Ken Leighton 12:30 p.m., Oct. 21
The Pooch Is Okay: San Diego Symphony
The pooch didn’t get screwed but it was close. I made the claim that I didn’t care what happened in Bruckner’s 4th Symphony this weekend. As soon as the performance started, I started to care.
The first item on the San Diego Symphony’s concert was Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5: The Turkish. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It was written when Mozart was 19. I would venture to say that if Haydn or Christian Bach had written this music it would probably be buried and lost. Since it carries the Mozart brand it gets some play.
Mozart’s Turkish Concerto was his last for violin and his most famous piano concertos were still 10 years away. That is to say, Mozart was years removed from what we expect to hear in one of his concertos.
Violin soloist Augustin Hadelich was technically proficient but his performance was far from a revelation. Hadelich is in his late 20’s and appears to be in the stage of development where technique is his focus. His musicality is still budding.
Hadelich did offer an encore of Paganini’s Caprice No. 24--aka a technical tour de force.
Now we get to Bruckner. Jahja Ling conducted it well. Bruckner can’t be too fast. That’s just how it is. Bruckner cannot be too fast, ever. However, it can’t be too slow or it becomes a long and painful death. Maestro Ling found the sweet spot with his tempi.
I hate to break it down this way but the strings played beautifully, the woodwinds played accurately, and the brass was half brilliant--half exhausted sounding. To be fair, the orchestra did perform five times this week.
The string sections have been a source of immense pleasure this season. In this Bruckner symphony, particularly in the second movement, the violas were given a chance to play the “big tune” and they did themselves proud. The violins were content to pluck their way through the second movement until Bruckner revealed his hand near the conclusion of the movement. Yes, the cellos and basses were phenomenal as well.
I was nervous for the brass as soon as I saw Bruckner on the schedule. There were moments when the brass was right where they needed to be. The thunderous conclusion of the first movement was all anyone could ever hope for.
The climax of the second movement sounded out of balance. Since I’ve only heard this symphony live once before, I listened to several live recordings in preparation. I chose older recordings which should be freer from technical manipulation. Yes, the brass was out of balance in the second movement. The French horns were dominant while the trumpets were covered up. I’m not sure how that’s possible but that’s what I heard.
The third movement was nigh unto flawless but throughout the entire performance I wanted more trumpet. I've never wanted that before but come on; Wagner nicknamed Bruckner “The Trumpet”.
If this concert was a pass/fail course, the San Diego Symphony passed. However, after a solid performance of Mahler’s 9th and a Brahms 4th that was a revelation, Bruckner exposed areas in which the San Diegans can improve.
I hope to see more Bruckner on the schedule. The 6th would be great. I think the 6th is under appreciated. That could be because Bruckner's 7-9 are the end of the world.