Sunday, December 6, 2009

Out And About All Weekend!

I finally got to hear Beethoven's ninth symphony live on Friday night when the San Diego Master Chorale and the San Diego Symphony under Jahja Ling had their first of three performances of the piece at Copley Hall in downtown San Diego.

Those not familiar with classical music would still probably know a bit of Beethoven's 9th as the famous 'Ode to Joy', of course. That bit of music comes over 50 minutes into the piece, though. The monstrous (in more ways than one) symphony is a remarkable composition that looks both backward and forward in its resolve to enjoy life in all its manifestations. A study in musical story-telling (Wagner probably got his 'Leitmotif' idea from Beethoven's last symphony) that made use of dissonance without losing sight of the virtues of melody and harmony. A genius Beethoven was, he was also mindful that music is communication and that communication is a two-way street (in other words, it ain't no fun just talking to oneself when there are others around). He pushed the envelope without forgetting to make sure that what he was trying to say could be readily shared by his audience... (which is definitely not something I can say of many melody-hating composers that came after him).

Anyhow, it was quite a good performance. I should admit that Jahja Ling always strikes me as someone a bit too even-tempered for the Romantic Period music (especially the moody works of Beethoven), but he did some serious exorcising from the podium on Friday night and elicited quite a spirited performance from the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

In stead of a bass soloist, they used the baritone Nathaniel Webster to ring in the choral
finale of the symphony, so some vocal gravity was missing even though there was an additional shine to the optimism of the piece. Robert Breault (tenor) and Mary Dunleavy (soprano) were in very good form and had no problem soaring over both the orchestra and the (exasperatingly reliably splendid) San Diego Master Chorale. Rounding out the solo voices was pleasingly dusky voiced (if a bit under-projected) mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor. The capacity audience clapped everyone back for 3 well deserved curtain calls. A definite good start to the holiday season!

Saturday morning saw the 46th edition of the North Park Toyland Parade. Even the weather must have been looking forward to it and the multitude of clouds turned up to watch the event while staying high enough above the ground to avoid raining on the crowd of local residents lining University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets.

I'm afraid there wasn't any horse this year, though the equine-deficiency was well substituted by the cheerfully wheeled Derby Dolls and a fleet of spiffily shined hot rods.

My flatmate and I also invaded Balboa Park on Saturday evening to catch a bit of December Night celebration. Judging from the size of the crowd, the sluggish economy sure didn't put much damper on the local holiday spirit....

Though the flu is doing a bit of that to my head so I'll have to write up on it later (my nose is putting on a good show of liquefying itself). Hope December has started well wherever you are!


Drew80 said...

I am pleased you enjoyed the performance, Smorg.

Do you have a favorite recording of Beethoven’s Ninth?

I do not, and have never been able to find one.

Smorg said...

Hiya Drew!
Thanks a bunch. :o) I had a great time at the show indeed (and it seems that the subsequent performances were even better received!).

My favorite recording of Beethoven 9th has got to be the live recording of a concert in Berlin with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker! :oD A really lively and tumultuous one with Angela Denoke, Waltraud Meier, Burkhard Fritz, and Rene Pape as the soloists. The Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin Chor is wonderful in it, too. I've seen a video clip of the same cast doing the Choral Fantasy and love it, too (though I don't have the DVD).

Astrid Varnay wrote in her book how disappointed she was that she didn't get to record that piece with Toscanini (he went for Eileen Farrell instead). :o( That would have been something to hear indeed.

Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Hope the weekend is going well your way! :o)