Shi Jing 9 a.m., Feb. 22
Symphony Plays Concert in Reverse
Local choral impresario, Krishan Oberoi, invited me to the symphony on Saturday night. I accepted.
The concert started off heavy and maneuvered to increasingly buoyant pieces of music.
Richard Strauss composed Metamorphasen: A Study for 23 Solo Strings, in the aftermath of The Allied bombings in World War II. It is in many ways a lament for the destruction of the symbols of German Culture.
This music exudes pathos and Strauss makes his intentions clear near the conclusion. In the score he writes the words, "In Memoriam" and then musically quotes a passage from the funeral march of Beethoven's third symphony The Eroica.
The strings of The San Diego Symphony achieved a level of sophisticated music making. The interpretation of conductor Pinchas Zukerman trended toward the brisk.
In a live performance, sustaining a piece of music like Metamorphasen is a dangerous game and a brisk tempo can keep the music in pathos instead of decaying to ponderous.
It is impossible to make this music sound trite, even with the quickest of tempos, and I've heard performances where the conductor has indulged in a slow tempo and the results are rarely fruitful and at times dreadful.
The Schumann Cello Concerto was okay. Maestro Zukerman's wife, Amanda Forsyth, was the cello soloist. When she walked on stage, her appearance was stunning with platinum-blond hair and blazing red dress.
Her playing was middle of the road. Some of her solo passages bordered on murkiness some bordered on brilliance.
The second half of the concert seemed to be a different night. After the heavy-hearted Metamorphasen and the average Schumann, Bach picked us up and dusted us off.
Maestro Zukerman played and conducted Bach's Violin Concerto in E Major. We witnessed what might be called "home base" for the maestro. Pinchas Zukerman has been a world-class violinist for nigh unto 40 years. Need I say more?
The concert closed with Mozart's Symphony No. 35: Haffner. Maestro Zukerman conducted without a score and the orchestra pounced on this gem of a symphony. The final Presto section of the symphony was dashed off at break-neck speed and dispensed a satisfying conclusion to the evening.
The program notes mentioned that this music was selected by Mozart to open an "academy of his own music". I found it interesting that this piece was selected to close the concert.
I liked the change is programing. The tradition is to move from lighter music to heavier and this program could have been reversed to be Bach, Mozart, Schumann, and Strauss which would have also taken us chronologically through these Germanic composers. The change up created a different experience.
There appeared to be a collection of symphony newbies in the audience. I say this because during the Bach, a faction in the audience applauded after the first movement.
I leaned over to Krishan and asked, "What's going on?" He didn't know. Venerable audience members amongst us shook their heads in resignation as a smaller group applauded after the second movement as well.
All in all, it is encouraging that there were audience members who were unfamiliar with the applause patterns at the symphony. It means there were new ears in the audience. It means the symphony, at least for that night, had attracted a new group of patrons.