April 20, 2022
Two Nights with the San Diego Symphony
Ashley Asadi

Despite the grandness and breathtaking modernism of The Conrad, located on Fay Avenue near The Living Room Café (and the seals!), there is something warm swimming within its walls. Quiet, hushed lights bring life and lead upwards to the striking wooden panels and deep, dark blue surrounding within. The dance between light and dark, coupled with the dazzling performances on stage, create an unforgettable air at The Conrad.

The San Diego Symphony generously gave me two tickets to performances at The Conrad. The first performance, a jazz-Latin fusion starring trumpeter Pacho Flores, highlighted the sultry melodies of Antonio Sanchez Pedro’s “1969” and the swaying bliss and mystery of Pacho Flores’s own “Morocata”. Yes, you read that right. A live piece performed by the composer. This is very rare! (So many classical composers are dead!)

Something unique about jazz concerts, as opposed to classical, is the interactions between musician and audience that unify and break walls. Pacho Flores, as well as guest saxophonist Paquito d’Rivera, cracked jokes with the audience and told of inspirations including Dizzy Gillespie, whose influence was felt in “Dizzyness”, the 5th movement of d’Rivera’s “Aires Tropicales for Woodwind Quartet”. When speaking to us, the individual worlds and walls of every human there boiled into one single soul; a soul felt in every corner. When being immersed in the musicians’ world through their stories and sounds, a heartbeat felt in every corner.

The second concert, an equally dazzling performance led by The San Diego Symphony’s own conductor Rafael Payare and violinist Jeff Thayer, brought in a range of classical pieces from Mozart’s uplifting chamber music “Serenade No. 10 in B-Flat Major” to Schnittke’s “Moz-Art a la Haydn” which, evident in the title, plays fragments of Mozart’s famous “Symphony No. 40” (goes like da-da-dun, da-da-dun, da-da-dun-DA! – does that ring a bell?) and Haydn’s “Creation”. Payare’s magnetism radiated throughout The Conrad: he led the sound as the sound led him. His movements, sharp, calculated and passionate brought life into Thayer’s dazzling performance, already overflowing with life and a beating heart.

Tapping into Schnittke’s intention for the piece to have theatrical elements, the lights begin to fall as the musicians’ haunting silhouettes take stage. The stage struggles for light as the macabre pizzicato and low tone of the strings, like black spiders crawling up, like dark shadows lurking in the bleak night, steal our breath. The silhouettes get up, never hushing the macabre tone from their instruments, and slowly march away. Left in the darkness with only the impression of _ (no words to describe it) the lights eventually find their way back to us. Thayer, Payare and the rest come back with a graceful performance of Bologne’s “Violin Concerto No. 9 in G Major” and conclude the night with that one Mozart piece. More than just a concert, it was an experience of the human condition: the fear of darkness, the warmth felt in light, the connection with other souls – those at The Conrad, those from centuries ago, those who will hear these pieces in the future.

Many often think that classical music is for old people. In a way, they’re right. If Mozart was alive today he’d be 231 years old! In reality, there is something for everyone in classical music. There is Rachmaninoff’s hypnotic, grand “Piano Concerto No. 2” for the anguished, Liszt’s “Un Suspiro” for the romantic, Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” for A Clockwork Orange fans! With the newly built Rady Shell at Jacobs Park overlooking Coronado Bridge and concerts for 2022 including Flying Lotus, Toy Story in Concert, and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Spectacular (the one with cannons!) The San Diego Symphony is continuing their century-long tradition of bringing music to unify San Diego and inspire a love for music for the next generations of San Diegans and beyond.

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