If you were caught inside the St. Anthony Hotel‘s chandelier-shining Pereaux Room Tuesday night, relishing the splendor of the sound of bow upon string and tasting the sweet decadence of classically-inspired cuisine, your ears and tastebuds were treated to a rare delicacy.
The second annual “Savor the Music” was hosted by the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio (COSA) at the St. Anthony Hotel to ignite the senses and activate the spirit through a more carefully concocted marriage of musical and culinary art than one would normally experience at an average dinner party. Such a union was made possible by the generous sponsorship by Roberto Espinosa and Northwestern Mutual, who also helped generate roughly $8,000 to benefit COSA and its Music Institute for youth.
Delicate and poised but vigorous with passion, Spanish violinist Francisco Fullana cast a smile and struck his 1697 Stradivarius violin with youthful yearning bathed in experience, and the quartet embarked upon Anton Webern’s Five Movements for String Quartet. COSA Artistic Director Paul Montalvo warned the crowd that the piece would be “the longest of the evening, atonal and somewhat frightening, but please do have patience.”
Yet much to the audience’s surprise, not even a minute into the movement, the riveting composition lifted up to a precipitous height and Fullana lifted out of his seat as the ensemble burned through the final note and jumped up triumphantly, laughing heartily as the crowd roared (politely of course, but a boisterous applause nevertheless.)
Chef Michael Mata presented the amuse-bouche to the audience and the aural partakers turned oral by necessity and the food became the sound.
A brilliant merging of the minds between Montalvo, COSA Executive Committee Member Anne-Marie Grube, and Mata Tuesday evening was a celebration of the power that can occur when food is infused with a sonic kind of love.
Mata personally enjoyed the performance of classically-trained and internationally-renowned Fullana, Simon Gollo, Jorge Martinez-Rios, and Mihai Marica, and created the menu for the evening based on that inspiration. The audience, too, experienced the sublimity of the ensemble that elevated their tastebuds to the occasion.
While Mata definitely spiced things up with the sour cherry and habanero ice apertif, and opened up a richness with a goose-liver pate with amaretto sauce, the dishes only increased in quality as the musicians warmed up.
“For the entree, I wanted to go with a classic dish they may have had back during these times,” Mata said, referencing the height of classical music in Italy. “So I went with spaghetti and meatballs, but used spaghetti squash for the noodles and braised rabbit for the meatballs.”
With the spirits flowing generously, conviviality coalesced with the musical composition and converged into captivation. Fullana communicated with string bow and head bow to his compatriots, who flowed swiftly and gracefully in synchronicity.
The audience bobbed and lightly twisted in accordance to Die Fliedermaus Overture by Johann Strauss, Jr. Effervescent tones rippled across the vibrating strings as the masters of their instruments flew across the airwaves with dramatic posture and perfect execution, the delicacy of their craft not at all apparent in the sheer ownership of the movement.
With the Smoked Chocolate and Tropical Melange Coulis still swirling in our happy bellies, we smiled at the men in black evening wear, as free as we could be. The union of sound and body had been fully digested, the greater importance felt fully by many. This is how we connect with our vessels and create a joyful noise with our being. This inspiration is available to us always when we take the time to properly breathe into the music, savor each bite, and let the sweeter vibration take over.
The evening also was a celebration honoring the final days of COSA’s Music Institute, a two-week program hosted at Edison High School featuring individual lessons, orchestral workshops, and chamber music coaching by the musicians who performed that evening.
With Fullana representing Spain, Gollo representing Venezuela, Martinez-Rios representing Mexico, and Marica representing Romania, the Music Institute students received a worldwide scope of expertise under the tutelage of these master musicians and ten other junior artists. The program is meant to serve underprivileged youth interested in musical careers and expression and is completely tuition free.
Fullana shared openly as he sat with us at the table, taking turns with the other musicians for attendees to have the opportunity to really absorb the passion of these individuals.
“Some of them are already very talented, we’re just giving them a little guidance,” he said. “It is a full day of lessons and engagement and learning about classical technique.”
I managed to squeeze in a quip with Fullana, suggesting that he may have learned a thing or two about the San Antonio style as well.
“Yes of course! We went to see them perform at a local restaurant in their outfits, going table to table,” Fullana said. “It really was something magnificent.”
The young symphonic musicians will display the breadth of their learning this Saturday at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The Tobin’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Fresher proudly declared his support for the program and all other orchestral ensembles in residence at the world’s number one performing arts venue for its size.
“We are so grateful to have ensembles like the Chamber Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony, Soli, and many others in residence at the Tobin,” Fresher said. “The Music Institute is a valuable program and I hope that you will support it.”
You can find information on how to contribute to COSA’s mission and support initiatives like the Mission Institute on their website here. One of their feature performances, 20th Century Icons, will come to the Tobin Center on October 15. For more information, click here.
Top image: Guests of Savor the Music enjoy one of the many courses after a riveting performance by the orchestral ensemble. Photo courtesy of Siggi Ragnar.