Evelyn Grimm 10:30 a.m., Feb. 18
Stank Face: San Diego Symphony Gets Nasty
As the final sonority of the brass lingered in the air of the hall, I felt as if in some way we had become a better people. I felt as though all of us had received an opportunity to exceed our current state of humanity.
The San Diego Symphony started their Saturday offering with Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture. I'll admit I was apprehensive as Maestro Ling stepped to the podium.
I've listened to The Flying Dutchman Overture at least 200 times--no exaggeration. I also performed the entire opera five times as a chorister with San Diego Opera and I remembered the overture being a bit, shall I say, inconsistent?
My concerns were short lived as the brass landed the first phrase while the strings and timpani devoured the swelling and surging of the opening section. The tempo was almost plodding but I decided to consider it indulgent instead.
At a few specific points Maestro Ling appeared to be off his game but the orchestra covered for him. Although, a minority of the brass and woodwind sections were somewhat squishy.
It didn't matter. The performance brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion because it was obvious that the conductor and players "got it".
In the sections where Wagner "brings it", I caught myself making a "stank face". Stank face is the face one makes when something is just down right nasty--in a good way.
Stephon Marbury gives us an excellent example of stank face in this short clip.
Following Wagner was Schumann and his A Minor Piano Concerto. Pianist Andrew von Oeyen looked like he was seven-feet-tall as he approached the piano. One thing is for sure, he played as if he were seven-feet-tall.
The audience responded to his playing with a standing ovation.
The final piece of music played by the San Diego Symphony on Saturday night was Brahms' Third Symphony. Jahja Ling went ahead and conducted the Brahms without a score.
His confidence was evident in the orchestra's response. Gone were the squishy rhythms of the brass and woodwinds from the Wagner. The orchestra played with confident abandon.
To my eyes and ears it was one of those rare performances where the spirit of the music and the composer bled through the performance and into the experience of the audience.
If it were not for Moby Dick rehearsals this afternoon, I'd be right back at the symphony living the life of a parasite and feeding off the talent, energy, and artistry of the conductor and orchestra.
Pianist Andrew von Oeyen on PBS.