The San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 25, 2019

Following longstanding tradition, the final La Jolla SummerFest program is a chamber orchestra concert. Music Director Inon Barnatan not only upheld the tradition but—as is his wont—improved upon it. For Friday’s SummerFest finale at The Conrad, Barnatan invited 18th-century period music specialist Nicholas McGegan to conduct the orchestra in the usual suspects—Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart—but he spliced edgy contemporary works by Andrew Norman and Ellen Taafe Zwilich into the mix.

Conducting the program’s Baroque works from the harpsichord, McGegan exhibited the zeal and insight into this repertory that has made his San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra internationally celebrated. Not surprisingly, he led the Mozart and Zwilich works with equal finesse and conviction.

The concert, however, was dominated by a host of brilliant soloists. From the three scintillating violinists, Cho-Liang Lin, James Ehnes, and Augustin Hadelich, who blazed through J. S. Bach’s Concerto in D Major for Three Violins, BWV 1064, to amazing pianists Jonathan Biss and Barnatan who duelled playfully through Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat Major for Two Pianos, K. 365, to the arresting cellists Clive Greensmith and Edward Arron who mastered Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos, RV 531, to Hadelich’s vibrant account of Handel’s Violin Sonata in D Major, HWV 371, the audience feasted on one virtuoso performance after another.