Program: Overture to Manfred (Robert Schumann), Piano Concerto in A minor (Clara Schumann), Symphony No. 1 in C minor (Johannes Brahms)
Conductor: Steven Sloane
Pianist: Natasha Kislenko
Narrator: Peter Strauss

This past weekend I learned that I regret waiting five years to go to the symphony here in Santa Barbara. I think it was a combination of unwarranted snootiness (the Philadelphia Orchestra that I went to as an undergrad is one of the “Big Five”–not that I could tell the difference) and plain old business/laziness, but thanks to a gift from a friend Anna and I finally attended the symphony here, for their “Valentine’s Love Letters” concert.

The use of a narrator to introduce the Robert-Clara-Johannes love triangle and read their love letters was an interesting choice, but it helped give a bit of context to the works (not that they really had anything to do with their love for each other). Sloane, the conductor, was a lot of fun to watch as well, being more physical than I remember Eschenbach being in Philadelphia. The lead viola also had a crazy hipster mustache.

The music, of course, was great. Anna liked Clara’s work the most; I thought it was great until the middle of the second movement–there is a period where the piano trades off with the cello, and after that it starts on the path to a great and energetic section but in my opinion never quite gets there. I preferred the Brahms symphony, of course–finally we have someone who knows how to use the back section of the orchestra. I have a special place in my heart for Brahms No. 3, but nevertheless I thought this one was damn good.

The moral of the story: go to the symphony, wherever you are, whenever you get the chance.