart adds some difficult solo sections for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and tenor for David Penitente. The trio assembled by Mainly Mozart handled their business.
Augustin Hadelich might be the greatest violinist in the world. It is difficult to imagine anything exceeding his performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Mainly Mozart.
All the requisite elements aligned to perfection in this concert. The orchestra, maestro Francis, Hadelich, the venue, and the audience were in such harmony that the Muse herself decided to grace the concert with her presence.