Monterey Symphony — From Spain to the Rhine

Violinist Michael Ludwig

You could certainly tell there was a big game on TV Sunday afternoon. The traffic on Highway One was lighter than I had ever seen it, there were hundreds of empty parking places in downtown Carmel, and there some conspicuously empty seats at the Sunday afternoon performance by the Monterey Symphony at Sunset Center.

Well, we hope that some of those symphony absentees will come Monday evening to hear the same program, for if they don’t, they will be missing an excellent concert featuring a new guest conductor, Peter Bay, and an exciting young violinist, Michael Ludwig.

The opening work on the program was Dvor├ík’s “My Home” (not to be confused with Smetana’s composition by the same name), and it turned out to be a pleasant, although not especially memorable, work. The most exciting musical event of the afternoon was violinist Ludwig’s powerfully expressive and moving performance of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. A musician of bold gestures and flamboyant expression, Ludwig gave us a whale of a performance. Especially effective was his performance of the last two movements, in which his rich sound in the Andante and his exciting virtuosity in the concluding Rondo brought the audience to its feet in a storm of applause and spontaneous bravos.

This concert concluded with Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, the “Rhenish,” and on this occasion the piece received a solid and nicely styled performance. Schumann’s use of brass choirs (the trombone playing was fabulous) was all too brief, but hearing this symphony reminds us how often Schumann is underrated as a symphonist. Curiously, at the end of the performance, the audience seemed somewhat subdued. There was no standing ovation for the orchestra and guest conductor, almost as though some of the male members of the audience wanted to nip home as quickly as possible to catch a portion of the big game.

Perhaps this is merely one more symptom of how classical music continues to take a back seat to sports.

End

 

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