Friday, March 22, 2024

concert review: South Bay Philharmonic

After having tried out other ensembles, and getting far enough in one of them to play in a concert with them two years ago, B. has settled on the South Bay Philharmonic to fill her retirement dream of performing in a nonprofessional orchestra. The conductor has a clear beat and a lack of exasperating rehearsal habits, he doesn't take the music too fast, and rehearsals are not held farther from the nearest parking space than aging bodies can handle.

These are mighty virtues on B.'s scale of standards, so now she is a contented member of the viola section, and tonight was the first concert that she'd rehearsed for. At the same open-plan church that Harmonia California played in last week (this is how I heard about that), the concert was well-attended and parts of it were excellent.

I particularly liked the rendition of Sibelius's quiet little bon-bon Valse triste. Lacking the eccentric tempo variations common in professional performances, it was rehearsed enough to be played with full competence and even a little exquisite sweetness. Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony was also pretty good. Square and placid, in the traditional way, it was mostly, if not entirely, graspable by these performers.

I was less happy with two concerted works. The compositions were less inspired. The soloists had full command of getting the notes out on time, but their tone quality left much to be desired. And the orchestra needed some help at several parts also.

The four pieces were each written in a different calendrical century, so conductor George Yefchak dubbed this the symphony's Eras Tour. Cue Taylor Swift reference, which took the form of a surprise encore in the form of an arrangement of her song "Love Story."

If anyone local wants to hear B. play viola, come to the First Congregational Church (Hamilton and Leigh) on May 17 for the SBP's next concert, a truly scrumptious program of Dvorak, Faure, and Florence Price.

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