Sonic Scenes of Soviet Russia

Concertgoers attending the San Diego Symphony's performance of Prokofiev's 5th Symphony on January 7 were greeted by the composer himself, or rather, his very convincing look-alike (right down to hair style and Russki accent) Nuvi Mehta, the SDSO's assistant conductor. As Jahja Ling conducted excerpts from the piece, Mehta-Prokofiev walked us through the celebrated Russian composer's life and music, assisted by projection of photos of Prokofiev above the stage.

The performance was hallowing, rousing, refreshing with Maestro Ling swinging and even leaping on the podium, conjuring sonic scenes of the Soviet terror from the very responsive San Diego Orchestra. Copley Hall felt at times a bomb shelter, oppressive Moscow, frigid Siberia, and even the colorful respite of Prokofiev's cranium itself.

There was a sense of camaraderie in the auditorium, possibly inspired from having collectively ducked the very realistic artillery shots from the percussion section and suffered through echoes of Stalin's purges with the menacing bass and brass eaves-dropping in on every note of the music's peaceful moment. Multiple breeches of protocol were committed by the enthusiastic audiences insisting on spirited applause in between movements of the piece rather than at the end.

  • Concert: Prokofiev's 5th Symphony
  • Show date: January 7, 2010
  • Venue: Copley Symphony Hall
  • Seat: 106E

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