Pianist Conrad Tao played Beethoven’s explosive cadenzas.
  • Pianist Conrad Tao played Beethoven’s explosive cadenzas.
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The sun was setting in Beethoven’s Symphony No.6 out beyond the reaches of the Vienna Woods, which extend to the north and southwest of the “city of music”. The final glow of the music disappeared and the 2019 Mainly Mozart Festival came to an end. As an employee of the festival, I felt a sense of accomplishment for my small part in such a grand conclusion.


Salieri praises Mozart’s score

Excerpt from <em>Amadeus</em>

Excerpt from Amadeus

As a connoisseur of musical experiences, I began 50 weeks of impatiently waiting for the next concert. It’s on June 6, 2020.

The final stretch of the festival started on Thursday, June 20, with an orchestral concert featuring local legend of the classical guitar Pepe Romero. Romero performed Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.

There is no one closer to the music of Rodrigo than Pepe Romero, given his 50-year relationship with the composer. The audience sat in reverence at the feet of the master as he narrated the story of Rodrigo’s grief and subsequent hope after the loss of a child. The title of the concert was “Love, Life, and Loss.”

The repertoire for the evening included Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Mozart’s Symphony No. 36, and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. The concluding piece was unlisted on the program.

Music Director Michael Francis announced Ravel’s Pour une Infante Defunte as something of an encore. After the concert the orchestra members were abuzz about the horn solo which opens the piece and its execution by Andrew Bain, principal horn of the LA Philharmonic.

On Friday, June 21, I heard a piece of music I’ve been waiting to hear performed since I was 16 years old and first saw the movie Amadeus. The piece in question was Mozart’s Gran Partita Serenade. This 50-minute wind marathon was performed by 13 members of the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra at the Scripps Research Auditorium, formerly the Auditorium at TSRI, formerly the Neuroscience Institute.

The movie makes use of the third movement of the Gran Partita. As Salieri peruses Mozart’s score he soliloquizes about hearing “the voice of God.” In a festival full of musical delights, none exceeded this concert. After a three-decade wait, my experience of the Gran Partita was indeed godly.

Now for Saturday, June 22. As coincidence would have it, two of my all-time favorite pieces were on the program. Those pieces were Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. Preceding them was Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 and it damn near stole the show.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 proved to be an ideal transition to Beethoven’s sixth. The 20th was Beethoven’s favorite concerto and pianist Conrad Tao played Beethoven’s explosive cadenzas. Tao emphasized the stylistic idiosyncrasies of Beethoven during these cadenzas.

For anyone who saw this concert, the string playing during the storm in Beethoven’s sixth will be remembered for a long time. The visual and aural effect electrified the Balboa Theatre with lightning leaping out of the flurry of fingers and bows upon the stage.

As the storm subsided, a prayer of thanksgiving filled the hall bestowing a benediction upon the audience, the festival, and San Diego.

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