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Jean Oelrich
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Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Season Finale showcases winning concertos by five remarkable young musicians, then culminates with Tchaikovsky’s triumphant Fifth Symphony

Orange County, Calif. — April 21, 2014

2013-14 Concerto Competition winners include Matthew Gustafson (cello), David Freeman (tuba), Sydney Mariano (violin), and Ramakrishnan Kumaran and Gloria Liu (flute)

Proudly celebrating the dedication, artistry and extraordinary talent of its young musicians, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO) presents the 2013-14 Concerto Competition winners in its season finale concert this Mother’s Day! Under the guidance of Music Director Alejandro Gutiérrez, PSYO is being quickly recognized as one of the most outstanding youth orchestras in the country. The premier training ensemble in Orange County, PSYO draws musicians of the highest caliber from across Southern California—five of whom have been chosen to perform as soloists in this concert. Cellist Matthew Gustafson from Long Beach, tuba player David Freeman from Corona, violinist Sydney Mariano from Irvine and flutists Ramakrishnan Kumaran from Hemet and Gloria Liu from Irvine are highlighted in concertos by Haydn, Vaughan Williams and Lalo, as well as Borne’s “Carmen Fantasy.” To conclude, the Youth Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s stunning Fifth Symphony.

“There is usually only one winner of the Concerto Competition, but the level of musical ability of all the participants was unparalleled this year, and five students demonstrated their ability to perform as a soloist with Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra,” says Maestro Gutiérrez.

“PSYO Season Finale” takes place on Sunday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $12 with general admission seating. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

“The audience can expect amazing performances from these young artists and a great variety of wonderful music,” continues Gutiérrez. “Matthew Gustafson performs the first movement of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major; David Freeman offers the first movement of the Tuba Concerto by Vaughan Williams; Sydney Mariano masters the first movement of Lalo’s ‘Symphonie espagnole’; and Ramakrishnan Kumaran and Gloria Liu deliver a special version of ‘The Fantasia Brillante for Flute and Orchestra on Airs of Carmen’ by François Borne.”

The concert opens with 17-year-old award-winning cellist Gustafson setting the foundation for the evening’s entertainment with Franz Joseph Haydn’s soothing “Concerto in D Major for Violoncello.” Gustafson has received awards through the American String Teachers Association and Los Angeles Violoncello Society, and this season marks his third year serving as principal cellist of PSYO. He has participated in master classes with esteemed cellists, including Ron Leonard, Jonathan Karoly and Pacific Symphony musician Ian McKinnell. Composed in 1783, Haydn’s Concerto plays with listener’s expectations and is hailed for its brilliant display of ingenuity.

Next, 18-year-old Freeman takes center stage to perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Concerto in F Minor for Tuba and Orchestra.” Composed in 1954 to celebrate the London Symphony Orchestra’s jubilee, the concerto offers a hint of English folk music, sprightly rhythms and country-inspired melodies.

 “I was first introduced to the Vaughan Williams tuba concerto when it was listed as an audition requirement for almost every college I was applying to,” reflects Freeman. “I spent nearly a year trying to perfect it to win the auditions. I saw the concerto competition as a chance to share what’s been a major part of my life for the past year.”

Freeman has taken lessons and attended master classes with some of the world’s best tuba players including Pacific Symphony musician Jim Self, brass legend Roger Bobo, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Norm Pearson and San Francisco Symphony’s Jeffrey Anderson. In March 2014, Freeman and his band mates performed at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City. Freeman returns to New York this fall to attend The Juilliard School.

Mariano continues the program with Edoardo Lalo’s “Symphonie espagnole,” a piece known for its whispers of Spanish folk music and dance. Studying violin at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, Mariano won the 2013 Grand Prize for the 10th Satori International Strings Solo Competition. In January 2014, she participated in Pacific Symphony’s master class with renowned violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Written to mitigate the influence of Germany after Prussian forces laid siege on Paris, Lalo’s concerto evokes images of the Spanish countryside to illustrate a non-threatening alternative to Germany.

 “I’ve grown so much as a musician from the concerto competition,” says Mariano. “And I definitely want to have a career in music or anything involving playing the violin; I can’t imagine my life without it. I’m going to major in music, or even double major depending on which school I get accepted into. As an incoming senior, it’s already time for me to be thinking of my options, but no matter what, I will follow my passions and continue my love for music.”

Finally, Liu and Kumaran conclude the Concerto Competition winners showcase with Francois Borne’s “Carmen Fantasy.” While Borne’s piece was written as a flute solo, it is being performed as a duet in a unique interpretation by Liu and Kumaran. Kumaran is the principal flutist for both PSYO and the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra. In January 2014, he was featured on Pacific Symphony’s presentation of NPR’s “From the Top” in Costa Mesa. Liu, a 16-year-old flutist, has received numerous awards, which include first place at the Southern California Bach Festival. Recently, she won first place in the American Protégé International Flute Competition and made her debut at Carnegie Hall in April 2014. Borne’s Fantasy on Carmen would become his most famous composition and is a favorite of flutists.

“Having been a member of the youth orchestra for three years, it is an honor being able to play music with such talented peers,” says Liu. “This orchestra’s dedication, ambition and high standard of playing all contribute to our success. I also love working with our conductor Alejandro because he always has such a positive attitude. His enthusiasm is evident in every rehearsal, and his energy also positively affects those around him.”

After intermission, the concert concludes with Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Symphony No. 5. The work was composed in 1888 at a time when Tchaikovsky was experiencing profound loss and sorrow. The symphony hints at themes of despair, hope and salvation, and exhibits the narrative paradigm of per aspera ad astra (tragic to triumphant). Tchaikovsky composed music that combined Germanic academicism with Slavic harmonies. At the same time, his melodic inventiveness and unique personal style adds a distinctive individuality to this memorable body of work.

Maestro Gutiérrez reflects on the final piece of the 2013-14 season saying, “The students chose to perform Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Fifth Symphony, and I could not have selected a better piece for our grand finale of the season. These talented young musicians have overcome the challenges of this piece and sound fantastic. It will be a grand finale of the season, and the audience will appreciate the orchestra’s musicality and hard work.”

Founded in 1993, PSYO is one of three programs that make up the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE), which also includes Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings. PSYE 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 supported by the Cheng Family Foundation, and members participate in a side-by-side performance with Pacific Symphony during a Family Musical Mornings concert. Each season, students enjoy an interaction with Music Director Carl St.Clair, as well as regular interactions with guest artists and professional musicians of Pacific Symphony.

PSYE auditions for next year take place May 31, June 1, June 14 and 15. For more information and details about eligibility and how to apply, visit www.PacificSymphony.org/PSYE.