San Diego Symphony 2/21/20: Breathtaking

The San Diego Symphony, conducted by Music Director Rafael Payare, performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, with soloist Stefan Jackiw, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 in G minor to a packed house at Copley Symphony Hall.

The ensemble was so moving that the final applause didn’t waiver until every instrumental section was acknowledged separately.


Violinist Jackiw participated in a live, pre-concert discussion and described the three movements of Beethoven’s Concerto as searching, peaceful and joyful, respectively.

Timpanist Ryan Dilisi‘s beautiful opening of the first movement established the evening’s “tone.” Though piano, the five note phrase landed deep in my chest. It was declarative and gave breathing room. An inspiring ritardando prior to the statement’s final note foreshadowed a gorgeous articulation by the strings. Thank you to Concertmaster Jeff Thayer as well.

Per his earlier discussion, featured soloist Stefan Jackiw searched with conviction. His sound was immense. I was in the Mezzanine and stunned at how close and present he felt.

Over and over the powerful violinist dug into and drew vibrancy out of each phrase, wrung everything he could from declarative notes. His cadenza was a lively and thorough exploration of the theme.

He floated over the serene second movement, answered the gorgeous call of French Horn Benjamin Jaber in kind, gently pulled against Principal Clarinetist Sheryl Renk‘s declaration and danced with Bassoonist Valentiv Martchev‘s statement.

Jackiw bound and leapt through the Concerto’s final movement and was joined by gleeful woodwinds Rose Lombardo, Flute, and Sarah Skuster, Oboe. Even in the Mezzanine it was clear Lombardo and Skuster were grooving to that waltz.

Jackiw’s closing cadenza was earnest and evolving.

So much so that I imagined Sonny Rollins, for years alone on the Williamsburg bridge at night, having a dialogue with the music inside himself, turning melodic phrases inside-out, backwards and forwards… and how he was eventually known as a “colossus.” ( and

The audience stood through three cheerful ovations.


Conductor Rafael Payare and the Symphony gave the audience every bit of Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony’s volatile passion.

It was breathtaking.

From the haunting opening theme, through the terrifying second movement, desperate sorrow of the third, and final, overwhelming alarm, the musicians played with ardent focus. And as a unit. No small task on a piece that takes over an hour to perform, is so intense and emotionally draining.

Shostakovich No. 11 is especially demanding of the Timpani and Ryan DiLisi thrived. From melodic call and response to ominous warnings, heartfelt grief to thunderous fervor, DiLisi expressed incredible range.

Payare’s Shostakovich was met with three standing ovations. And it felt like the audience was ready to acknowledge every musician individually if given the chance.

Raucous applause thundered to acknowledge English Horn, Oboes, Flutes and Piccolo, Bassoons and Contrabassoon, Clarinets and Bass Clarinet, French Horn, Violas, Low Strings, Violins, and Brass.

The violas, led by Principal Chi-Yuan Chen, and English Horn Andrea Overturf received well-earned cheers for their performances of the third and fourth movements, respectively.

And the audience roared when DiLisi and the cadre of percussionists were called to stand.

How fitting.


Have you ever stopped towards the end of a long day, reflected on your adventures, and thought, “I can’t believe all that happened today.”?

The Shostakovich was such a complete experience that I couldn’t believe I’d heard Stefan Jackiw earlier in the evening.


Thanks for reading and stay tuned!!

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