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Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Rady Shell

Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Rady Shell

Glorious Melodies Dominate the Waterfront

On this storm-threatened evening, Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer was clad in a yellow rain-slicker worthy of a bout with a North Atlantic gale as she told a surprisingly full outdoor-amphitheater audience, "Now I know how much you love your San Diego Symphony!"

Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Rady Shell
CEO Martha Gilmer on a Sunnier Day

She went on to explain a late change in conductors. Principal Guest Conductor Edo de Waart, at the age of 81, was beginning to feel the effects of travel, and they'd agreed he would conduct the concert's second half, John Lidfors the first. After that announcement, in a video, the always entertaining and informative Nuvi Mehta gave a brief description of the flood of marvelous melodies to follow.

Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite featured its share of those melodies. The composer had chosen the familiar 19th century Shaker hymn "The Gift to Be Simple" as the main theme for a ballet orchestrated for 13 instruments. He later expanded to full orchestra for this suite of variations on the same theme. As fine a conductor as DeWaart is, I don't think he could have bettered Lidfors' performance, partly because it's hard to go wrong with the current San Diego Symphony musicians. Tempos and dynamics were spot-on, solo and section entries were perfect, strings caressed, brass excited, and woodwinds sparkled. As Copland produced moods from solemn to playful to majestic, percussion added exclamation points.

Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Rady Shell
Simone Lamsma

Lidfors and violinist Simone Lamsma followed in perfect synchrony for Korngold's Violin Concerto. If the melodies seem suitable for soundtracks, that's because they were selected from thrilling film scores he wrote in the 1930s. Video screen closeups showed the conductor and soloist glancing at each other with pleased smiles as the violin and orchestra brought out the beauty of Korngold's tear-inducing melodies. Tighter closeups showed Lamsma's emotional involvement from the first movement to the virtuosic challenges of the last. Lamsma's tone is an ideal match for the concerto, her high bridge-notes strikingly pure and rich, articulation precise, finger strength evident in long-lasting trills

Had he been born 50 years later, Dvořák could have rivaled Korngold for memorable film scores. He is among classical music's most prolifically inventive composers of melody, a skill amply demonstrated after intermission in his eighth symphony. Edo de Waart led the Orchestra in a straightforward performance, letting Dvořák speak for himself. He does that with a torrent of heartfelt melodies greatly influenced by the birds, landscapes and folk music of his Czech homeland. The orchestra again excelled, which must have been especially gratifying to DeWaart since, as a frequent guest conductor, he has played an important role in the orchestra's transformation from oft-in-the-shop-Yugo to smooth-running Ferrari.

Review: THE SAN DIEGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at The Rady Shell
The Rady Shell

Unusual and unfortunate on a night when other ambient sounds from the city, bay and sky were almost non-existent, a faint but annoyingly repetitive hip-hop rhythm section sometimes competed from a universe far far away. The good news was the return of outstandingly natural sound and stereo separation from the Rady Shell amphitheater's best-in-class electronic equipment.

Oh, and a few scattered raindrops failed miserably to chase any audience members away, much less overcome CEO Gilmer's formidable rain gear.

Visit the San Diego Symphony for future programming and ticket information.



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