Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beethoven & Shostakovich with the San Diego Youth Symphony & SD Master Chorale

We have got smashing young classical musicians here in San Diego. I rode Downtown to catch the San Diego Youth Symphony and the San Diego Master Chorale in their 'Ovation' concert at Copley Hall with a couple of my buddies on Sunday afternoon. We had quite a blast!

Kanga at Copley Symphony Hall
For a junior group, the SDYS sure are ambitious. I mean, there are complicated music, and then there are things like Beethoven's Choral Fantasy and just about any of Shostakovich's symphonies!

Do these guys look like they'd compose anything that's easy to play???
The first half of the concert starred Reece Akana as the piano soloist. The young local pianist-golfer-ace student from Chula Vista recently won first prize at the 2012 California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Contemporary Musical Festival in San Mateo, and played both the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto  and his Choral Fantasy like a pro. The tempo on both were quite slower than I would have preferred, but he managed to not let it drag (which was quite an accomplishment!). I was even more impressed at how sensitively he listened to the orchestra and the chorus during the Choral Fantasy. Hat's off to him and to maestro Jeff Edmons for keeping everyone in good sync. Kudos to the violin and the flute soloists, too, they were quite gorgeous (music-wise)!

I've got to needle maestro Edmons a bit for letting the symphony railroad the Master Chorale a bit, however. They are an excellent amateur chorale, but they haven't got strong soloist voices and got quite drown out on key moments by the adrenaline-driven orchestra. That was a bit jarring considering the text that they were singing!

With the fabulous Choral Fantasy capping the first half of the show, it was hard to imagine following it with another half hour of music, but maestro Edmons and the SDYS pulled it off in style with their convincing performance of Shostakovich's fifth symphony. The piece isn't as turbulent (and complicated) as his later works, but it still is a big play for a band of teenagers!

That was a good program, I think... It made me, as I walked out of the auditorium, think about the difference between Beethoven's time and that of Shostakovich. But perhaps the times weren't all that different at all. After all, Beethoven lived in the time of revolutions and Napoleon's marches across Europe while Shostakovich lived in constant suppression by the Stalinist regime and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. Many people I know today are convinced that we are living in the worst of time, but I doubt it. We have better and faster access to news, so even though there's no town being bombed a few miles away (or no high-fatality disease epidermic on the scale of the European plagues or the Spanish flu, etc), we somehow feel close to the war/epidermic/disturbances happening far away... which give the impression of our time being worse than it really is.

Anyhow, it's interesting that my buddies (who aren't used to classical music) were more enamored of Shostakovich's dissonance-fest music than they were of Beethoven! 

San Diego Youth Symphony's Chamber Strings Group in Copley Hall lobby.
PS: It pays to get to the symphony hall a bit early when you go to performances. You never know what goodies might be available to early birds. I got there 1/2 hour early and got to listen to the SDYS' Chamber Strings Group serenading us symphony-goers with some really nice playing of Mozart pieces. That was some cool appetizers!


Charlotte said...

As a historian I second the opinion that we are definitely not living in the worst of times - like you said, we hear about the bad stuff more because communications are better, but on the whole I think the global level of safety and well being is higher now than in the early 19th or mid 20th centuries.

Beethoven and Schostakovich go well together for some reason - I have a recording by the Jupiter Trio of one of Beethoven's string trios and one of Schostakovich's, and the comparison/contrast between them just really works well.

Smorg said...

Hi Charlotte: Indeed, matie. :) I'd rather live today than in any other time before. Would have loved to chat with Mozart or Handel or Bellini and a few other cool people of eras past, of course, but not enough to make me want to endure in their living condition (just thinking of having to wear the 18th or 19th century costume turns me green! And if I get sick, I don't want doctors who think blood-letting or arsenic cures everything treating me!).

It's really cool how the two styles of music really go. I wonder if Beethoven and Shostakovich would get along, if they could somehow meet. But no matter, their music rock! :D

Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Hope your weekend has started well!