A Night at the Symphony

It’s still there. In your closet. That sassy Kate Spade dress or Hugo Boss suit you bought at Nordstrom last year that’s just waiting for an excuse to be worn. Well, here’s your excuse: On March 3, at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, the California Symphony will be performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, hailed as the most admirable, singular, artistic, and complex Beethoven concerto ever. To watch San Francisco Symphony’s Donato Cabrera conduct this renown orchestra—led by award-winning pianist Haochen Zhang—is a rare opportunity. To experience this level of talent for as little as $35 is a miracle.

Since it was founded in 1986, one of the California Symphony’s main goals is to make classical music accessible to new listeners throughout the Bay Area via popular works performed by world-class musicians and conductors—that, and ticket prices far, far less than what you’d pay in San Francisco. Along with works by established masters, the symphony also offers a rare opportunity to hear new pieces by promising young American composers. “It’s the music you love to hear,” says Walter Collins, Executive Director of the California Symphony. “World-class conductors and the most exciting guest artist performing today.”

If you live in the East Bay, do the right thing: Support your local arts by watching at least one performance of the California Symphony this year (you’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy it). And if you don’t live in the East Bay, treat yourself to a fantastic weekend getaway filled with hiking, wildlife, great restaurants, shopping, spa treatments, and Beethoven. Not a bad way to spend a weekend, eh?

Here’s how you do it: Book a room at one of Walnut Creek’s downtown hotels such as the Walnut Creek Marriott, and along with your carefully packed dress or suit, toss in a change of comfy clothes and shoes. On Saturday go for a spring wildflower hike at Mount Diablo State Park, then visit the Lindsay Wildlife Museum to see more than 50 species of live, wild animals. Check into your hotel room, then head downtown for dinner (My recommendations: Ottavio for Italian, Sasa for Japanese, and Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar for tapas.) In the morning have brunch at Katy’s Kreek (voted the Bay Area’s Best Brunch), followed by spa treatments and shopping at Broadway Plaza. Return to your hotel to change (request a late checkout), then it’s off to the symphony in your smashing new outfit—a fitting end to a classical weekend.

If you’re unable to attend the March 3 performance, on May 4 and May 5 guest conductor Robert Treviño closes the symphony’s season with the world premiere of a work by its Young American Composer-in-Residence, D. J. Sparr. Renowned violin virtuoso Caroline Goulding will also perform Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Berlioz’ fantastically powerful Symphonie Fantastique.

For more information about the California Symphony and to purchase tickets, log onto californiasymphony.org or call 925/943-7469. Tickets range from $35 to $65, and seating can be reserved online. And for information about lodging, activities, restaurants, shopping, and more in Walnut Creek, log onto the Walnut Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau website at gowalnutcreek.com.

– By Matthew Richard Poole

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on Feb 20, 2013