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San Diego Symphony brings Sibelius to Escondido

A Vast Similitude

Image by Peter Rigaud

It was nice to be back in the concert hall on Thursday, February 2. It had been since before Christmas that I had darkened the door of a theater. The concert was of the San Diego Symphony and was held at the California Center for the Arts Escondido.

The concert started with the obligatory new piece of music. This time it was Winter Sky by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. There were some interesting melodic elements to start the piece, but it was yet another generic piece of modernity. Perhaps this is my main issue with the moderns. It doesn’t matter what country the composer comes from.

Once upon a time, a Finnish composer, such as Jean Sibelius, had a Finnishness about his music. An Austrian composer, such as Mozart, had a musical identity that was Viennese in nature. Elgar was England. Tchaikovsky was Russia. Verdi was Italy and on and on. Modern music lacks a recognizable identity. Even if we take nationalism out of the equation, the identities of these composers are instantly recognizable.

It’s not an impossible task. Modern composers such as John Adams have managed to create a musical identity that the audience can connect with. Identity in music is quite important and it is disappearing at an alarming rate.

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Speaking of Mozart, his Violin Concerto No. 3 was the second piece in the concert. San Diego Symphony concertmaster Jeff Thayer blest us with the solo. I say that with all earnestness. Mr. Thayer turned in a terrific performance. The orchestra played its accompaniment well with solid Mozartian phrasing and immaculate intonation.

Speaking of Sibelius, his Symphony No. 2 was the concluding piece of the concert. It is at this point that I mention the conductor. Finnish conductor Tarmo Peltokoski made his U.S. debut with this concert. The 22-year-old is quickly establishing himself and he most certainly convinced me to bend the knee.

Video:

Sibelius Symphony No. 2 - Finale

Sibelius’s second symphony is a difficult piece of music. It is episodic and can feel disjointed even in the hands of great conductors. Peltokoski held Sibelius in his capable hands and brought the house down.

I don’t want to get too carried away here but this performance reminded me of a passage by Walt Whitman.

“A vast similitude interlocks all,...

all identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,

All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,

This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,

And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.”

Such was the conducting of Peltokoski. His conducting spanned and compactly held all the vast and various identities of Sibelius’s music.

This concert was so convincing that I have tentative plans to go again on Friday night.

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Image by Peter Rigaud

It was nice to be back in the concert hall on Thursday, February 2. It had been since before Christmas that I had darkened the door of a theater. The concert was of the San Diego Symphony and was held at the California Center for the Arts Escondido.

The concert started with the obligatory new piece of music. This time it was Winter Sky by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. There were some interesting melodic elements to start the piece, but it was yet another generic piece of modernity. Perhaps this is my main issue with the moderns. It doesn’t matter what country the composer comes from.

Once upon a time, a Finnish composer, such as Jean Sibelius, had a Finnishness about his music. An Austrian composer, such as Mozart, had a musical identity that was Viennese in nature. Elgar was England. Tchaikovsky was Russia. Verdi was Italy and on and on. Modern music lacks a recognizable identity. Even if we take nationalism out of the equation, the identities of these composers are instantly recognizable.

It’s not an impossible task. Modern composers such as John Adams have managed to create a musical identity that the audience can connect with. Identity in music is quite important and it is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Speaking of Mozart, his Violin Concerto No. 3 was the second piece in the concert. San Diego Symphony concertmaster Jeff Thayer blest us with the solo. I say that with all earnestness. Mr. Thayer turned in a terrific performance. The orchestra played its accompaniment well with solid Mozartian phrasing and immaculate intonation.

Speaking of Sibelius, his Symphony No. 2 was the concluding piece of the concert. It is at this point that I mention the conductor. Finnish conductor Tarmo Peltokoski made his U.S. debut with this concert. The 22-year-old is quickly establishing himself and he most certainly convinced me to bend the knee.

Video:

Sibelius Symphony No. 2 - Finale

Sibelius’s second symphony is a difficult piece of music. It is episodic and can feel disjointed even in the hands of great conductors. Peltokoski held Sibelius in his capable hands and brought the house down.

I don’t want to get too carried away here but this performance reminded me of a passage by Walt Whitman.

“A vast similitude interlocks all,...

all identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,

All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,

This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,

And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.”

Such was the conducting of Peltokoski. His conducting spanned and compactly held all the vast and various identities of Sibelius’s music.

This concert was so convincing that I have tentative plans to go again on Friday night.

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