The August 14 SummerFest concert offered an embarrassment of riches, from the warmth and allure of Joaquin Turina’s “Escena Andaluza,” to Claude Debussy’s profound yet unsentimental Cello Sonata, to Lei Liang’s extravagantly exciting new “Vis-à-vis” for Pipa and Percussion, to Gustav Mahler’s transcendent Rückert-Lieder song cycle to Alberto Ginestera’s breathtaking String Quartet No. 1.
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Opera NEO produced a musically sparkling although spare production Mozart’s early opera “Idomeneo” as part of this year’s Opera NEO Summer Opera Festival and Workshop at the outdoor Palisades Presbyterian Amphitheater in Allied Gardens
As a salute to the UC San Diego Department of Music, La Jolla SummerFest’s host for most of the 2018 music festival’s concerts, Music Director Cho-Liang Lin featured two of the university’s resident composers in his festival’s annual program of contemporary music: Rand Steiger’s new work “Tropes” and Lei Liang’s 2005 “Serashi Fragments.”
Even if the classical music community were not observing Leonard Bernstein’s centennial year, Nina Bernstein Simmons’ program “Late Night with Leonard Bernstein” for La Jolla SummerFest would have provided a well-spent evening.
After Friday’s uplifting, beautifully crafted opening night SummerFest concert, I was shocked to experience such a tasteless, aggressive musical assault attending SummerFest’s second concert on the following night, August 4, in UC San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall.
If you are going to produce a rarely staged G. F. Handel opera, it is a good thing to have a few Handel operas under your belt. Opera NEO’s vibrant, superbly sung “Partenope” this past weekend (August 3 & 5) revealed how confidently this company has succeeded in making these Baroque operas as dramatically engaging as the popular verismo warhorses.