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Soar with the heart-tugging melodies of Chopin’s “Piano Concerto No. 1,” performed by Yulianna Avdeeva; then take the heroic journey of Strauss’ epic “Ein Heldenleben”
March 03, 2014
Plus, Sunday Connections further explores Strauss’ complex piece
Sweet, singing lines stem from the fingertips of Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva as she joins Pacific Symphony to perform the compelling melodies of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair. Winner of the First Prize at the International Frédéric Chopin Competition in 2010, Avdeeva has been praised especially for her Chopin interpretations: “Her pacing is born of intelligent feeling and clarity of thought, and her ability to finesse Chopin’s inner voices puts many to shame” (The Guardian). Chopin himself was a prodigy and wrote with glittering aesthetics for piano like no other composer ever would. Following this expressive piano solo, St.Clair takes the orchestra on the courageous journey created by Richard Strauss in his tone poem, “Ein Heldenleben” (A Hero’s Life). The work is held dear by St.Clair and the orchestra, who performed it on the European tour in 2006 to glowing reviews, and it features Concertmaster Raymond Kobler playing the solo violin representative of Strauss’ wife, Pauline.
Mozart’s exuberant Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio” opens the evening with Turkish flair and exotic sounds. The concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, March 27-29, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; a preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$99; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
Following the Symphony’s performance while on tour in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the Schwäbische Zeitung wrote: “The California orchestra proves its high artistry yet again in Richard Strauss’ provocatively autobiographical tone poem ‘Ein Heldenleben.’ The transparent tone and clear structure, even at this ludicrous tempo, are impressive. The solo violin provides a bewitching characterization of the enchanting, loving woman and a lively exposé of her capricious traits. Under Music Director Carl St.Clair, the orchestra slides into the splits, stretching from utmost aggression to indulgent, quaffable melody and finally transforming into a fiery dance band in the encore.” (See more on “Ein Heldenleben” below.)
Before Strauss, there was Chopin, who was not only a musical prodigy, but became a national hero of Poland after he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 1 in Warsaw at the age of 20. The next year, he traveled to Paris to contribute to the flourishing art scene, and when he premiered the concerto in 1832 there to great acclaim, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn were in the audience. Apart from its initial fame, it’s the bittersweet harmonies and expressive lines of the concerto that still resonate with listeners today.
“It has been said that time and Chopin are the only known remedies for the wounds of first love—such is the affinity between Chopin’s music and the heart’s most inexpressible feelings,” writes the Symphony’s music annotator Michael Clive.
International pianist Avdeeva is an artist whose performances combine intense musicality and emotional depth with a formidable technique and intellectual rigor. Recent engagements include the Czech Philharmonic and Finnish Radio Symphony orchestras, as well as debuts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, plus, performances with the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège and Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Avdeeva’s repertoire spans a wide range, from Bach to music of the 20th century. She is known for performing on period instruments: in 2011 and 2012 she played Chopin’s Piano Concertos on an Erard piano at the Festival “Chopin and his Europe,” with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (Frans Brüggen). She has won several international competitions including the Bremen Piano Contest in 2003, the Concours de Genève 2006 and the Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Poland.
Pacific Symphony’s Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from American Airlines, Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel, KUSC and PBS SoCal.
SUNDAY CONNECTIONS REVISITS “A HERO’S LIFE”
Maestro St.Clair and the Symphony tackle Strauss’s monumental tone poem—“Ein Heldenleben” and dissect its six sections for the Sunday Connections performance on March 30, at 3 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. “A Hero’s Life” marks the fourth performance by the orchestra of the grand work with an emphasis on insightful commentary by St.Clair, as he explores how the work—which depicts confidence, unrest and the battle of life, love and serenity—was both a nod to the past and a herald to the future. Tickets are $25-$85; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“It’s a perfect story,” says St.Clair. “Only Richard Strauss has the ability in pure tones—notes, rhythms, instruments, orchestrations—to tell such a vivid story without a single word. It’s an opera without words, and the opera is about a man, and that man happens to be himself. It’s an astonishing journey, and I just love taking it, and every time I take it, I feel closer to Richard Strauss than I did before.”
Characteristic of all his larger works, Strauss’ tone poem is rich in complex harmonies and orchestral effects. “Ein Heldenleben” is through-composed across six sections, except for a dramatic pause after the first movement. In the second movement, “The Hero’s Adversaries,” Strauss cites his critics in musical caricatures before finding solace in the beautiful solo violin signifying his wife, Pauline, in “The Hero’s Companion.” Next, he uses solo trumpet and percussion to create “The Hero’s Battlefield.” In “The Hero’s Works of Peace,” Strauss quotes his own compositions including his early opera “Guntram” and his symphonic poems “Don Quixote,” “Don Juan,” “Macbeth” and “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” among others. The final section, “The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation,” is melancholic and serene, a contemplation of a life well lived.
The Sunday Connections series is comprised of four 90-minute Sunday matinees with repertoire from the Classical series, offering a particularly intimate and informative experience. All the concerts are hosted by Maestro St.Clair, who peers beneath the surface of the music to explore a whole world of fascinating history, intrigue and discovery. This Sunday Connections media sponsor is 89.3 KPCC-Southern California Public Radio
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