Mainly Mozart’s festival orchestra under the baton of maestro David Atherton sounded as sleek and sonically unified as we have come to expect from this cadre of first-chair players drawn from orchestras across North America. But it was the three stellar soloists, clarinetist Anthony McGill, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who made us feel we were attending one of those chic European festivals nestled in an historic spa-town instead of a restored movie palace in downtown San Diego.

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San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season by inaugurating new series and expanding the concept of what a music festival can do. At La Jolla’s TSRI Auditorium, the festival presented a pair of stimulating lectures in its new Mozart and the Mind series and offered a stirring concert by the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

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Time travel is usually the province of science fiction, but Ruben Valenzuela and his excellent period music cohorts of the BachCollegium San Diego took his La Jolla audience to 17th-century Venice with his Marian Vespers concert.

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In 2005, the young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz surprised the world and thrilled his fellow countrymen by winning the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, the first Pole to take top honors at the Chopin Competition in 30 years. Blechacz made his impressive San Diego debut Friday (May 10, 2013) with a program devoted to the Polish composers Chopin and Szymanowski, as well as works by J.S. Bach and Beethoven.

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