Rafael Payare and Strings of the San Diego Symphony Offer Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Elgar Online

In a laudable effort to keep musicians of the San Diego Symphony playing together and audiences engaged with the orchestra, Music Director Rafael Payere offered another streamed online concert Friday, April 30, from the stage of Copley Symphony Hall. His theme, Early Genius, offered works for string orchestra from the earliest years of three familiar European composers—Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Elgar—although the late bloomer Edward Elgar was already 35 when he wrote his Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op. 20. On the other hand, when Mozart wrote his F Major Divertimento, K. 138, and Felix Mendelssohn composed his String Symphony No. 12 in G Minor, they were still precocious teenagers.

Rafael Payare [photo (c.) Bjorne Bertheussen]

Of the three works, I thought the Mendelssohn String Symphony proved the most substantial offering, sporting brisk, inventive counterpoint in the vital outer movements and elegant cantabile themes in the quiet Andante. Payare’s propulsive direction and the orchestra’s admirably unified and sonically resplendent strings made a strong case for the work, displaying its unfailing sense of direction and clear structural logic.

Mozart had already spent a year performing and studying in Italy when he wrote his F Major Divertimento, K. 138, in 1772, so it is hardly surprising that this short three-movement work exudes a felicitous Italianate charm. Payare and the strings found an ideal balance between infectious vivacity and polished performance to make this slight work ingratiating.

Several years ago, former Music Director Jahja Ling and the orchestra programmed Elgar’s E Minor Serenade for Strings on a program that featured Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15. Elgar’s gently brooding Victorian reverie offered apt balance to the challenge of Shostakovich’s complex final symphony, but on Payare’s understated program, the Elgar just took up space.



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