The new year is upon us and the San Diego Symphony is beginning its annual midseason festival. This year’s theme is “Hearing the Future”. Curating the festival is American composer Matthew Aucoin.
Born in 1990 Aucoin already has an impressive resume of compositions of instrumental and vocal music. In my opinion, his opera entitled Crossing is one of the most promising compositions I’ve heard. It is based on Walt Whitman's experiences during the Civil War.
Matthew Aucoin chorus from the opera Crossing
At the Music Academy of the West in July 2017
Two pillars of the San Diego classical music scene are conducting back to back during the festival. Incoming San Diego Symphony music director Rafael Payare conducts on January 10, 11, 12, and 13. Michael Francis, music director of the San Diego Mainly Mozart Festival, conducts on January 18, 19, and 20.
These two concerts are pretty straight-forward and feature the “new music” of the past. Maestro Payare is conducting Richard Strauss’s Don Juan, Benjamin Britten’s Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, and then the colossal Shostakovich Symphony No. 10.
Maestro Francis is conducting a concert entitled “The Young Romantics”. The repertoire is Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and then the psychedelic Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz.
In my opinion, the two most interesting concerts feature young Matthew Aucoin. The first is January 13 at The Auditorium at The Scripps Research Institute. The title of the event is “A Brief History of New Music with Matt Aucoin”. What makes it interesting is a chance to hear Arnold Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night in a 300-seat house. Also on the program is a Haydn string quartet, John Adams’s Shaker Loops (septet version), and Matthew Aucoin’s Violin Sonata: Its Own Accord.
The final concert of the festival bears the title “Matt’s Playlist: Echoes of the Future.” Aucoin is conducting the concert which no less than 12 pieces of music. Some pieces are segments of larger works such as the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and the fourth movement from Sibelius’s Symphony No. 4.
There are some ultra-modern composers at play such as Steve Reich and Thomas Adès. However, the late baroque master Jean-Philippe Rameau is on the playlist.
To my mind the addition of baritone Rodney Gilfry makes this concert utterly fascinating. Gilfry will be singing from Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and from Aucoin’s aforementioned opera Crossing.
This is third January Festival the San Diego Symphony has presented and it is, by far, the most compelling of the three. I’ve only mentioned the main events of the festival. There are numerous concerts and exhibits throughout the month. A complete listing can be found on the symphony website.