I attended the San Diego Symphony’s performance of John Williams’ Horn Concerto this past Sunday. This was an afternoon matinee performance, and was the second of two performances that mark the first times that this orchestra has performed this piece. Principal Horn Benjamin Jaber was the soloist, and David Danzmayr was the conductor. The concerto was the second piece in the concert program, preceded by Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia and followed by intermission and then Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 in E minor (Opus 39). Both Sibelius pieces were very well executed, but I’ll spare those details as this is a John Williams thread.
Prior to this performance, I had only listened to the concerto a small handful of times, so to prepare myself for the concert I actually listened to the piece in its entirety earlier that morning, following along with my Hal Leonard Signature Edition piano reduction score in order to re-familiarize myself with it. The hall was roughly 60-70% full in attendance, but it was evident that the majority of the audience was not too familiar with Williams’ concert repertoire. I’m sure many were expecting to hear something akin to Star Wars, etc. The much older couple sitting next to me kept whispering amongst themselves, “Well, that was certainly different-sounding,” though they seemed to enjoy the performance nonetheless. Mr. Jaber produced a wonderfully warm and rich sound overall, effortlessly and subtly adjusting his tone quality in order to suit the characteristics of each individual movement. He demonstrated excellent intonation and expressiveness. My personal favorite movements of his performance were movements 2, 4, and 5, though movements 1 and 3 were brilliantly played as well. The percussion section expertly set the atmosphere in “Battle of the Trees,” and I felt that the horn soloist was able to infuse an added tinge of humor to the movement in his playing. He even made a funny face at the end of the movement, acknowledging to the audience that “yes, this is indeed a strange-sounding piece of music,” to which several audience members lightly chuckled. “The Hunt” movement was also fun to listen to. The orchestra kept the energy going and was well balanced throughout the entire movement, finishing on an exciting downbeat that caused the audience to burst with cheers and applause despite there being one more movement (although in fairness, the ending of this movement does have that definitive “finale” sound to it). The final movement, “Nocturne,” was played exquisitely and with great emotional sensitivity, and brought the first half of the concert to a soft, beautiful close. I've included two pictures that I took and posted on Instagram - one following the concerto's conclusion, and the other as a collage highlight the concert program.
Based on previous posts on these message boards, I seem to be one of the only forum members in the San Diego area, so I’m always more than happy to be this city’s “ambassador,” if you will, on this website (if any other members are local to San Diego and have been hiding in the shadows, I'd love to meet up someday!). I’m hoping that this orchestra continues to perform more of Williams’ concert works, especially the concerti. I saw the orchestra perform his Cello Concerto and the Elegy for Cello and Orchestra a few years ago, but that’s about it as far as I know. That said, it was an amazing performance by the San Diego Symphony – one of their best concerts that I’ve seen overall.
Future scheduled San Diego Symphony concerts of interest to film music fans include:
July 13 and 14: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Concert
July 19: Galaxy Quest in Concert
July 20: Back to the Future in Concert
July 26 and 27: Hooray for Hollywood - A Night at the Oscars
August 1 and 2: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert
August 23: Singin' in the Rain in Concert