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Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra's 2013-14 Season off to rousing start with Verdi's "La Forza Del Destino," Grieg's "Norwegian Dances" and Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3

November 04, 2013

Alejandro GutierrezThe highly talented Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO)—last season lauded as “Classics Alive Youth Orchestra of the Year— returns to open the 2013-14 Cheng Family Foundation Youth Orchestra Series with its “Fall Concert,” featuring favorite classical pieces. Led by Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez, PSYO is poised to charm the audience with harmonious and exciting melodies, including the ill-fated love drama of Verdi’s Overture from “La Forza del Destino,” the rousing enthusiasm of Grieg’s “Norwegian Dances” and the enchanting organ tunes in Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, featuring guest organist Kristen Lawrence. PSYO’s concert takes place on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $12 general admission; for more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra

“My hope is that this concert will make the students aware of the high potential they possess as individuals and all the wonders they can achieve through the synergy of working as a team,” says Maestro Gutiérrez. “It is great music and they are enjoying it very much, which means that the communication with the audience will be fantastic. I can’t wait to see the excitement of those in attendance because it is going to be an inspirational concert.”

The program begins with Verdi’s Overture, taken from his opera “La Forza del Destino.” The opera is associatedwith the famous literary movement of the time—realism; it focuses on common characters facing everyday problems and comments on current events as a form of social critique. The story takes the audience into a stimulating journey of forbidden lovers, Leonora and Alvaro, determined to elope and find happiness. The Overture concentrates primarily on two themes: one driven by a “fate” motive, which is heard in the strings, and the other is a slower andmore lyrical melody taken from a prayer sung by the doomed soprano in the second act.

“‘La Forza del Destino’ is musically very powerful and dramatic,” says Gutiérrez. “However, for the Youth Orchestra, I changed the negatives of the opera story to the positive force of destiny, where these young artists aredestined to succeed in whatever they do in their careers and life.”

In “Norwegian Dances” by Grieg, audiences are treated to the composer’s clever variety of rhythms reflective of peasant folk dance. Grieg’s melodies are short, motivic and very repetitive, which makes the music seem familiar and catchy; the rhythms alternate between boisterous, frenzied activity and light, comedic, child-like liveliness.

“‘Norwegian Dances’ is one of those hidden jewels that is not played very often by orchestras,” says Gutiérrez, “because it was originally written for piano and not many conductors are aware that the Czech-born conductor Hans Zitt orchestrated them. It is music with a playful style and beautiful tunes representative of the folk music of Norway.”

The concert concludes with the poco adagio and maestoso-allegro movements of Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, nicknamed the “Organ Symphony.” The organ, played by Lawrence, is featured in these two of the four movements, and offers a more complementary, rather than predominant, role to the orchestra. The composer uses the musical technique of thematic transformation, in which separate notes of a melody return in recognizable yet different forms and characters.

“This piece is one of the composer’s highest compositional accomplishments,” explains Gutiérrez, “for its depth, the way its themes evolve throughout the symphony, the remarkable use of the piano in two and four hands, the evocative spirituality and brilliant sounds of the organ and orchestra.” Gutiérrez adds that his goal for the Youth Orchestra this year is “to see these young artists fully inspired, believing in teamwork and the wonders of following processes, trusting their limitless capabilities and be an inspirational model for youth in Orange Countyand beyond.”

Founded in 1993, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO) has emerged as the premier training orchestra of Orange County. Under the artistic direction and guidance of Pacific Symphony’s renowned Music Director Carl St.Clair,PSYO is quickly being recognized as one of the most outstanding youth orchestras in the country. PSYO offers performance opportunities to instrumentalists in grades 9 through 12 and provides members with a high quality and innovative artistic experience and strives to encourage musical and personal growth through the art of performance.Led by Gutiérrez, PSYO presents a three-concert series, generously sponsored by the Cheng Family Foundation. Members also participate in a side-by-side performance with Pacific Symphony, where students perform in concert with their professional counterparts as part of Pacific Symphony’s Family Musical Mornings. The final performance of each season features the winner of the annual concerto competition, for which auditions are exclusive to current members of the Youth Orchestra.