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The San Diego Symphony put on a well-balanced, well-played, and well-received concert on Saturday night at Symphony Hall.

The program was Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, and Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique.

The Verdi was the first piece and it was good. All the pieces were in place; the big forza theme sounded glorious, the delicate sections were tender but I was expecting a soap opera. With this overture I'm expecting a trashy, cheap, overly sentimental procession of Italianette blood and guts--but that's just me.

This performance was refined and expressive and wonderful but un-soiled. There were moments when things got down and dirty and I loved that.

Mozart was next. The Piano Concerto No. 21 might be the perfect specimen of Mozart's art. The piano and strings have a delightful conversation while the woodwinds and an occasional horn philosophize about it.

Soloist Jeremy Denk played his part and appeared to enjoy every single note. I could use terms such as "brilliant", "lyrical", or "insightful" but those words are silly and almost meaningless.

I think quirky and unexpected work better and are more complimentary. Let me be clear, quirky is a complement in a world which is gorging itself on milk and toast and reality TV. Quirky is a wrinkle, a wink in a different direction, it is a chance to experience a subtle bump in the road.

I was surprised by the cadenzas Denk chose to include. They were Mozartian with a dash of Gershwin? Perhaps? I'm not sure but I liked 'em. They were quirky and unexpected.

The program mentioned that Denk has a popular blog entitled Think Denk so I checked it out during the intermission. I chuckled aloud and found myself agreeing with his quips more than a few times.


How good it is to know that a musician like Jeremy Denk is ball-step-chaining his way along while the rest of us mark time.

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