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San Diego weekend arts events: Brahms, sauce packets, and a benefit concert at the Casbah

 May 18, 2023 at 4:31 PM PDT

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.

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Promotional photo for the SummerFest 2022 Opening Concert, courtesy of Inon Barnatan.
Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve
Promotional photo for the SummerFest 2022 Opening Concert, courtesy of Inon Barnatan.

Pianist Inon Barnatan returns to San Diego to perform with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rafael Payare at The Shell. He'll perform Brahms' beautiful, expansive and symphonic "Piano Concerto No. 2."

KPBS/Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans spoke with Barnatan about what it's like to play Brahms and his role as director of La Jolla’s annual SummerFest. Also, she shares other arts and culture events this weekend, including an exhibit of clothing made from sauce packets and a benefit show for the late musician Dustin Lothspeich.


Julia Dixon Evans, KPBS/Arts producer and editor

Inon Barnatan, pianist