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San Bernardino Symphony
198 N. Arrowhead Ave.
San Bernardino, CA 92408
Phone: (909) 381.5388
Fax: (909) 889.7954
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Frank Fetta
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San Bernardino Symphony gives the gift of Orchestral Treasures

By Anne Viricel, Reporter
Highland Community News

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 4:55 PM PDT

Last Friday and Saturday evenings, the San Bernardino Symphony presented two interrelated musical events that both showcased guest artist Jesús A. Morales and reinforced the beauty of the selected musical pieces.

If you only attended the concert, you probably had a lovely time, but missing Friday evening’s Musicale was like, well, missing one of Michael Tacchia’s pre-concert lectures. You love and appreciate the music, but much of the musical back story is missed.

Held at the Resik Center at St. Bernardine’s, the Musicale featured Morales playing solo selections. Attendees chatted and sipped wine under the stars in the courtyard before making their way into the beautifully restored presentation room.

Guest conductor Frank Fetta provided a gracious introduction for the young cellist who played three outstanding musical selections, the first two planned and the last at the enthusiastic request of the assemblage.
It was difficult not to be transported through the sound of bow on strings. Morales’ clear pure love of the instrument was aptly demonstrated through each controlled note leaving attendees inspired and excited to attend the following evening’s concert.

And, the charming cellist was kind enough to spend considerable time with the attendees answering questions about his background, his work with the Dali String Quartet and his teaching at the Elite Strings Program in Lansdale, Penn.

“Orchestral Treasures,” held Saturday night at San Bernardino’s California Theatre, did not disappoint.

The event featured three very different pieces: Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ Elgar’s ‘Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in e minor, op. 85,’ and Shostakovich’s ‘Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, op. 70.’

While some may have found the diversity of the pieces disconcerting, this attendee appreciated the apparent whimsy found in combining comedic and tragic notes across nearly 200 years. Each piece was so disparate from the last as to stand on its own as an individual jewel, or as the name implied, an Orchestral Treasure.

Under the masterful baton of Maestro Fetta, the popular, light-hearted Mozart piece delighted concert-goers with its airy feel and frantic tempo easily likened to an opulent wedding banquet.

Elgar’s concerto, with its unusual solo cello introduction, changed the mood completely from extroverted giddiness to quiet introspection.

In the first movement, a mournful four-chord opening is answered by gentle strings in a musical conversation that gives way to a much lighter second movement reminiscent of the song of birds and a third movement even more lyrical and melodic. The fourth movement, however, departs from the prior, beginning with a rapid crescendo that continues even through the cello’s mournful tones, then ends rather abruptly making one wonder what it was in Elgar’s own torment that forced the need to both start and end the piece in a place of sadness.

Shostakovich’s Symphony took the audience in an altogether new direction.

Played in five movements, it is as diverse a piece as the evening’s theme, beginning with the first, Allegro, which is filled with light spring arpeggios and playful woodwind solos and brass notes.

The second movement, Moderato, is full of sadness and melancholic hesitation.

The third movement, Presto, begins with rapid musical patterns capped by a trumpet solo, but slows as if to allow the orchestra a brief rest before rushing into the fourth movement, Largo, with no break and the introduction of a loud brass chord. And in the fourth, it is the bassoon that begins mournfully, giving way to a humorous brass transition to the fifth movement, Allegro. This final movement returns the lightness of the first with a flurry of folk dance-like passages.

Diverse, of course. But then who would want to open the same treasure repeatedly?

Bravo to Maestro Fetta for bringing his wit and theatrical sensitivity to a challenging program. Bravo to cellist Morales for his inspired and captivating performance. And bravo to the Symphony for its continued innovative efforts at pleasing an ever-growing crowd of local classical music enthusiasts.

Congratulations to Maestro Carlo Ponti and his wife on the birth of their new daughter!