Back around 1980, I met conductor Dennis Russell Davies in Santa Cruz, at the Cabrillo Music Festival. He was in his 30’s, he was charismatic and intense – in a word, he was hot. And he did something that very few conductors can pull off. One night, he’d program established German standards, and play them beautifully. The next night, he’d conduct brand new music, like this piece by Philip Glass.
A quarter century has passed. Davies turned 60 last year, and he long ago focused his musical life in Europe. But he’s at the Mondavi Center tonight and tomorrow, with his current group, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz. The concerts reflect Davies’ programming style, which hasn’t changed. Friday, they’ll play a brand new symphony by Philip Glass, commissioned for this tour, and premiered in New York barely two weeks ago. Saturday they’ll play the Symphony No. 1 by Anton Bruckner, whose vast 19th Century works are rarely performed in this area. Here’s Davies leading his orchestra through the composer’s Fourth Symphony.
Unlike many Mondavi events, these concerts aren’t sold out. And they are an uncommon opportunity to see one of the noted American conductors of our time, in music that has become his specialty.