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Last week I said the people putting the programs together at San Diego Symphony deserved a raise. After going to the Rhapsodies concert both Friday night and Sunday afternoon this weekend, I’m demanding a raise for them. I think that means a raise for Jahja Ling. I also think I might be overestimating my influence here.

Friday night my dad and I attended. I didn’t grow up with Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. I grew up with Beetles, Beach Boys, and Bill Gaither.

While we did have an appreciation for classical music, I was the only one who played it on purpose and that purpose was to create my own Nerf-hoop slam-dunk montages to the loudest music I could find. There was a lot of 1812 Overture played.

With this in mind I was a little apprehensive about how my dad would take the concert. He loved it from start to finish. He marveled about the composers’ abilities to write for such big orchestras. He “bravo-ed” and whistled for pianist/rock star Jon Kimura Parker. He even commented, “I think the trombones played twice in that one. Do they get paid the same?” I didn’t know.

What wasn’t to love? It is difficult to say which of the four rhapsodies was most enjoyable. Each piece had a sense of humor that made us chuckle. Each piece had beautiful sections that ravished our ears. Each piece had immense and dramatic sections that blew us back in our seats.

The orchestra and maestro Ling flourished in this 20th Century repertoire. When we get accustomed to hearing an orchestra play with the energy and crispness of the San Diego Symphony we get spoiled. I think I like being spoiled.

Between the Friday night concert and the Sunday afternoon concert I went to hear a different ensemble play. The difference was as far as North is from South.

For the record, I’m having difficulties figuring out how to review that other ensemble. What to do? What to do?

Back to the varsity squad--Jon Kimura Parker was a love-monster at the piano. He teased us with the lead up to the “big theme” in the Rachmaninoff and played the Gershwin in his shirt sleeves. At the conclusion of both the Rachmaninoff and Rhapsody in Blue, he leapt to his feet, hustled over to maestro Ling and gave him a big bear hug. He even gave us an encore performance of what he called his "high school anthem"--Billy Joel’s Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.

From top to bottom this may have been San Diego Symphony’s best Masterworks concert this season. The opening concert of the Ravel Piano Concertos and Respighi’s Roman Festivals and the Dutchman Overture, Schumann Piano Concerto, and Brhams 4th Symphony concert are neck and neck with the rhapsodies.

We’ll talk about the differences between the Friday night and the Sunday afternoon concerts in the next post.

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