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Pacific Symphony spotlights trio of award-winning guest artists for Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony, featuring Paul Jacobs and Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole" with violinist Tianwa Yang
April 05, 2013
The mighty forces of the William J. Gillespie concert organ pair with fleeting violin passages and an orchestral rhapsody during Pacific Symphony’s next classical concert, “Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony,” featuring music by the French Romantics. Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs—called a “brilliant young organist and evangelist for the instrument” by The New York Times—returns for a reprise of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, “Organ.” (Jacobs played the same piece in 2008 to inaugurate the $3.1-million organ.) Led by 24-year-old guest conductor and rising star Aziz Shokhakimov, the concert also features the Symphony debut of violin soloist Tianwa Yang— “an unquestioned master of the violin” (American Record Guide)—who performs Édouard Lalo’s electrifying “Symphonie espagnole.” Although the piece is referred to as a “symphony,” it is widely considered a concerto and is also said to have inspired Tchaikovsky to write his own wildly popular Violin Concerto in D Major. The program opens with Emmanuel Chabrier’s “España,” the composer’s most famous orchestral composition, inspired by Spanish music and dances. Taking place Thursday through Saturday, May 2-4 at 8 p.m. in the Ren&eacut;ee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the concert includes a preview talk with 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.
"This program features our wonderful William J. Gillespie C.B. Fisk Opus 130 Organ,” says Music Director Carl St.Clair. "We're really happy that we can from time to time allow our audiences to hear this magnificent organ. It's also wonderful to have a friend such as Paul, who knows the instrument so well and can allow us to experience its greatness." The Organ Symphony’s haunting opening does little to reveal the grandiosity of what’s to come and instead begins with a rising four-note figure that evolves into a much quicker Allegro development. The tension dwindles into a slower, melodic section that finally introduces the organ in an unexpected way: tranquil. It isn’t until the fourth movement when the true power and might of the organ shines through. Audiences may recognize this climactic moment from the family film, "Babe"; a melody that Saint-Saëns called “the defeat of the restless, diabolical element,” which leads to "the blue of a clear sky."
While France is the birth-place of all the composers featured in this concert, Spain is what inspires the first half of the program. The foot-stamping rhythms and flamenco-inspired beats of Chabrier’s “España” set the tone, followed by Lalo’s violin showcase “"Symphonie Espagnole." After its premiere in 1875 by violin virtuoso Pablo Sarasate, Tchaikovsky wrote that "the work has given me great enjoyment. It is so fresh and light, and contains piquant rhythms and melodies which are beautifully harmonized.... Lalo is careful to avoid all that is routinier, seeks new forms without trying to be profound, and is more concerned with musical beauty than with traditions." Neither Spanish nor a symphony, the music offers plenty of fiery spice and a young violin talent in Yang is here to tame it with authority.
"For me, Lalo’s ‘Symphonie espagnole’ is quite a special piece," says violinist Yang. "It leaves the form of a traditional violin concerto, and it is not in a traditional sense a symphony. It is more of a suite of Spanish folklore melodies and dance music, written in the most accomplished violinistic way. I have a strong affinity to Spain and its music ever since my first Sarasate recording. This piece by Lalo combines so many elements that are important to me: the brilliancy of the violin playing, the interaction between solo violin and orchestra and my beloved Spanish folklore elements."
Heralded by the Detroit News as "the most important violinist to come on the scene in many a year," young violinist Yang, a resident of Germany, has debuted with countless major American and international orchestras. Raised in Beijing, Yang began studying violin at the age of 4. At the age of 10, she was accepted to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in China’s capital city as a student of Lin Yaoji. Within one year, Hong Kong media described the artist as “a pride of China.” Yang recorded the 24 Paganini Caprices at the age of 13, making her the youngest artist to release the works. In 2003, Yang was awarded a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service to study chamber music in Germany, marking the beginning of her European career. Yang has won several awards during her career including the Volkswagen Foundation prize “Star of Tomorrow” by Seiji Ozawa and the 2006 “Prix Montblanc.”
Jacobs, described by the Chicago Tribune as "one of the most supremely gifted organists of his generation," unites technical skills of the first order with probing emotional artistry. His performances of new works and core recital and symphonic repertoire have transfixed audiences, colleagues and critics alike. In the 2012-13 season, Jacobs returns to the San Francisco Symphony for a solo performance of Bach’s monumental "Clavier-Übung III." He joins Michael Christie and the Phoenix Symphony for a week of performances featuring the world premiere of Stephen Paulus’ Organ Concerto. He plays Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra in Miami Beach with the New World Symphony and works by Bach, Elgar and Boulanger for a Seattle Symphony recital.
A new album scheduled for release by Naxos on April 30, with music composed by Michael Daugherty and performed by Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, features Jacobs performing “The Gospel According to Sister Aimee.” The organist’s recording of Messiaen’s "Livre du Saint Sacrement," released by Naxos in September 2010, was awarded the Best Solo Instrumental Grammy of the Year, the first time a disc of solo organ music has ever received this honor. Jacobs made musical history at the age of 23 when he played J.S. Bach’s complete organ works in an 18-hour marathon performance on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. He recently reached the milestone of having performed in each of the 50 United States.
The remarkable conductor Aziz Shokhakimov burst on the scene just three years ago at the age of just 21 by astounding audiences in Bamberg, where he was awarded second prize at the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition under the auspices of the Bamberger Symphoniker. Shokhakimov has since made several triumphant debuts: in Germany with the Staatskapelle Dresden; in Italy with the Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna and in Poland with the highly acclaimed Sinfonia Varsovia. He made his American debut with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in the 2012-13 season. Future engagements also include a return to both Bologna and Moscow, as well as performances with LaVerdi Orchestra in Milan, concerts in both Canada and the U.S. with I Musici de Montr&eacut;eal, and performances with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Dü̈sseldorf Symphoniker.
The appearance of Jacobs on Saturday, May 4, is generously sponsored by Vina Williams. The 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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