As a disclaimer, I should say that I have a personal connection to this symphony; not only is in my hometown, but my mother works closely with them and produces all of their printed media: programs, pamphlets, mailers, everything. She’s pretty awesome.
I went to see this performance over my spring break, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that most of my generation would probably skip over something like this. Truth be told, it would have been a begrudging “yes” to my parents not 5 years earlier, simply because I didn’t appreciate classical music until I took a class from this guy. Absolutely brilliant. Anyway, the MS is no SFS and Sherwood Hall in Salinas is a shack compared to Davies Symphony Hall (though Sunset Center in Carmel is pretty badass), but we in the 831 need only good acoustics, talented performers and an enthusiastic audience to make ends meet. And that was the case on that Saturday.
Under the direction of Spanish conductor Max Bragado-Darman, the symphony sparkled, thanks to the guest efforts of Spanish cellist Asier Polo. With his graceful, sweeping bow movements and his passionate, sweat-filled solos, he really stole the show. Literally. He was so charming without being pretentious or arrogant. He might be one of the only performers left to actually feel his music this much. Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op.104 was an especially brilliant showcase for his talent, and he even followed it with an encore lullaby, presumably from his native Spain. The second piece of the night, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6, “Pathetique,” was equally breathtaking, though I’d argue that the first piece had just a little more raw emotion to it, purely because of the soloist.
The part that bugged me about attending the performance was seeing how the audience was comprised mostly of old people. Retired people. People whose social lives depend upon events like these. While the Salinas crowd contained a few more children than expected, it was still overwhelmingly octogenarian. I hope that it picks up, eventually, with my generation because it’s new for us. We can take something that’s been around for hundreds of years and make it our own new discovery! Pardon the cheese, but seriously. Classical music makes you think, just as art in galleries does. That’s why they call it high art. The lyrics, the captions, the recordings aren’t there to give you an explanation. And that night, it was really nice to imagine what Dvorak and Tchaikovsky were thinking when they wrote those pieces.