Mainly Mozart’s 2023 Genius Week will premiere 17-year-old San Diego composer Edric Saphire’s bassoon sextet
The Nov. 14-18 concert series in La Jolla will feature celebrated pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and first-chair members of the San Diego Symphony, along with a concert featuring works by Clarice Assad, Amy Beach and Ellen Zwillich
Mainly Mozart’s expanded 2023 edition of its annual Genius Week will include the world premiere of a bassoon sextet composed by Edric Saphire, a 17-year-old senior at Canyon Crest Academy.
To be held Nov. 14-18 at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla, the three-part concert series will also include the world premiere of composer Clarice Assad’s piano quintet, Tapestry.
For the record:
11:49 a.m. Sept. 9, 2023The original version of this article incorrectly identified pianist Anne Marie McDermott and violist and violinist Ida Kavafian as sisters.
Saphire’s Bassoon Sextet in B-Flat Major will be performed Nov. 14 by internationally acclaimed pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and four members of the San Diego Symphony during the opening night of “Genius Week.” The symphony members joining McDermott on stage for the premiere are principal bassoonist Valentin Martchev, concertmaster Jeff Thayer, principal violist Chi-Yuan Chen and principal cellist Yao Zhao.
Saphire, who plays trombone in the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra, is being championed by Nancy Laturno and Michael Francis, who are — respectively — Mainly Mozart’s co-founder and music director.
Leading members of top national orchestras will perform works by Mahler, Beethoven and, of course, Mozart, in three venues in Del Mar and La Jolla
“Edric is really focused in on his craft and single-minded about music and the way that it affects him,” Laturno said.
“He composed a fanfare that was performed last year at a Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra concert that Francis attended. Michael was impressed and suggested Edric compose something bigger, which turned out to be his bassoon sextet.”
Saphire and his parents will attend the Nov. 14 concert. He is the first emerging young composer — as opposed to an established one — to be commissioned to write a piece for Mainly Mozart in its 35-year history.
While it would be unfair to compare any precocious young musician to such an iconic composer as Mozart, Laturno sees a similarity or two.
“Edric seems to have a very intense understanding of music,” she noted. “That kind of focus is not something you see often in someone so young.”
Writing a bassoon sextet is a heady accomplishment for any teenager, let alone having it be premiered by McDermott and leading members of the San Diego Symphony at a Mainly Mozart opening-night concert.
“Approaching anything to do with Mozart is an enormous challenge,” Saphire told the Union-Tribune, via email.
“To write this piece, I first re-listened to a lot of his music and was once again struck by his genius. While I wouldn’t want anyone to compare my work to his, I hope that if he saw what I have written, he would see what I have learned from him.
“I am very grateful to Mainly Mozart for the opportunities, and grateful that San Diego is such a fertile and vibrant place for musicians and composers.”
A homegrown San Diego nonprofit, Mainly Mozart was launched in 1988 and has grown steadily ever since.
It earned national attention in 2020 when Mainly Mozart became the first classical music organization in the country to present drive-in orchestral concerts during the COVID-19 shutdown of live events. The six-concert 2023 edition of Mainly Mozart’s annual All-Star Orchestra Festival was held outdoors in Del Mar and at two venues in La Jolla — the indoor Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center and the open-air Epstein Family Amphitheatre at the University of California San Diego.
“We averaged about 1,200 to 1,300 people a night at our five outdoor concerts and brought in 54 percent more ticket income than we had projected,” said Mainly Mozart Communications Director Mark Laturno, who is Nancy Laturno’s son. “And we had 63 percent new attendees, which I would attribute to online marketing.”
Mainly Mozart’s first Genius Week event was held in 2015 as a one-night concert designed to honor the music of Mozart and a non-musical genius — Qualcomm co-founder Irwin M. Jacobs.
This year marks the first time Genius Week will be held over multiple evenings. The 2023 honoree is Dr. David Brenner, the president and CEO of San Diego’s Sanford Burnham Prebys biomedical research institute. The Nov. 17 Genius Award dinner and concert in his honor will be held exclusively for Genius Week patrons. Patron packages are available.
The Nov. 18 closing-night concert will feature the debut of composer Clarice Assad’s Tapestry, which celebrates women by weaving together musical ideas contributed by 50 female musicians and composers from around the world. The evening will also feature a piano quintet by Amy Beach that will team pianist McDermott with her sister, New York Philharmonic violinist Kerry McDermott, Kerry’s daughter, violist Clara Neubauer, violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Ani Aznavoorian.
“The goal for all three Genius Week concerts is to showcase excellence and innovation,” Laturno said. “And I think this series will do both of those.”
Tickets for all three Genius Week concerts are available online at: mainlymozart.org/genius.
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