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Pacific Symphony's Café Ludwig offers a little "Woodwind Magic" to light up the New Year featuring intimate chamber music by Prokofiev, Bruch, Stravinsky and Mozart
January 03, 2013
Rich, bright and highly expressive, chamber works by the masters showcase Pacific Symphony’s woodwind musicians at their finest during “Woodwind Magic,” the next concert in the Café Ludwig chamber series. Charming piano sensation and host Orli Shaham leads principal Symphony musicians in works from the 18th to 20th centuries. On flute, Benjamin Smolen captures the expressive melodies and quick trills of Prokofiev’s energetic Flute Sonata in discourse with piano. Then the velvety smooth sound of the clarinet, played by Benjamin Lulich, is featured in four movements from Bruch’s Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, with Robert Becker on viola, and Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo. The concert concludes as Jessica Pearlman, oboe; Rose Corrigan, bassoon; and Keith Popejoy, horn, join Lulich and Shaham for Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat Major, known for its perfect balance among the five instruments. The concert takes place Sunday, Jan. 20, at 3 p.m., in the intimate Samueli Theater (located next to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall), where patrons enjoy coffee, tea and desserts in a coffeehouse setting. Tickets are $60 and $75. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“Our winter woodwind program is one that I created because of the incredible talents of the Pacific Symphony woodwind players,” says Shaham. “Music produced through breath is a unique experience, different than music produced any other way. It is so connected to the people producing it, so personal. Also, I’ve worked with both Ben Smolen and Ben Lulich before, and wanted immediately to do so again. They are both exceptional musicians with a beautiful approach to their instruments.” The program opens with Prokofiev’s Flute Sonata in D Major, composed in 1943 in the Ural Mountains of Russia where the composer had fled during World War II. Despite the trials of the time, the sonata has a lovely, lyrical quality and an energetic dancing rhythm associated with French style.
“The Prokofiev Flute Sonata is one of my favorite works of the 20th century,” says Shaham. “The work feels like it tells a story, is spritely and reflective, and is an exciting journey all at the same time.” At age 70, Bruch was at the height of his career and composed Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano for his son, a clarinetist, in 1909.
“The Bruch pieces for clarinet, viola and piano are some of the most emotionally powerful in the chamber repertoire,” continues Shaham. “The combination of these traditionally darker instruments makes for a richness of sound one rarely hears in a trio with piano. The pieces are the height of Romanticism, painting with broad strokes and deep colors. They are heroic and pensive and soulful in the most beautiful way. The interplay between viola and clarinet, with the sound of the piano bridging between the two, is seamless and sensuous.”
Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet act as monologues, each displaying a different musical idea. The first one is songlike, the second contains hints of jazz and the third incorporates elements of ragtime and tango. The program finishes with one of the earliest examples of woodwinds paired with piano: the Quintet in E-flat Major by Mozart. Written in 1784 before his major masterpieces, Mozart wrote of the piece in a letter to his father, “I myself consider it to be the best work I have ever composed.”
A consummate musician recognized for her grace, subtlety and vitality, Shaham has established an impressive international reputation as one of today’s most gifted pianists. Hailed by critics on four continents, Shaham is in demand for her prodigious skills and admired for her interpretations of both standard and modern repertoire. The Chicago Tribune recently referred to her as “a first-rate Mozartean,” and London’s Guardian said Shaham’s playing was “perfection” during her recent Proms debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Shaham has given recitals in North America, Europe and Asia at such renowned concert halls as Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Frankfurt’s Alte Oper, and the Herkulessaal in Munich, and has worked with many eminent conductors including Sir Neville Marriner, Sir Roger Norrington, Christopher Hogwood, David Robertson, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Spano and Gerard Schwarz, among others.
The Café Ludwig series concludes Sunday, April 28, at 3 p.m., with “The Brilliance of Brahms,” a musical tribute to composer Johannes Brahms.
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