BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OPENS THE 2018-19 SEASON at the Jacobs Music Center

BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OPENS THE 2018-19 SEASON at the Jacobs Music Center

Pianist Lang Lang all but disappeared from the concert stage late last year while recovering from an arm injury caused by intensely rushed practice of Ravel's concerto for left hand only. Now back touring, he was the main draw for the opening of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra's 2018-19 season. His performance proved all is well and why he is one of the few superstar classical-music attractions. With less flamboyance, conductor Edo de Waart confirmed his formidable international reputation is also deserved, and the orchestra responded with passion to his authoritative direction.

The program, at little more than an hour with no intermission, was shortened to allow time for related season-opening (and fund raising) festivities. Orchestra members performed in formal garb appropriate for a night of celebration. The bright cheerfulness and romantic ardor of Berlioz' Béatrice and Bénédict overture, conducted with vigorous precision by Maestro de Waart, was a perfect start.

Lang Lang's exquisitely crafted interpretation of Mozart's 24th piano concerto followed. It is one of the most introspective of his concertos, especially as interpreted

BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OPENS THE 2018-19 SEASON at the Jacobs Music Center
Lang Lang (Broadway World photo)

by Lang. The pianist is known for rapturously emotional gestures which, for some, detract from his performances, but they are perfectly consistent with the Romantic repertoire for which he is best known. Similar gestures and interpretations are more arguably inappropriate for Mozart, and Lang's Mozart is more romantic poetry than classical rigor. But when performers show genuine emotion as they play, it makes it far more likely the audience will too, regardless of repertoire.

For the concerto, de Waart led a smaller orchestra more typical of Mozart's era. That allowed Lang to apply as delicate a touch to the keys as I've ever seen without the solo line becoming lost in the orchestra. During quieter passages he had a gentle, beautifully liquid sound, and forceful passages with difficult trills and runs were managed with virtuosic flare.

The encore was a Horowitz-like arrangement of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" with lots of rubato and impishly impertinent mild dissonance, an exclamation point on a crowd-pleasing performance.

The colorful full-length gowns of the orchestra's female musicians were a visual complement to the spectacular orchestral colors of the concluding Fountains of Rome by Respighi. De Waart led a performance of impressive glittering brilliance. Strings were silky smooth. Silvery woodwinds coiled seductively in a musical image of falling, splashing water, and de Waart's management of dynamics produced climaxes with exciting impact. When five French horns entered in perfect unison with heroic power it seemed a stirring promise of what is to come in the season to follow.

Rafael Payare's appointment as the orchestra's new music director and conductor was announced last year, but

BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OPENS THE 2018-19 SEASON at the Jacobs Music Center
Rafael Payare

previous commitments have pushed his first scheduled appearance with the Symphony into January 2019. It will be a challenge for him to top what comes before he arrives if conductors, soloists and orchestra musicians continue to perform as well as they did on opening night. Maestro Payare is inheriting the keys to a roaring smooth-handling vehicle.

Uncredited photos courtesy of San Diego Symphony.

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From This Author Ron Bierman

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