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International superstar—Sarah Chang—shines with brilliance when she joins Pacific Symphony to play Sibelius’ Violin Concerto; concert also features Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8

March 17, 2014

Gleaming with glamour and virtuosity, Sarah Chang, one of the world’s foremost violinists, returns to Pacific Symphony to perform Jean Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, which takes full advantage of the violin’s expressive range, from the rippling high chords to the growling alto notes. With an international career that spans more than two decades, Chang, the “thrill seeker” who made Mendelssohn “sizzle” (Orange County Register) when she opened the Symphony’s 2011-12 season enthralls once again—this time alongside guest conductor Tito Muñoz, who recently served as music director of two esteemed organizations in Lorraine, France. Muñoz leads the orchestra in Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, optimistic and bright, filled with folk music and Bohemian dances. Opening the concert and having its West Coast premiere is a sensuous work by Adam Schoenberg, “Finding Rothko” (2006). Inspired by four bold paintings by American Abstract Impressionist painter Mark Rothko, the work is a musical depiction of the emotions Schoenberg felt embodied in each of the paintings.

Embrace art, music and mastery at “Sarah Chang Plays Sibelius” Thursday through Saturday, April 10-12, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $25-$99. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

 “The Sibelius concerto is one of my favorite violin concertos, and I say this as a violinist myself,” says Maestro Muñoz. “I also have known of Sarah Chang since I started learning music, so it will be a thrill to work with her for the first time in these concerts.”

Sibelius wrote of his affinity for the violin in his diary: “The violin took me by storm and for the next 10 years it was my dearest wish, my overriding ambition, to become a great virtuoso.” Although he never made it as a virtuoso, starting at the late age of 14, Sibelius poured his passion for the instrument into his only concerto, which can be heard in every note. Sibelius’ concerto stands as one of the most difficult and most recorded in the repertoire. With its wide variety of playing techniques and exploration of the breadth and depth of the instrument, it is a perfect vehicle to showcase Chang’s dazzling expertise.

“Her gifts are at a level so removed from the rest of us that all we can do is feel the appropriate awe and then wonder on the mysteries of nature. The ancients would certainly have had Ms. Chang emerging fully formed from some Botticellian scallop shell.”—The New York Times

The Symphony opens the evening with a work by Schoenberg, whose music has an ability to create “mystery and sensuality” (The New York Times), and has been called “open, bold and optimistic” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The four movements, based on Rothko’s paintings, are played without interruption, flowing from the sunny heights of “Orange” and “Yellow” to the deep and mysterious tones of “Red” and “Wine.” The night swings into a close with the cheerful rhythms of Symphony No. 8, abundant in the folk music of composer Dvořák’s native Bohemia. Full of energy, the symphony toys with woodwinds in the opening, reflects on the joys and sorrows of country life in the second movement, transitions to a lusciously scored waltz in the third and uses a trumpet fanfare in the finale.

“I think that Dvořák may actually have had a very indirect influence on Adam’s work,” says Muñoz. “Dvořák spent an extended amount of time here in the United States, when he was asked by a wealthy patron to lead her brand new music school in New York City. He wrote several pieces here, including his New World Symphony. He was also given the monumental task of helping America (a very new country, and a melting pot of cultures) find its own musical voice. Being a very nationalistic composer himself, he saw the value of using a country’s own folk music as the basis for its own sound. He saw the potential that African-American spirituals had to be this very thing for a truly unique American sound.

“In his new music school, he had students such as Will Marion Cook and Harry Burleigh who went on to be some of America’s most influential musicians and teachers of their time,” continues Muñoz, “and they taught later composers such as Duke Ellington and George Gershwin, whose music is arguably the definition of the American sound. This American sound is definitely prevalent in Adam’s music in many ways, so I think it’s really wonderful to have this lineage attributed to Dvořák, through jazz and American classical music, and into so much of the contemporary music being written in America today.”

 

About Sarah Chang

Since her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 8, Chang has performed with some of the most esteemed orchestras, conductors and accompanists worldwide. Her most recent recording for EMI Classics—her 20th for the label—featured the Brahms and Bruch violin concertos with Kurt Masur and the Dresdner Philharmonie, and received excellent critical and popular acclaim. In 2006, Chang was honored as one of 20 top women in Newsweek magazine’s “Women and Leadership, 20 Powerful Women Take Charge” issue. In 2008, she was honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. In 2012, she received the Harvard University Leadership Award and in 2005, Yale University dedicated a chair in Sprague Hall in her name. In 2011, she was named an official artistic ambassador by the United States Embassy, and has since traveled the world to connect audiences through what she says is the “one and only universal language”—music.

“Chang is a complete package as a player—technically assured, colorfully expansive, subtly probing, boldly commanding.” — Grand Rapids Press

 

About Tito Muñoz

Recently appointed as the music director of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Muñoz is widely recognized as one of the most gifted and versatile conductors of his generation. He has previously served as the music director of the Opéra National de Lorraine and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy, the assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra, and the assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. An alumnus of the National Conducting Institute, Muñoz made his professional conducting debut in 2006 with the National Symphony Orchestra. That same year, he made his Cleveland Orchestra debut at the Blossom Music Festival at the invitation of David Zinman. An accomplished violinist, Muñoz began his musical training in T Dvořák he Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, continuing studies on violin and composition at the Manhattan School of Music Preparatory Division.