Arts & Events

Around & About Music: A Note on the Berkeley Symphony

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 02, 2011 - 01:01:00 PM

Last week's opening concert for the Berkeley Symphony's new season--and Joana Carneiro's third season as music director here--saw two contemporary pieces premiere, one played by the composer in memory of Harry Weininger (Gabriela Lena Frank's Vendaval), the other with the composer present (Enrico Chapela's Li Po, for orchestra and electronic soundtrack, after Jose Juan Tablada's modernist poem about the 8th century Chinese poet), as well as extraordinary renditions of Brahms' Third Symphony, occasioning great ovations from the audience, and virtuoso cellist Johannes Moser featured as soloist in Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto, which was met with shouts and a prolonged standing ovation, as well as a Bach piece as encore by the energetic and genial Moser. 

But just as exhilarating as the mix of music, old and brand new, and the virtuosity of an exceptional instrumentalist, was the performance of the orchestra itself, wending its way through Joana's brilliant programming of complements and contrasts. It's become almost a given that each new concert will reveal a new facet of the Symphony's playing not heard before, something different in section playing, a renewed sense of collaboration and musicianship ... 

"She's working us good, isn't she?" said one happy veteran of the string section after the concert. And that's the mark of the players' success and that of their conductor--the extraordinary growth of a sense of artistic community, reflected in the sound of an orchestra playing together in a way they never have before, making challenging works like the Brahms and Shostakovich their own.