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Big Concert, Little Concert

October 24, 2011

I attended two concerts at opposite ends of the scale spectrum this weekend. Both were delightful experiences. Herewith, a few words about each.

1. Verdi Requiem with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, led by James Conlon at Davies Symphony Hall: The Chorus made a huge sound on Friday night, the third of four performances of Verdi's operatic chef d'oeuvre for the concert hall. It was a wondrous thing to watch Conlon in action -- conducting the score from memory, the maestro seemed to be joined to the orchestra and chorus' sound as if to an umbilical chord. I only wish Sondra Radvanovsky had been on better form. The solo soprano was straining for her notes. I later found out she was was laboring through illness, poor thing. Still, the final movement -- "libera me" -- was glorious. The chorus and soloist made a jewel-like sound and a feeling of deep peace and stillness spread across the hall.

2. California Music Center cello recital of Irving M. Klein International String Competition winners at the home of Joan Talbert and David Lyon, Palo Alto: I had not heard of the Irving M. Klein International String Competition before I was invited by one of its board members, Tom Driscoll, to attend an early evening house concert at the home of a couple of Stanford faculty members, Joan Talbert and David Lyon. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the musicianship of the two young cellists (David Requiro and Meta Weiss -- pictured above) and their accompanist (Miles Graber), the innovative nature of the programming and the conviviality of the setting. Weiss in particular was magnetic to watch. She brought a combination of nervous energy, mournfulness and playfulness to her rendition of Shostakovich's Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor. I also appreciated the sensitivity of Requiro's playing in Janacek's Pohadka (A Fairy Tale.) However, the biggest highlights of the evening for me were the pieces that the cellists played together. The program began with another short Shostakovich work -- Three pieces for Two Cellos and Piano -- which sounded more like it was written by a German Romantic composer than a quirky modernist Russian. Weiss and Requiro joined forces again in the second half for a spiky and ethereal world premiere, A Due Celli, by the French film music composer Jean-Paul Bottemanne and rounded out the program by stepping back into the Baroque period for a spit-fire interpretation of Vivaldi's Double Cello Concerto in G minor. The sun set over the hosts' lovely living room and wine glasses clinked in the intermission. It was a beautiful evening and I was exceedingly glad to get this introduction to the California Music Center's work.

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