By Barry Jagoda
Barnatan was pianist for half of the concert on May 19, and the large audience at Qualcomm Hall was thrilled, delivering a standing ovation for his rendition of the brilliant Schubert Piano Sonata in C minor. This was immediately followed by an even more arousing, glorious violin-piano duet, in which Barnatan was joined by the passionate, award-winning young violinist Benjamin Beilman for Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major.
But perhaps the evening’s highlight, after an intermission, was Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, for which Barnatan brought together the world-class Dover Quartet, and joined them with Carter Brey, in from his day job as principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic.
Dover is comprised of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee with violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and Camden Shaw, playing cello.
Many have heard premonitions of death in this, Schubert’s last instrumental creation, before he expired in 1828 at age 31. The work has been described (by among others, the society’s long time, indispensable program annotator, Eric Bromberger) as “one of the finest creations in all of chamber music.”
For those fortunate enough to attend the earlier evening Prelude there was a compelling conversation between Barnatan and Brey moderated by San Diego’s wise musical authority, James Chute.
Brey said he was introduced, at age 15, to music by his New York public high school teacher and then realized “I could not live without music full time in my life.” Four decades later, in Israel, Barnatan began the piano at age three, when his parents noticed that their son had perfect pitch.
The weaving together of brilliant young artists with a confident veteran like Brey, now in his sixth decade as a cellist, reminds one of the kinds of opportunities awaiting concert goers when the La Jolla Music Society opens it’s own venue, the Conrad, in April 2019. This will be just in time for Barnatan to take over as music director of SummerFest.
The amazing pianist played flawlessly from memory, while the other musicians, except for Brey, who resorted to old-fashioned printed program material, were notable for using foot-pedal controlled iPads for the scores, written almost two centuries in the past.
Schubert’s last year provided what Barnatan called “the pinnacle of what we can do as musicians.” Other towering heights will be coming along for La Jolla Music Society patrons in the coming months and years.
Meantime, the society has just announced its program for Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin’s final summer as music director, after 18 years, for SummerFest 2018.
Barry Jagoda, an award-winning broadcast journalist, was special assistant to President Carter for media and public affairs.
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