Timpani and Prieto go gigante

San Diego Symphony tours Mexico, Argentina, and Spain

Maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto
  • Maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto
  • Image by Peter Schaaf

MALAMBO GUSTAVO DUDAMEL

Never in my life did I expect to hear a timpani concerto, let alone two, and those two in back-to-back seasons. Opening weekend of 2014 included a timpani concerto by William Kraft, and this last Sunday we got another one by Gabriela Ortiz with Gabriela Jimenez performing the timpani solo.

Imagine the Tasmanian Devil surrounded by kettle drums and holding drumsticks. Now double the speed and you get the percussive acrobatics performed by Jimenez. When the orchestra and timpani were playing together this music was terrific.

When the timpani was played on its own, it felt as though the music was interrupted and didn’t hold together. This is pure personal preference because I find timpani to have limited expressive qualities by their very nature. I reiterate that the sections of the music where the timpani was featured with the orchestra were full of compelling music.

Alberto Ginastera’s Four Dances from Estanica has become something of a signature piece for the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. There was no stand-up-and-dance reaction during the concluding Malambo section on Sunday afternoon, but the the Wheat Dance movement was some of the most exquisite playing I’ve heard from the San Diego Symphony.

I should mention that conducting this concert was the entirely badass Carlos Miguel Prieto. You may recall he tore it up when he conducted at Mainly Mozart in 2014. Prieto is on the rise and he conducts with a ton of energy. We could say E=CMP^2 — Carlos Miguel Prieto, squared.

The conclusion of the concert was a significant chunk of Manuel de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat. De Falla’s music resembles Ravel’s La Valse in that the theme is given to us in fragments before being revealed in its full form.

Of course, La Valse resembles the leitmotifs of Wagner’s Ring, as there are embryonic versions before the mature and complete version arrives in the drama. I’m just saying.

Maestro Prieto had whipped the orchestra up into a frenzy before the concluding segment so when we got there and de Falla gave us all of it, it was gigante.

By the way, this audience had the clap. Bad. Stop it. When the conductor turns and faces the audience, then you can clap. Stop clapping between movements. I know I’m fighting a losing battle here, but I kind of enjoy it.

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