Tuesday, October 2, 2012

a musical weekend

Saturday evening I headed to San Jose to cover Symphony Silicon Valley's opening concert. Verdict: for three out of four works, excellent.

That morning I'd gotten an urgent phone call from my editor. He was running out of reviewers who were all unavailable; despite the fact that I was already doing a concert this week (one per week is the usual maximum, one that I've broken only once before, under different management), could I go to Walnut Creek on Sunday and review the California Symphony's opening concert? Apologies for sending me so far away, but no problem, I said, as I'm already going to UC Berkeley that day for the Cal Performances Fall Free-for-All.

And I agreed to cover the concert without even knowing what they'd be playing. It might have been the Berg Violin Concerto and Tod und Verklärung for all I knew.* When I got off the phone and went to look it up, I actually laughed. This is going to be easy, I thought.

And not too difficult it was. Meanwhile, the idea of the Free-for-All is to fill auditoria around the UCB campus with free concerts up to an hour long each, all day. The one catch is, Berkeley's got hills, so truding between one and another in a five-minute break is not always easy. Having arrived late because it seemed more efficient to search for free street parking than spend time in a long line of folks each unsuccessfully trying to navigate the instructions on the parking permit machine, I got to hear half of a Cypress Quartet concert, all of a harpsichord recital, and what amounted to an abridged concert perfomance of Sondheim's Assassins, by local theatre group that's producing it. With a whole hour to play with, they could present functionally the whole show, with pit band behind them.

And it was good. Berkeley is a little far from here for B. to want to go for an evening, but otherwise I would, because the performers were very good. I particularly liked the Booth, who had all the glowering fury of the original, and the Guiteau, who had all the maniacal cheerfulness of the original.

Then off across the hills to Walnut Creek, and here's the final result.

*I'm trying to think of a plausible concert program not involving Mahler or a concert opera that would seize me with a sense of cosmic horror.

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