Maestro Sidney Weiss is talking about the Glendale Symphony in terms that could apply equally well to the London Philharmonic or any other orchestra of the first rank.
Saturday evening, the Glendale orchestra will close its 77th season with an all-Brahms program. And Weiss, its music director for the last four years, has nothing but praise for his musicians and their ambition as well as their talent.
Saturday's program will feature Brahms' so-called Double Concerto for violin and cello and his Symphony No. 2.
"Brahms is one of the great composers of the orchestral literature," says Weiss. He argues that Brahms is the "definitive composer" for writing music that exploits the expressive ability of each instrument in the orchestra.
"His work is always inspired, always intelligent and very grand," says Weiss. "This is the kind of music we like to devote ourselves to in Glendale."
With Weiss as music director, the Glendale group has a very clear goal. "Our mission," he says, "is to bring to life the great and inspired works of the orchestral literature."
Other groups may leaven their programs with rock music or works originally composed for the synthesizer. Not the Glendale Symphony. "We in Glendale devote ourselves only to great music," Weiss says.
The reason for this decidedly non-trendy commitment to sublime music is Weiss' conviction that it is a treasure that must be preserved and shared.
Although Weiss talks about music in the gentlest of voices, it is clearly his passion--one of several related passions, actually. Weiss is a violinist as well as a conductor, and when he isn't helping his fellow musicians make gorgeous music, he makes his own violins. He explains: "One of my other great loves is woodworking, and making a violin is the ultimate woodworking project."
Weiss has crafted several violins that meet his high standards, including the violin he now plays--an instrument he made 36 years ago.
What he has to say about the violin is also relevant to his work with the orchestra. A violin exists to create sound, he says, but it should also look very beautiful.
"A violin is just a simple box with curved surfaces," he says. "At the same time, nothing in art is simple. What causes the sound to become beautiful is, in the last analysis, a mystery. Some things in the world cannot be analyzed, and beauty is one of those things."
To make violins of the quality he aspires to, Weiss has studied some of the legendary instruments made by Antonio Stradivari and by members of the Guarneri family. When the Glendale Symphony is performing, he says, "We want the violin section to sound like a giant Stradivarius."
The soloists for Saturday's concert are Tamsen Beseke on violin and Armen Ksajikian on cello. Beseke will be playing a rare Guadagnini violin, an instrument made in 1780 by Stradivari disciple Giovanni Guadagnini.
Beseke won't say how much the instrument cost, but she did have to take out a second mortgage and she notes that a violinist friend bought a somewhat inferior instrument for $100,000 less.
Like Weiss, Beseke, who also performs with the Los Angeles Opera and Crystal Cathedral orchestras, thinks the Glendale group is commendable in its commitment to playing "the finest classical music in the finest way possible." That means performing "with fire and passion," she says.
Beseke plays 150 concerts a year and manages to earn a living by adding private lessons and playing at social events to that hectic schedule. She also frequently visits local schools, making the case for playing and supporting classical music.
She says that her own talent was first recognized when she was tested in the Monrovia public schools. She began taking private lessons as a young teenager and was soon practicing as many as eight hours a day.
She practiced obsessively enough to worry her artist mother, Mary Frances Beseke. "Why don't you go out and play like the rest of the kids?" her mother asked.
Like others in love with classical music, Beseke thinks children must be exposed to it in the flesh if they are ever going to play it themselves or become consumers of it.
The arts may not pay well, but they enrich people's lives, she believes. "By the time I was 14, I knew what a gift it was to be able to play music," she says.
"The masses still think it's only for the hoity-toity." Not at all, she insists: "It's really for all people."
Beseke is looking forward to Saturday's concert for more reasons than one. It's traditional for members of the symphony to dress in black. "Since I'm soloing, I can wear something other than black," she says happily. She found the perfect dress for her solo--a burgundy strapless with black overtones and beading. Most women try on a dress to see how it looks, but Beseke also made sure that it left her free to play her Guadagnini.
The Glendale Symphony Orchestra will present "The Majesty of Brahms" on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. For more information, call (818) 500-8720.
Spotlight appears every Friday. Patricia Ward Biederman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.