San Diego's top four classical concerts of 2017

The crowning accomplishment of Jahja Ling’s tenure at San Diego Symphony

Anton Bruckner: Drink from the firehose, bitches.
  • Anton Bruckner: Drink from the firehose, bitches.

There are a few performances of note from 2017 which we will now revisit in a mood of celebration as we approach the rebirth of the light. I have four concerts in mind which were the peaks of San Diego’s classical music trek. They are in chronological order:

Verdi’s Requiem will always be a pinnacle so long as singers have breath with which to sing. The La Jolla Symphony and Chorus put on a performance of the Italian masterpiece on March 18, which expressed heart of the composition. What is the heart of Verdi’s Requiem? “Libera me.” Deliver me. And deliver the La Jolla symphony did. The legend of music director, Stephen Schicke, continues to grow.

The following weekend was Bruckner Symphony No. 8 at the San Diego Symphony. This was not only a jewel in the crown of 2017 it was the crowning accomplishment of Jahja Ling’s tenure as music director of the San Diego Symphony. There were some patrons who left in the middle of the performance. To my mind that confirms the stature of this concert. There are those who ride the Brucknerian avalanche and those who are stifled. Drink from the firehose, bitches.

Prokofiev's Classical Symphony

On May 20, The San Diego Symphony gave the best concert I have ever heard them give. The conductor was the venerable Charles Dutoit. The program consisted of four pieces and each of the four set a new standard for the orchestra. The performance featured a mid-concert standing ovation for the orchestra after Stravinsky’s Petrushka. The concert also included music by Beethoven and Mozart. The perfection of style which the orchestra displayed under Dutoit’s leadership is now the standard for all future performances of those composers.

The Mainly Mozart Festival will almost always have a concert which is a peak in the classical year. There is no way for that orchestra to not be sublime, so when the stars align at the Balboa Theater there’s magic. We might expect the composer providing the magic to be Mozart but that’s not always the case. Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony from June 18, might have been the best moment of the entire year. Conductor Michael Francis was in his third year as music director for the festival. He and the orchestra are coming together as a formidable unit.

Here's hoping that in 2018 classical music in San Diego lives up, maybe exceeds, the standards it set in 2017.

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