REVIEW: San Diego Symphony brings people of all ages together

Rafael Payare wows audience during energetic performance.

Jasmine Mcknight, City Times Correspondent

San Diego City Times is Partnered with the San Diego City College Music Program for reviews of local concerts. Opinions expressed in this review are those of the author.  


On Oct. 6 I attended the San Diego Symphony concert with Rafael Payare as the new conductor. I wasn’t really too sure what to expect, except maybe a lot of older people, which there were, but there was also a good mixture of younger people as well, which surprised me but also made me happy, seeing that more people around my age were starting to like classical music.

The concert was opened with a piece by Mason Bates called “Alternative Energy.” My interest was immediately piqued because this was a contemporary piece! While I love classical music, I feel I am more drawn to this type of music because its style of using more concert instruments and focusing less on the strings is more familiar to me. It made me feel like just maybe the classical music scene had changed since my last concert in high school!

After the performance of “Alternative Energy” came the performance of the five movements of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. I had heard pieces of Mahler’s five before but it was amazing hearing it fully and in person for the first time. The first movement alone piqued my interest. First movement “Trauermarsch” often moves between dissonance, minor chords and major, creating a feeling of uncertainty as, during the happy major parts, I was constantly anticipating the inevitable upcoming dissonance. Of all of the movements, my favorite was the fourth as I’m partial to slower, dramatic pieces. Throughout the entire piece, there were instances of motifs and antecedent and consequent phrases. I found the motifs to be most present in the first movement, while I heard the antecedent and consequent phrases most in the third movement.

As a horn player, the horn section is always the section I pay the most attention to and the San Diego Symphony hornline was absolutely amazing! There was a specific point during the first movement where the horns were playing this amazing section over the strings and rest of the hornline doing runs a few minutes into the movement. I had actual goosebumps and was smiling like an idiot. Also, in what I believe was the third movement, there were many moments where the horns would play a sustained note at FFF+, the entire orchestra would drop out and would leave a single section or player to continue the phrase. The entirety of Scherzo was a heaven-sent to me.

It was also very interesting to watch Payare conduct. Similar to Beethoven, during the quiet parts, he would bend lower, making smaller movements with his hands and would leap upwards, making grandiose movements with his hands during the louder parts. Unlike how it was described with Beethoven, funny and maybe crazy-looking, with Payare, I found it to make the concert even more entertaining. For an opening weekend, he looked very comfortable in front of the orchestra. 

There was a time where it felt as if the tempo was a little off but it was fixed pretty quickly and, with the confidence that Payare had, I couldn’t really tell if it was supposed to happen or not. At the end of the concert, Payare and the orchestra were met with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Overall, I loved the concert! It was really interesting to hear the selection pieces of the night and I felt they fit well together because “Alternative Energy” was a contemporary piece and Mahler, although a classical artist, was writing progressive music in his time. I loved the atmosphere of the concert hall, it felt more comfortable and modern than pretty much any of the other classical performances that I’ve been too. This was also the first performance I’ve been to, knowing more about the history and terminology of classical music, and it made me have an even deeper appreciation for classical music as a whole. 

In fact, I’ve even been looking into attending the next San Diego Symphony performance.



Jasmine McKnight is a Music Program student at San Diego City College.