“It’s such an optimistic and life-affirming piece, and it’s very close to my heart,” said Rafael Payare, the new director of the San Diego Symphony, about Austrian composer Gutsav Mahler’s 5th Symphony. Payare officially takes over the role this weekend, and he chose to pair the Mahler with what he describes as “inventive” electronic-infused work by contemporary California composer Mason Bates.
Beyond the listening experience, Mahler’s 5th has lesser-known links to Alma Mahler, his only wife of just nine years.
“She was artistic and also brilliant and vivacious and beautiful,” said Nuvi Mehta, the symphony’s pre-concert lecturer and concert commentator. “She met Mahler and they had a very whirlwind courtship.” Born Alma Schindler, she married Mahler, 20 years her senior, in 1902.
Mahler famously forbade the then-music student and composer in her own right from writing her own works.
“He kind of made it clear to her that there really can be only one artist in a functioning family, and that she would have to give up her idea of composing,” said Mehta.
This gem from her 1964 obituary  in the New York Times illustrates Alma Mahler’s ambition: “She noted that she had once confided to her first husband, Mahler, that what she really loved in a man were his achievements. ‘The greater the achievements,’ she told the great German composer, ‘the more I love him.’” With that fiery will, it’s perplexing that she would willingly squander her own composing career.
Mehta said that Mahler began composing his 5th Symphony slightly before meeting Alma, and then finished in the early stages of their volatile romance; Payare said that the lilting, emotive fourth movement is “a beautiful love letter to his new wife.”
Mahler had also suffered a serious stroke just before composing the 5th, said Payare.
“So it’s as if Mahler is embracing life and everything about it; despite going through quite a dark and complex journey it ends with one of the most optimistic ever written,” Payare said.
And the final movement is a playful allegro with woodwinds at the forefront. It feels triumphant but full of light, contrasting the powerful brass-heavy earlier movements but still never lacking Mahler’s usual brutish explosiveness, particularly in its final fanfare.
“The way he writes,” Mehta said, in awe. “Just cries, outcries and drama. And it’s very difficult music. All the instruments in the orchestra have really difficult roles to play.”
Payare has conducted the symphony several times since his appointment, but this weekend’s performances mark his official start as director. “Mahler’s 5th showcases all the sections of the orchestra in a fantastic and virtuosic way. It’s almost like a new journey, or new beginning — so I see it as a great piece to start this new journey together,” Payare said.
Performances take place this weekend, and Mehta’s pre-show lectures take place 45 minutes before each performance. Hot tip: Guests can sit anywhere in the audience during the lecture!
TwitchCon 2019 Report: The Bob Ross Paint-Along
The sold-out TwitchCon brought scores of streamers, fans and vendors to town this weekend. No attendance figures are posted yet, but it was hopping.
The Twitch user convention introduced the streaming platform ’s slightly updated look (a brighter purple, additional splashes of color), held several contests with major prizes (including a recording contract), offered tabletop games, karaoke and the chance to scope brand new products, tech, features and games.
There was also a full slate of panels, live streams, charity platforms like Tiltify, the official concert including Blink-182 (with a last-minute cancelation from Lil Nas X) and lots of unofficial parties. A lot of cosplay, too, but mostly just purple accessories. Besides, if I barely recognized any of the characters at Comic-Con, TwitchCon was next-level obscurity.
Except for Bob Ross.
Limited to just 200 TwitchCon attendees, the Bob Ross Paint Along was a very official-feeling sample of a wildly popular Twitch format. Streamers act as a Bob Ross-style painting instructor, walking viewers through creating a painting. There was a lot of Ross worship. Was it the most wholesome thing the internet has given us in recent years? Maybe.
At TwitchCon, rows of conference tables were equipped with small easels, paper towels, a painting knife, brush and several dots of paint. Faye Fletcher, our host, had a kind voice, soothing and southern. I watched (and live tweeted ) while she sweetly guided those 200 fledgling painters through creating a pretty twilight mountain scene in an hour. The attendees cheered along, with rousing shouts and called-out Bob Ross-isms.
“I’m gonna show you the happy trees,” Fletcher said. “And not just one, but two. Because … ” she trailed off, dramatically. ” Everybody needs a friend,” finished someone from the audience.
TwitchCon returns to San Diego in September 2020 .
More Arts and Culture News and Events
- On Thursday, the Women’s Museum of California opens a 1619 exhibit .
- At the New Americans Museum, artist-in-resident Kerianne Quick’s “(A) Portrait of People in Motion ” exhibition features 3D-printed versions of artifacts and objects loaned by immigrants, plus recorded stories. (U-T)
- Diana Benavidez holds a piñata-breaking ceremony at Teros Gallery on Friday . Guests can bring poems, flowers, candy or other things (“anything you want”) to contribute to the piñata as part of the ceremony.
- Artists and muralists Ted Meyer and Armando Nunez join forces with the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego and San Diego’s Neurocrine Biosciences for an outdoor interactive public art project in the Gaslamp District  during this week’s Psych Congress conference. (U-T)
- On Saturday, Oceanside Museum of Art opens “Tiny Canvases ,” which is an art exhibition about extreme nail art.
- If he can see past his 22 Grammys (a fact that led me to the following trivia: Beyoncé has 23, John Williams has 24 and composer Georg Solti has the most at 31), Chick Corea will perform with Christian McBride and Brian Blade  at Balboa Theater on Wednesday, featuring Corea’s work and other jazz favorites. It kicks off the La Jolla Music Society’s 2019-2020 season.
- Okilly Dokilly, the Ned Flanders-themed metalcore band  (I know) performs at Soda Bar on Friday. Will the outfits and novelty hold up for an entire show? I just watched a video  and I still don’t know.
- Sunday afternoon, local bands Bit Maps and Strange Ages play with Tijuana’s Adeumazel  at the Whistle Stop. Notable: The show poster is an amazing riff on a White Claw label .
Theater and Dance
- The final weekend of Trolley Dances  takes to the rails Saturday and Sunday. Performances involve a two-and-a-half-hour guided tour on various trolley lines, with stops for performances.
- “Almost Famous” has now opened at the Old Globe, and runs through Oct. 27. Last weekend’s opening night was chock full of stars, including JONI MITCHELL and the real Penny Lane . Mitchell apparently partied with the cast until the wee hours. (Page Six)
Film and Literature
- On Friday, “Edie” kicks off a last-chance run at Digital Gym . Set in the Scottish Highlands, while filming the story, the 83-year-old lead actor Sheila Hancock climbed Scotland’s iconic mountain, Suilven, and actually became the oldest person ever to do so . (UK Climbing)
- The last “Left on Read” reading put on by Burn All Books (a small riso-based press, shop and literary organization ) included a live puppet show so I am very excited to see what Saturday’s event  may hold. It’s at Verbatim Books, featuring Australia’s riso-based Glom Press and readings by a handful of local and touring writers, artists, zinemakers and more.
- The Library Shop’s Matchbook Story Contest  — in which your submission must be wee enough to fit on the inside of a matchbook (i.e., 50 words or so) — runs through Nov. 15, and the $5 entry fee supports the San Diego Public Library. And they actually make the winning matchbooks.
- The seventh annual San Diego Zine Fest  is this weekend at Bread & Salt (and features exhibitors, DJs, food, a “Scrap Lounge” for on-site public zine-making, panels, workshops and more. Free and all ages.
Miscellany and More
- The San Diego Museum Council has launched its annual Kids Free in October 
- The San Diego Women’s Museum recently canceled a speaker series  due to low ticket sales and a perceived disinterest for the program in San Diego. The series was set to include Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler and more, and one board member resigned. (U-T)
- The New Children’s Museum officially did not voluntarily recognize the collective bargaining unit’s filing to unionize . That means the employees eligible to participate in collective bargaining will put the matter to a vote later this month, facilitated by the National Labor Relations Board. If 50 percent plus one agree, then the union is official and negotiations begin.
- The coinciding “Hunger” and “Feast” exhibitions close at Thumbprint Gallery  on Sunday, featuring horror works by Mishanthrope and food-based sculptures by Zard Apuya.
- Cygnet Theatre’s production of “The Virgin Trial ” closes Sunday.
- “Radiant Architecture ” at SDSU Downtown Gallery closes Sunday. It features the work of architect and longtime SDSU professor Eugene Ray.
- A fire destroyed Mozy’s Cafe in Encinitas  overnight Sunday, with damage to adjacent businesses. The blaze is under investigation. (Coast News)
- San Diego City Council members Chris Ward and Monica Montgomery hope that weed-related taxes could send millions of dollars to lower-income communities , particularly those affected by the “war on drugs.” (U-T)
- Bill Vanderburgh, who writes the brewery count and review blog Craft Beer in San Diego  and also a North County beer column for the Coast News Group  has finally gone to all (for now) the craft breweries in San Diego .
- Anthem is closing its final location , Toronado, just a few weeks after closing the Chula Vista spot. The vegan restaurant teased a potential new future on Instagram, with no details.
- “Tommy the Fishmonger®” jumps ship (sorry) from Catalina Offshore Products . (Eater)
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- I saw Mary Corse’s “A Survey in Light” exhibition at the Whitney last summer  (and it’s at LACMA in Los Angeles through November). I love this video of her  describing how she refracts light using glass microspheres.
- “The true tale of a bona fide, one-of-a-kind ‘Lobster Girl’ ” is a stunning essay by Kim Kelly on signing up for sideshow school. From the opening lines: “It was a Monday morning in Coney Island, and nerves or not, it was my turn to swallow the flames.” (Vox)