Sameer Patel, Associate Conductor of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, made his subscription series debut with Liszt's Les Préludes, the fifth symphony of Sibelius, and the world premiere of Adam Schoenberg's violin concerto Orchard in Fog.

Les Préludes is one of 13 tone poems written by Liszt. He invented the single-movement form as a way to evoke specific scenes or moods. Liszt sites a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine in the score, but it appears it wasn't his original inspiration. Les Préludes is the adaptation of an overture written for an abandoned larger work based on a different text.

Liszt's after-the-fact association was just the first of many that have subsequently been made, most far removed from Lamartine's somber words. For those old enough, the tone poem's more heroic passages evoke memories of The Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, and Tom and Jerry cartoons!

Maestro Patel, conducting with smooth sweeping motions, had excellent control of the orchestra. Balances were good, and musical lines clear. But the solid result didn't make the most of Les Préludes' often thrilling musical depiction of desperate maidens rescued, aliens foiled and mice pursued.

Before the violin concerto that followed, I overheard a woman seated nearby BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Jacobs Music Centerexplaining to a companion that she had hesitated to attend the concert because Schoenberg was on the program. But no, it wasn't THAT Schoenberg. Adam is related to Arnold neither by genealogy nor musical style. His violin concerto has more in common with the tone poems of Liszt than the tone rows of Schoenberg. It was inspired by a photo of the apple orchard behind Adam's Massachusetts home, and is the musical description of the emotions of an aging man as he visits the orchard. The mood is melancholy in the first movement--tonal and achingly beautiful. The second recalls younger, happier days. It is reminiscent of Copland's music for a hoedown, though edgier and less authentic sounding. The third returns to the present and gradual acceptance that life is nearing its end.

Near the beginning of the concluding work by Sibelius the French horns had an increasingly rare moment of struggle with intonation and accuracy, and the piece, though again otherwise well played, sometimes lacked momentum and never reached its potential heights of glorious majesty.

BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Jacobs Music CenterThe evening's high point was violinist Anne Akiko Meyers' performance of the Schoenberg concerto. The exceptional musician commissioned the piece and has commissioned and premiered many other contemporary works. Her tone projected beautifully in Copley Symphony Hall's less than ideal acoustics. Even the violin's frequent high notes were strong and full, and Patel's accompaniment was flawless.

BWW Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Jacobs Music CenterThe San Diego Symphony recently announced that conductor Rafael Payare has been named to replace the retired Jahja Ling. The 37-year-old Venezuelan will make his San Diego debut as music director in January. Like Los Angeles's Gustavo Dudamel, he is a product of Venezuela's El Sistema program. One of more than ten candidates considered, Payare was outstanding in his guest appearance in San Diego earlier this year. He had the orchestra at its best in exciting performances of an overture by Berlioz, Prokofiev's fifth symphony, and the difficult percussion concerto of contemporary composer Roberto Sierra.

For more about the newly appointed music director, future concert schedules, and ticketing information visit the San Diego Symphony Orchestra's website.

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From This Author Ron Bierman

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