Last week, I had the privilege of attending a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. Originally, I was to go to the concert with my mother, but she had a fall a few weeks ago, and broke her ankle. She didn’t feel that she was up to going and dealing with the wheelchair, so I invited my oldest daughter Camden to go in her stead.
One of the musical bonuses of this concert was the legendary conductor Charles Dutoit, the artistic director of the RPO. His bio in the program states that he has done 170 recordings in his career. Staggering!
It usually takes about twenty minutes to get from our house to the Mondavi, so I allowed forty-five minutes to get there, which I figured would be plenty of time. NOT. The traffic was backed up onto I-5, and it ended up taking fifty-five minutes, so we missed the start of the concert. Waiting out in the lobby for Berlioz “Le Corsaire” to finish so we could find our seats, we could hear the music through the house speaker system, and it promised good things to come.
After the Berlioz was finished, we were quickly ushered to our excellent seats in the Grand Tier. The first thing I noticed, was the pervasive smell of Vapo-rub… not exactly conducive to an enjoyable evening. Fortunately, the vapo-rub person seemed to disappear after the intermission, much to my relief.
Up next in the program was the Piano Concerto #5 by French composer Camille Saint-Saens, sometimes referred to as the “Egyptian” concerto because it was composed during one his frequent holiday trips to Egypt, and because of the exotic harmonic and rhythmic ideas he incorporates into the piece.
The soloist for this performance was the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and his performance was at once stunning, musical, and technically fluent. From subtle quiet expressive phrasing to fiery blazingly fast passages, Thibaudet is a true virtuoso. A truly satisfying performance in every way.
After the intermission, was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4, one of the staples of the classical repertoire. Tchaikovsky’s “fate” theme stated at the beginning of the symphony, recurs in various treatments throughout the entire piece, bringing a very satisfying unity to the whole piece. I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous and fluid sound of the strings in this orchestra, and under Dutoit’s baton, the piece came to a thundering and exciting conclusion. The audience replied with a extended standing ovation and numerous curtain calls, which was completely deserved.
It was a very enjoyable evening of music making at the very highest level, and I was pleased to be able to experience it, and spend some time with my daughter.