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Two masters merge for Pacific Symphony's "from Bach to Mahler," featuring powerhouse pianist Dejan Laziæ performing Bach's Third Piano Concerto; plus Mahler's epic Symphony No. 5
March 01, 2013
Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, reveals the mastery of—and similarity between—two musical giants of the Baroque and Romantic eras for “From Bach to Mahler.” The concert features the return of Symphony-favorite, dynamic Croatian pianist Dejan Lazić, who stretches the expressive possibilities of Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (originally written for harpsichord). The Guardian (London) has called Lazić, “a powerhouse performer whose playing combines strength with beauty”—making him ideal for this electrifying piece. Balancing out the program is Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 5. With nearly a century separating Bach and Mahler, this immense orchestral work fittingly represents how much music evolved over the course of history between two iconic composers who were more similar than may be imagined. The program opens with Bach’s “Air” from Orchestral Suite No. 3, a sublimely simple yet seductive piece featuring a well-known violin melody.
The concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, March 21-23, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall with a preview talk featuring Alan Chapman at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$112; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“We’re going to begin the program with Bach’s ‘Air,’ which is this incredibly soft, ethereal piece that audiences around the world recognize,” says Maestro St.Clair. “And then, Dejan Lazić is returning to us for his third visit to perform Bach’s Third Piano Concerto. I’ve performed this with him in Europe—several times—and the way he expresses the delicacy and the virtuosity of the piece is so exquisite, and it makes for a perfect complement to the orchestral gravitas of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.”
Lazić first appeared with the Symphony in 2010, offering a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 to great applause. He returned in 2012 to perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, causing the Orange County Register to say: “His playing was elegant without being prim, flowery without lacking backbone, delicate while nurturing a firmness of tone. Clarity ruled, but warmth was ever-present. The Larghetto found him at his best; it stirred like lace curtains in a languid breeze.”
As a pianist who has based his career on creating fresh interpretations of the piano repertoire, Lazić is sure to excite the audience with his performance of Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which is more representative of the composer’s characteristic contrapuntal mastery than the simple but beautiful “Air” from Orchestral Suite No. 3. Adapted from his Violin Concerto in E Major, Bach’s concerto displays the virtuosity of the soloist in its rapid passagework alongside the delineation of multiple voices. On harpsichord, this concerto would have excited audiences with the quick distinguishable notes for which the instrument is known; on piano, however, the concerto evolves into an entirely different entity, as the instrument is more than capable of displaying a variety of features in dynamics and expressiveness.
From Bach and onto Mahler—a musical journey takes place as almost 100 years separates the two towering composers. Both composers share a common language in German and in their time were recognized as prominent performers (Bach as an organist and Mahler as a conductor). However, it wasn’t until after their deaths that their compositions were recognized as being genius and representative of the end of the Baroque and Romantic eras, respectively.
For the concert’s finale, St.Clair conducts Mahler’s colossal Symphony No. 5. No trivial task, the symphony is over an hour long, but as the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan said, “You forget that time has passed. A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience. The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath.”
This breathtaking symphony opens with a funeral march played by a fanfare of brass that St.Clair describes as “this ominous feeling of doom or this feeling that something really important is going to happen.” Mahler’s profound exploration of death is especially apparent in the fourth movement, written only for strings and harp, which is frequently played during memorial concerts. One of the most well-known performances of this movement was during memorial services held around the world for Leonard Bernstein, an important figure in bringing Gustav Mahler’s works to America.
As the symphony develops, the influence of Bach becomes more and more apparent as counterpoint becomes an important element. The inspiration of Bach is best heard in the third and final movements of the symphony offering a perfect marriage of two musical eras.
“When you reach the fifth movement, you just have this ‘wowww’ kind of feeling,” continues St.Clair. “It’s not one of these moments when you just leap to your feet. It’s one of these moments where you have to exhale before you become elated and are able to express the absolute joy and exhilaration you feel upon the conclusion of this movement.”
Pianist Lazić has appeared with such orchestras as the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony, Bamberger Symphoniker, Swedish Radio, Danish National, Helsinki Philharmonic and Australian Chamber Orchestra. Enjoying a significant following in the Far East, Lazić has also performed around the world with highly notable orchestras as the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In the 2012-13 season, Laziæ serves as artist in residence with Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg. As a seasoned chamber musician, Lazić performs piano trios written by Brahms, Beethoven and Shostakovich. As a composer, Lazić has written his own cadenzas for concertos by Mozart and Haydn and is known for writing and recording an arrangement of Brahms’s Violin Concerto for piano and orchestra.
Thursday evening’s performance is sponsored by David and Tara Troob, Saturday by Dr. Stan and Dolores Sirott, and the artist is sponsored by the Nicholas Family Foundation. Pacific Symphony’s classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from American Airlines, The Westin South Coast Plaza, KUSC and PBS SoCal.
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