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July 9, 2008
If it sounds good, it is good...

Could it be that we have one the best concert halls on the West Coast right here in our own backyard?

It's beginning to look, and sound, that way.

That hall is, obviously, Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis.

Out of curiosity, I ask as many performers as I can what they think of the hall. The consensus is unanimous about the extremely warm and clear acoustics. When conductor Paavo Jarvi came through here with the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra last year he was very excited by the acoustics. The Kronos Quartet's David Harrington is also a big fan of the hall. And they wern't being just polite.

As for me, the proof is the comparitive pudding. Recently I attended the Sacramento Choral Society's performance of Mozart's Requiem at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The acoustics, as well as the architecture, of this stunning hall have been much touted.

So how did they compare with Mondavi?

I believe the Mondavi to be the better hall. While the Disney offered a super-live and clear sound, it also offers extra brilliance on the high and low ends of the sound spectrum but nothing striking in the middle.

These are all equally balanced at Mondavi, with the midrange tones just as clear as what exists on either ends of the spectrum

And I'm not the only one who noticed differences. SCSO conductor Donald Kendrick noticed some disparities.

"The sound of the hall took most of the rehearsal to figure out and it was difficult trying to get a handle on it," said Kendrick. "The trombones said they couldn't hear much else. Apparently, the low brass in the L.A. Philharmonic complains about this also from where they sit."

Kendrick added that the violins were having trouble hearing the violas and cellos clearly. It made for a stressful rehearsal.

Luckily the live performance went much smoother than the rehearsal. At the performance, a nuanced sound from the chorus easily engulfed the hall. It was a sound not often heard at the Community Center Theater.

Acoustics aside, it's rare to find a hall as striking and as intimate in feel like Disney Hall, despite the fact that it seats more than 2,200 people.

But for my money, I'll take Mondavi.


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