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Pianist Inon Barnatan is shown in an undated photo. Barnatan is the music director for La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest, but this weekend he will perform with the San Diego Symphony May 20-21, 2023.
Marco Boreggreve
Pianist Inon Barnatan is shown in an undated photo. Barnatan is the music director for La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest, but this weekend he will perform with the San Diego Symphony May 20-21, 2023.

San Diego weekend arts events: Brahms, ballet and sauce packets

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Rafael Peri and the San Diego Symphony returned to the Shell this weekend , and they're featuring a piano soloist that classical music lovers in San Diego may already be familiar with playing Brahms Piano Concerto number two. Joining me with all the details and more , weekend arts and culture is KPBS arts producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , Hi.

S2: Hi , Maureen. Thanks for having me.

S1: Now , listen , before we start talking about it , let's take a listen to the Brahms. When we hear this at the show. Pianist Ian Barnet will be performing. He comes to town each summer for his role as the director of La Jolla Music Society's Summerfest. But first , he'll play Johannes Brahms second Piano Concerto with the San Diego Symphony this weekend. Remind us a little bit about Barnet Town.

S2: Yeah , so Summerfest is such this important part of our classical music scene. Every year is a month full of chamber music concerts. It's all held at the Conrad at the La Jolla Music Society , and it runs from late July all the way through August. And Enon Barnard is the Summer Fest music director , and this will be his fifth year in that role. He's based in New York , but he comes here every summer. He is such this dynamic performer and also a citizen like a musical citizen , if that's the thing. He when you're listening to his pre-show talks and his introductions , you can tell that he has this amazing love for music , but also a curiosity. And I think that's what makes him a really good performer and a good curator of the festival. But yeah , he is an accomplished performer and he's really fun to watch. And yeah , he'll play with the symphony. Brahms Second Piano Concerto , they're doing two shows Saturday at 730 and Sunday at five at the Shell.


S2: She is a young Iranian American composer. They're also playing Dvorak's Symphony number seven. But the Brahms and Britten are definitely at the heart of this concert.

S1: Let's go back to the Brahms for just a minute.

S2: So he had found a lot of success as a composer who's kind of at the height of his career , but he hadn't gone back to piano concertos. And this really is this extraordinary piece of music. And I think part of the magic is that in listening to it , we as an audience don't really have a sense of how extraordinary the piano part is and how challenging it is. And I talked to Barnett and asked him what it's like playing this concerto , and he said , It's almost like you are playing an orchestra.

S3: The way he wrote this piece is so orchestral for the piano as well. And it's so easy to forget sometimes that you're a pianist in some of this kind of massive , rich lyrical writing. That's one of the reasons I actually love playing it. You get to play with the orchestra in a way that you don't In many other piano concertos , you're kind of become an orchestra yourself , sometimes competing against the other orchestra and sometimes collaborating. So it's a very , very beautiful way of playing an instrument.

S2: So Brahms wrote this piece at the height of his career , the height of his success , but it took him three years to write it. It had been two decades since he wrote his first piano concerto , and he was famously modest about it , almost downplaying it as a as a little thing. But this feels like a really big piece of music.

S3: And as a pianist , composer was much more eager to impress. And this one , even though , of course , he's as if not more complex and impressive , he is less , I think , to my mind , trying to prove himself , but just showing a master at work and he's comfortable in his own skin. He's already written so much for the orchestra , for the for the piano. I mean , he was so afraid to write a symphony after after Beethoven. And at this point , he's already fully in his own skin. So I think that is even transmitted. So you can feel it in the very , very first beginning of the concerto. It's the first piano concerto starts with this kind of mighty crash or mighty kind of thunder , where this one is exactly the opposite. It just feels like it's just always been there. And you just join joining and in this bucolic beginning. So I feel that tells you so much about his headspace writing this piece.

S2: It does start in such a peaceful way , but it's also known for its tempestuous ness , and particularly in the second movement.

S3: And of course , there's nothing that we can say about Brahms that you can't prove with the exact opposite because he is such a complex composer and the nature of the pieces that it changes all the time. And then that's the beauty of great music. But the second movement really does have more of a confrontational feel to it , both in terms of the writing , the rhythm , the , as you said , the tempestuous ness of it and the way that the off beats that the orchestra offers and the piano offers in return kind of feels like you're constantly pushing one another. And that's very exciting and very just heart wrenching , actually. And then you go , it's so quick , it turns on a dime and suddenly you're in this very kind of calm , almost mystical world , and then you're thrown back into the tempest. It's also one of the hardest movements that the middle of that movement is one of the hardest technically to play , even though it doesn't sound as hard as some of the other parts of the piece. But it's very , very tricky. One of my memories of this piece , actually , I once played it in Japan and just at the most difficult spot in that second movement , there was an earthquake. Suddenly the the entire hall started shaking. And we reached this point in which the music kind of grows to a halt naturally. And we just waited for the earthquake to pass. And all I could think of is , oh , I've worked so hard on this , on this bit. And I was eclipsed by a by an earthquake.

S2: I love that. So you're performing this weekend with Rafael and the San Diego Symphony and you perform with with orchestras around the world. But you also have something of a creative home here in San Diego directing the La Jolla Music Society. Summerfest. Does that creative home here impact what it means to collaborate and perform with Perry ? Absolutely.

S3: In fact , I started my music directorship of Summerfest the same time as as Raphael started with the San Diego Symphony. I've known , though , Raphael for many years before because he is the husband of one of my closest collaborators , Alisa Weilerstein. So the fact that we both started a musical directorship and a relationship with San Diego is very special. And the fact that I got to play with him several times , it just feels really enhances the feeling of a musical family , which I think is what a festival does best. That's what I hope to do in my in Summerfest is to create this feeling of a musical family between the musician and the audience , between the musicians themselves and between other other organizations in the area. So we have musicians from the San Diego Symphony and beyond playing in the festival. So I really do love that feeling of just coming home of sorts and and having a meaningful relationship , because I do feel that translates into the music making.

S2: Inon Barnet and performs with the San Diego Symphony this weekend at the Rady Shell and will return to San Diego in July for La Jolla Music Society's month long Summerfest. Thank you so much inon.

S3: Thank you so much. Great to be here.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. I'm speaking with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Let's talk about a few other things going on in the arts this weekend. Artist Ethan Chan makes clothing out of sauce packets and has a new exhibit opening up. You've talked about his work before , right ? Right.

S2: He had a solo exhibit at Oceanside Museum of Art. That was earlier this year. In fact , it just closed last month. And this new exhibit , it's at Art Produce. It's a continuation of this series , all new works. What Ethan Chan does is he makes clothing from a variety of sauce packets and things that he gathers at truck stops , school cafeterias or restaurants. And so these are things like ketchup , mayonnaise , mustard , things I've never seen before , like horseradish sauce. And he makes full outfits , including the shoes and these are made with the intention that he would have his friends wear them and and they're kind of designed with his friends in mind with these individuals and in the exhibit are the actual outfits. They're hung and installed on the walls like a sculpture plus photography of those friends wearing the outfits and going about their day. One of them , he's in Target. Somebody is walking around Target in his soft pocket suit. So , yeah , this is a great a great series.

S1: How do we see it ? How can we see it ? Yeah.

S2: So this will be up through July 8th at Art Produce. And they have been doing mostly evening hours lately where you can access it through the new bar that's next door called Botanica. This is in North Park and it's from 5 to 8 most of the evenings. But there's an opening reception this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. They're also having other art on view. Joe Cantrell has a residency exhibit in the cooler Room at Art Produce. That's basically a giant sound sculpture. Prudence Horne has as a pop up in the community room , this is a set of paintings about her own garden. And then also at the opening reception is a performance from singer Lexi Polito , who her voice is so hard to describe. She's somewhere between this performance artist. There's alternative jazz and folk in there , too. This is her singing with her duo Lex in The Jewels. The song Richard.

UU: Richard praises Family for Gods of Golf , Wine and Dodi , a disciple of. Love and beauty tells me we'll always have the bean bag for you.

S1: And importantly , Sunday at the Casbah , there's a benefit concert for the family of local musician and music journalist Dustin Lloyd Spike , who passed away in March.

S2: He left behind a widow and a son , and tickets for this show will go towards a fund for his son's future. Lou Spike was loved and respected by so many people in San Diego. And the music scene , whether from playing in bands or he was a writer also for Sound Diego , which is Channel Seven's music blog , and he also worked in the industry at Vinyl Junkies and at The Marrow as a musician. He was a songwriter , guitarist and vocalist for Old Tiger , and this song is from their 2012 album. It won the San Diego Music Award for Best Pop album in 2013. The track is called You Can't Do Better.

UU: Can't do better.

S2: So playing at the Casbah Sunday evening , there's a lineup of local rock bands Dead Feather , Moon of Spirit , The Strawberry Moons and Jelly Duval. They'll play. It's an early show , so the doors are open at 630 and the show starts at 730. Tickets are $20.

S1: You can find a tales on these and more arts events and sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter at Slash Arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans Thank you so much , Julia.

S2: Thank you , Maureen. Have a good weekend.

UU: Up on a Sunday morning.

'Barnatan Plays Brahms'

Pianist Inon Barnatan returns to San Diego to perform with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rafael Payare at The Shell. Barnatan is also the seasonal music director for the La Jolla Music Society's SummerFest. This weekend, he'll perform Brahms' beautiful, expansive and symphonic "Piano Concerto No. 2."

"Playing Brahms' second piano concerto is a little like playing an orchestra," Barnatan said. "The way he wrote it, it's so orchestral — for the piano as well, and it's so easy to forget sometimes that you're a pianist in some of this kind of massive, rich, lyrical writing."

Brahms wrote his second piano concerto approximately two decades after he wrote his first, and Barnatan said his trajectory as a composer is evident.


"The first piano concerto was a young man's piece where he really was making a statement on who he is, and as a pianist-composer was much more eager to impress," Barnatan said.

For the second piano concerto, he said Brahms' work is perhaps even more impressive.

"He is less, I think, to my mind, trying to prove himself, but just showing a master at work."

Barnatan began his role as SummerFest music director the same year Rafael Payare stepped into his role at the San Diego Symphony. Partly because of this, Barnatan said that his sense of a creative home in San Diego is intertwined with his relationship with Payare, and Payare's wife, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, with whom Barnatan frequently collaborates and records.

This idea of a creative, musical sense of "home" is something Barnatan wants to share.


"That's what I hope to do in SummerFest — to create this feeling of a musical family between the musician and the audience, between the musicians themselves, and between other organizations in the area," he said. "So I really do love that feeling of just coming home of sorts, and having a meaningful relationship, because I do feel that translates into the music making."

SummerFest begins July 28 at the La Jolla Music Society.

Also in the program for this weekend's shows: Dvořák's "Symphony No. 7 in D minor," and a world premiere, "Methuselah," by Iranian-American composer Gity Razaz.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 20 and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 21. The Rady Shell, 222 Marina Park Way, downtown. $25-$108.

Ethan Chan: 'More Selections From the Closets of More People that I Love…'

Visual art
Fresh off a solo exhibition at Oceanside Museum of Art, artist Ethan Chan is bringing his sauce packet outfits to Art Produce. The work at Art Produce will be all-new, continuing the series "Selections From the Closets of People that I Love," where Chan designs outfits specifically for friends, then photographs them going about their lives while wearing the sauce packet suits — including shoes — at home or out and about, even at Target.

Performance photo of Ethan Chan's sauce packet suit, "Jo at Echo Park" at left. The suit is shown in an undated installation photo at right.
Lile Kvantaliani (left) / Ethan Chan (right)
Performance photo of Ethan Chan's sauce packet suit, "Jo at Echo Park" at left. The suit is shown in an undated installation photo at right.

On display in the exhibit are those actual outfits, hung on the wall like sculptures, plus the photography of them being worn. New to this new series at Art Produce is sauce packet writing, installed on the walls — short phrases and poetry spelled out with brightly colored sauce-filled rectangles.

Ethan Chan's "Love Letter" is a wall poem created out of sauce packets, shown in an undated photo.
Ethan Chan
Ethan Chan's "Love Letter" is a wall poem created out of sauce packets, shown in an undated photo.

Art Produce will have an opening reception coinciding with their open studios this Friday evening. Joe Cantrell's sound sculpture will be on view (on listen?) in the Cooler Room, and a pop-up of Prudence Horne's garden-inspired paintings will be in the Community Room.

A signature cocktail will be available from Art Produce's next-door neighbor Botanica, and musician Lexi Pulido will perform a set at the reception. I love Pulido's genre-transcending voice and alt-jazz/folk fusion sound.

Details: On view through July 8. Opening reception: 6-8 p.m. on Friday, May 19. Art Produce, 3139 University Ave., North Park. Free.

San Diego Ballet: 'Eight to the Barre'

Dance, Music/Swing
Local jazz and swing legend (and the self-proclaimed "Queen of Boogie Woogie") Sue Palmer — with her Motel Swing Orchestra — will take the stage alongside San Diego Ballet dancers this weekend at Balboa Theatre.

San Diego Ballet's artistic director Javier Velasco is shown with musician Sue Palmer in an undated photo.
Canela Photography
San Diego Ballet's artistic director Javier Velasco is shown with musician Sue Palmer in an undated photo.

Palmer is in the San Diego Music Hall of Fame. San Diego Ballet's artistic director Javier Velasco said in a recent Instagram video that Palmer is a natural extension of their existing relationships with resident composers Gilbert Castellanos and Charles McPherson. She's also an icon in the swing community, and swing dancers in the region gravitate to wherever Palmer is playing.

The show's title, "Eight to the Barre," is a ballet "barre" inspired play on a line from "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "When you hear the whistle blowin' eight to the bar." Bar means a musical measure of music, generally containing four beats in standard time. Eight beats means it's fast and raring to go.

The second half of the show will be Velasco's tribute to Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.

Details: 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 21. Balboa Theatre, 868 4th Ave., downtown. $45-$85.

Dustin Lothspeich Benefit Concert

Local musician and music journalist Dustin Lothspeich passed away in March this year, leaving behind a wife and young son.

Lothspeich was the songwriter, guitarist and vocalist for the band Old Tiger, who won the San Diego Music Award for Best Pop Album in 2013 with "Love Have Mercy."

He was also a journalist for NBC7's SoundDiego site and worked in the music industry as a booker at The Merrow and also with Vinyl Junkies. To honor Lothspeich and raise funds for his son's future, the Casbah is hosting a benefit concert on Sunday evening. Rock bands Dead Feather Moon, Oh Spirit, The Strawberry Moons and Gelly Duvall will perform, and proceeds will go to Lothspeich's family.

Details: Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 21. Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., Middletown/Little Italy. $20. 21+.

More weekend arts events we're covering:

The GI Film Festival is in full swing, and KPBS military reporter Andrew Dyer took a closer look at some of the films screened on opening night. You can find the schedule of films here, and come check out films by, for and about veterans, the military and their families. I'll be moderating the panel of filmmakers after the "Late Night Narrative Shorts" block Friday night. (Be ready for zombies).

GI Film Festival San Diego
Spark Photography 2019
The GI Film Festival San Diego sign is shown in a 2019 photo.

San Diego Fringe Festival is back! KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando has her annual roundup of tips to navigate San Diego's "wildest" theater festival.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando takes a closer look at the La Jolla Playhouse production of "La Lucha" at MCASD downtown. It's a world premiere immersive theater event inspired by lucha libre and invites visitors into “a realm of ringside thrills and backstage secrets.”

An undated image from "La Lucha." The immersive show draws inspiration from masked Mexican wrestlers.
La Jolla Playhouse
An undated image from "La Lucha." The immersive show draws inspiration from masked Mexican wrestlers.

More "La Lucha" goodies: Beth Accomando also spoke to David Israel Reynoso about the inspiration behind the project in an interview on KPBS Midday Edition.

For more arts events or to submit your own, visit the KPBS/Arts Calendar. And be sure to sign up for my weekly KPBS/Arts newsletter.

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Julia Dixon Evans writes the KPBS Arts newsletter, produces and edits the KPBS/Arts Calendar and works with the KPBS team to cover San Diego's diverse arts scene. Previously, Julia wrote the weekly Culture Report for Voice of San Diego and has reported on arts, culture, books, music, television, dining, the outdoors and more for The A.V. Club, Literary Hub and San Diego CityBeat. She studied literature at UCSD (where she was an oboist in the La Jolla Symphony), and is a published novelist and short fiction writer. She is the founder of Last Exit, a local reading series and literary journal, and she won the 2019 National Magazine Award for Fiction. Julia lives with her family in North Park and loves trail running, vegan tacos and live music.
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