I heard the San Antonio Symphony Friday night at the Majestic Theatre in downtown San Antonio.
1. The program began with the Star Spangled Banner - odd for the second classics concert - which is really not a big thing, but should they play it for all the concerts? Someone mentioned this was the start of a different series than the last concert; but come on SA Symphony management, seriously? Make it standard on ALL concerts or just the FIRST of the season; or better yet, do different versions every time, which would be nice for the audience AND the players/singers.
2. Clarice Assad's Brazilian Fanfare is downright fun. Not a serious piece at all, it changes moods and themes quickly. While it is not a seasoned work, it shows brilliant orchestration and rhythm. These were brought out with the orchestra by the talented Maestro Alondra de la Parra - who should be the next Music Director of the SA Symphony.
3. Debussy's Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun was sumptuous. de la Parra brought out stunning dynamics and soaring melody lines from the orchestra. Principal flute Tal Perkes was delightful, as well as Principal Horn Jeff Garza in solos.
4. Rounding out the first half was Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto. The soloist was Jennifer Koh, who I have seen several times in concert (read previous Five Things) and interviewed on the radio before. Somehow, this was not the star I have heard, no doubt due to a cold. Often it was scratchy, as if she was impersonating Zukerman(!), instead of her usual gorgeous sound. In the audience, cellphones and snores detracted from the performance. An encore of Bach (Partita #2, allemande) was better, but after hearing Shaham's Bach recently in the same space, it was not as inspiring. Again, I believe it was poor health that contributed to this performance - even quarterbacks like Kurt Warner have bad days, you just hope they aren't the day of the Superbowl...
5. The program ended with Beethoven's glorious Seventh Symphony. String Basses were moved to the back of the stage and brass brought to the side, experimenting with the sound at the Majestic - with great improvement! The energy of Alondra was infectious, for the ensemble (who castly improved from the morning rehearsal) and for the audience who leapt to their feet and gave a huge ovation for de la Parra. It was well deserved. This "war horse" had shape and motion, an arc that moved logically, artistically and brilliantly through Beethoven's music. This is a concert to catch and share with your friends - it repeats tonight at 8pm.
The San Antonio Symphony should move now to hire Alondra de la Parra. Not just for marketing reasons: she is a young, beautiful, latina conductor who has spark and moxie. Nor should they hire her just for the raw talent which shows and gleams in her attitude, baton and spirit.
They should hire her because it is the right thing to do. True EXCITEMENT in the classical world is rare unfortunately. de la Parra exudes charisma and intelligence. She has ideas on audience building, music, outreach, and education. In an uncertain world, hiring Alondra would go to having leadership, a musical guide and energy building force for the San Antonio Symphony. The path is clear in this, stop the search and announce that Alondra de la Parra is the seventh Music Director of the San Antonio Symphony.
Here is an interview with Alondra on stage @ the Majestic: