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Fireworks incuded!

The Rady Shell (Gary Payne)
The Rady Shell (Gary Payne)

Classical music is supposed to be serious, difficult to understand, intimidating, right? Who are all these people laughing at what the conductor says, ordering bottles of wine, jumping up to applaud, even, gasp, clapping between movements. Was I amongst Philistines? Had I trustingly followed Waze to the wrong concert? Wait, let me see the program again. No, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dvorak, that sounds right. OMG! It's gone too far. Now they're exploding fireworks louder than cannons above the orchestra and from ships in the bay right next to the audience. And the audience is actually on its feet cheering!

Tongue in cheek aside. Hmm, where does your tongue go when you put it aside? But I digress. An emphatic NO! Classical music doesn't need to be stuffy or intimidating. Thanks to critics and composers trained by some academics, it can be. But it can also evoke every deep emotion people ever have from bitter grief to ecstatic joy. The Summer Pops tradition of fireworks and cannons at the end of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture comes close to the latter end of that spectrum when in the hands of a good conductor and orchestra, and that's exactly what the Rady Shell had on this night.

Conductor Yaniv Dinur got off to a lively start with Dvořák's Carnival Overture. The San Diego

Yaniv Dinur

Symphony was in top form as he set a brisk pace and then accelerated into a finale of rousing brass to bring delighted cheers from a packed audience, an audience already psyched in anticipation of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture as the concert finale.

Dinur conducted with vigorous arm and hand motions. keeping tempos on the quick side throughout the program, pushing the orchestra's virtuosity to get the most out of lush melodies and exciting brass. Tchaikovsky made an early appearance with the Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy and its touching main theme. Dinur found the beauty in that theme and the violence of clashing swords as Romeo and Tibalt duel to the death. The fourth movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade provided another

Jeff Thayer

helping of beautiful themes and violent tragedy. Concert Master Jeff Thayer's violin beguiled with the sinuous main melody and the full orchestra had me feeling roiling waves and stormy spray as Sinbad's ship hit the rocks.

Khachaturian's richly exotic and melodic Masquerade Suite in five movements opened the second half. Woodwinds from high-pitched piccolo to low-pitch bassoon had nailed every solo appearance in the program, and the suite showcased the section's synchronization in duet passages of fluttering, blistering speed. The smooth synchronization during passages for four and five French horns, given the instrument's notorious crankiness, was equally impressive-no wobbles or flubbed entries.

And then the anticipated moment arrived-Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, a piece more often heard at outdoor concerts on the Fourth of July or to close a season with a literal BANG! Dinur, who'd gotten laughs all evening with good-natured banter appropriate to the occasion, introduced the piece by explaining that it was the work of a Russian composer celebrating a Russian victory over the French, "What could be more American!?"

After the ominous beginning, Dinur guided his troops through a gradual rise in tension until the moment when the French "Marseillaise" is challenged by the brass in a triumphant call reminiscent of the Lone Ranger coming to the rescue. Total victory comes with God save the Tsar! (Perhaps renamed God save Putin when now performed in Russia.) This accompanied by ringing chimes and BOOMING fireworks that nearly drowned out the band.

Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops once said, "Who doesn't like a great orchestral composition where you get to blow things up in the middle of it?"

It was an evening of familiar fare, but if this be pandering, pour it on. It was a lot of fun, something the classical music industry ought to provide more often if it hopes to again see the level of popularity it once had.

For Rady Shell concert and ticket information visit The San Diego Symphony website.

Uncredited photos compliments of San Diego Symphony.

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From This Author Ron Bierman