Two reasons brought me to the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night. First, I'm always on the prowl for something new, and to me, the symphony is definitely something new. The second reason was because I had been locked down by the flu for two weeks and I had enough of staying in bed watching Law & Order.
As an absolute symphony virgin, you'll have to accept my apology for some of the dumb things I'm about to say.
To summarize, the LBSO's performance was amazing. The orchestra ran through Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major, Kopetzki's Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, "Eroica."
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What first blew my mind was the precision layering of instrumentation during the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major. As a recovering rock musician, I'm used to hearing songs with a constant percussion to keep time. But not Beethoven. And not the LBSO. Conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke had that large group bopping and weaving as tightly as any rhythm section I've ever heard. Plus, his arms moving around made me think he was really into it. Showmanship at the symphony? Whoduthunk? Not me, that's for sure.
But anyone in attendance will attest that marimba player Saul Medina stole the show. I thought Medina was playing a xylophone, but thanks to my friend Bobby Bancalari (himself a composer/musician), I discovered I was wrong. Medina had some serious chops, at times holding two pallets in each hand and getting down on the marimba. Again folks, if I knew anything about classical music, I'd get more specific. But I don't, so believe me when I said his performance was one of the coolest things I've heard in a live music setting. Watching and hearing Medina made me realize that a total numbskull like me -- a guy who used to think classical music was for blue hairs -- is actually pretty intense and well worth the price of admission.
The LBSO's next Classics performance is Jan.16 and includes performances of Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World." If you've never experienced a live classical performance, I highly suggest checking this out. I'll be there.
And before I forget, the photo was taken by Thomas McConville.