Terrific triple-header at the San Diego Symphony this past weekend – a three-part presentation — “Music in Motion: Dance and The Firebird” – where each segment was exquisite in its own right.
Emmy Award-winner John Malashock premiered “Five Scenes” (commissioned by the Symphony), set to the music of Bay Area composer, Gabriela Lena Frank. Got to talk to her for awhile. Lovely and fascinating woman whose mother is of Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and father is of Lithuanian/Jewish descent. She said she met and instantly trusted Malashock, recognizing him as a kindred spirit. She gave him carte blanche with her work. From several hours of her South American folk-music-inflected chamber music, he chose several pieces and strung them seamlessly together.
He called the result “Walking a High Road,” drawing on Frank’s reference to a small, nearly deserted Peruvian village she once visited, and adding his own imaginings of the ghosts that might be encountered there. The narrative suggests a stranger (charismatic Justin Viernes) being rejected at first, and then accepted into the tight-knit community. There’s an obvious connection between the newcomer and a local (striking and lovely Malashock newcomer, Andrea Rehm), but the townsfolk try everything to keep them apart. Finally, they get together for a stunning pas de deux.
The music inspired a new dance vocabulary in Malashock, who founded Malashock Dance in 1988. His seven expert dancers athletically leapt and tossed Viernes from one to the next. Thrilling work, in colorful peasant costumes (uncredited), danced exquisitely in a very narrow space. A triumph, to be sure.
Next up was Harp Concerto, Op. 25, composed by Alberto Ginastera, featuring the internationally renowned harpist, Yolanda Kondonassis. She was magnificent. She didn’t just play the instrument; she made love to it. Her devotion, consummate skill and graceful moves were beautiful to behold.
The final portion of the evening featured the suite from “The Firebird” (1945 version). The 1910 premiere put Igor Stravinky on the music map. The Symphony, greatly expanded for this presentation, was in excellent form, under the baton of David Danzmayr. He was electrifying to watch: energized, energetic and finely nuanced in his conducting. The percussionists were given a workout, and the woodwind and brass solos were superb.
In all, a spectacular evening of music and dance –two other local artforms that give San Diego so much to be proud of.