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Pacific Symphony Opens 2014-15 Season Celebrating Music Director Carl St.Clair’s 25th Anniversary with Violin Superstar Joshua Bell Playing Glazunov; Music by Strauss, Ravel
Orange County, Calif. — August 28, 2014
Elegant Opening Night celebration, “Carl St.Clair: 25 Years on a Journey of Illumination,” takes place pre-concert, Thursday, Sept. 25, 5 p.m., at the Westin South Coast Plaza
Plus, Bell returns for season debut of Sunday Casual Connections, featuring Glazunov’s Violin Concerto and Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis and Chloé”
Pacific Symphony launches Music Director Carl St.Clair’s landmark 25th-anniversary “season of giants” with classical music superstar, violinist Joshua Bell, plus two orchestral showpieces, a West Coast premiere and festivities fit for the grand occasion. Bell returns for his fifth performance with the Symphony (he last performed with the Symphony in May 2010) to celebrate the maestro and captivate audiences with the exciting, breakneck theme and stunning Romanticism of Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. Interview Magazine may have summed up the remarkable violinist’s playing best by saying, Bell “does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.” The violinist’s artistry is exemplified in his new music directorship of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, his release of 40 CDs since the age of 18, multiple television appearances and countless accolades.
“Joshua Bell is the greatest American violinist active today,” declares The Boston Herald.
Taking place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 25-27, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, “Joshua Bell” opens the 2014-15 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series. Single tickets for this concert are $25-$99. Season-ticket packages for the Classical series (including specials with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman) are available for $770-$1,350. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. For more information or to 0purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org.
“I’m excited to come back to Orange County,” says Bell. “I am always impressed by this orchestra and Carl St.Clair is one of my favorite conductors. He is a sensitive accompanist, so it will be nice to play with him and get his take on the Glazunov Violin Concerto, a piece that is still relatively new to me. I am definitely looking forward to it.”
St.Clair returns the compliment, saying, “I’m really thankful that Josh Bell, one of the greatest violinists, made the time to come and share the first concert with us. I welcome every opportunity to perform with him. He’s incredibly enlightening and musically rewarding for both orchestra and audience.”
Honoring Maestro St.Clair, the Opening Night Celebration, “Carl St.Clair—25 Years on a Journey of Illumination,” takes place Thursday, Sept. 25. An elegant cocktail reception and pre-concert dinner begin at 5 p.m. on the Terrace Pavilion of The Westin South Coast Plaza. Entertainment and dessert immediately follow the concert in the same location. The event is co-chaired by long-time Symphony supporters Susan Anderson, Suzanne Chonette, Janice Johnson and Janice Smith. Tables range from $750-$25,000; individual seats are $500. Dress is black tie. For more information, please contact special events at (714) 876-2364 or email@example.com.
As with the rest of the season, St.Clair has designed an opening program that is close to his heart. Opening the concert is the joyous fanfare “Sound the Bells!” by St.Clair’s longtime friend, renowned film composer John Williams. While Williams was music director of the Boston Pops, St.Clair was assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony, and it was there that he introduced the young St.Clair to an emerging orchestra on the West Coast. “I never would have known about Pacific Symphony were it not for John Williams,” says St.Clair. Fittingly, the concert begins with Williams’ exuberant work, first written in 1993 to mark the occasion of Crown Prince Naruhito’s marriage to Masako Owada while the Boston Pops toured Japan.
The West Coast premiere of Grammy and Pulitzer-prize-winning composer Christopher Rouse’s “Supplica,” scored for strings, harp and percussion, is in keeping with St.Clair’s dedication to performing new music by today’s composers. Noted for his music’s emotional expressiveness and intensity, Rouse wrote “Supplica,” which was co-commissioned by Pacific Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. At its premiere, it was described as “mysterious” and “affecting” with “haunting strings that filled in to create beauty both visceral and jarring” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Written for a chamber-sized orchestra, it provides a contrast to the large orchestral works on the second half of the program.
St.Clair met Rouse at the University of Michigan. “I was director of the contemporary music ensembles there,” St.Clair says. “I had the position but was not knowledgeable about living American composers other than faculty and people like Morton Gould, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. Chris opened this world to me in a profound way. During my tenure at Pacific Symphony, we’ve had composers-in-residence, commissions, recordings of 20th- and 21st-century pieces. It’s an important part of my directorship, so I’m happy to have Chris represented. He started me in this direction and having a work of his is of particular significance to me.”
Next on the program is Bell, whose traditional singing violin, the 1713 Huberman Stradivarius and a late 18th-century French bow by François Tourte, is an ideal vehicle for Glazunov’s finely crafted concerto. Born later than the Russian composers who made up the “Mighty Five,” Glazunov served as a bridge between the 19th and 20th centuries by reconciling Russian nationalism with the cosmopolitan thoughts of the new century. At age 15, he was a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who said, “His musical development progressed not by the day, but literally by the hour.” Also influenced by Franz Liszt, Glazunov wrote his only violin concerto in three movements played without pause and filled it with technical tricks and opportunities for a virtuoso to shine.
“Glazunov is a concerto that wouldn’t be listed in the top 10 of most popular violin concertos, but for violinists, it is underplayed,” says Bell. “It’s very romantic and melodic. It’s a gorgeous piece right from the beginning. It’s quite virtuosic and explores the instrument in a wonderful way. It’s a piece that used to be very popular with Joseph Joachim, and a lot of my idols who played the Glazunov, but I think it’s a piece the audiences will really love.
“A lot of the places I play, they want to hear the Brahms, the Beethoven, the Tchaikovsky that are so often played,” Bell continues, “so it’s nice that Carl St.Clair is adventurous and trying less conventional things. There is nothing inaccessible about the Glazunov; it is an incredibly likeable piece. So getting to do something a little different from the standards is really fun. I’ve only performed it a few times in my life, so it is a little more nerve wracking, but that means more exciting.”
After intermission, St.Clair shines the spotlight on the orchestra in the form of two compelling, erotic tales: Richard Strauss’ decadent “Dance of the Seven Veils” from the opera, “Salome,” followed by Ravel’s masterpiece, the radiant Suite No. 2 from his ballet score “Daphnis and Chloé.” This year marks the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’ birthday. His opera “Salome” was based on a play by Oscar Wilde, which was a lustful, “modern” (in Wilde’s words) elaboration on the biblical tale. The opera changed everything for Strauss. Its sexual themes and innovative music caused so much controversy that it led to Strauss’ international fame. “Dance of the Seven Veils,” is a sensual dance by the king’s daughter done to convince her father to behead John the Baptist.
Inspired by the Greek myth, Ravel spent three years composing the score to “Daphnis and Chloé” for the Ballets Russes in Paris, and it was described by Stravinsky to be “not only Ravel’s best work but one of the most beautiful products in all of French music.” Suite No. 2 includes the final three movements: “Daybreak,” when the lovers are reunited at sunrise; “Pantomine,” which tells the story of the god Pan with a prominent flute solo; and “General Dance,” where Bacchanalian merriment and mounting excitement ensue.
ALSO, the first Sunday Casual Connections concert of the season takes place Sunday, Sept. 28, at 3 p.m., and offers another opportunity to spend an “Afternoon with Joshua Bell,” when the violinist returns for a matinee performance of Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. St.Clair dives into this work and Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis and Chloé” by providing thoughtful commentary along with the performance. New this year, youths ages 12-17 receive a free subscription with the purchase of an adult subscription ($85-$325).
The Symphony’s Classical series performances are made possible by the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, with additional support from Mercedes-Benz, the official vehicle, the Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel, KUSC and PBS SoCal. Sunday Casual Connections receives support from KPCC. This weekend’s concerts are generously sponsored by South Coast Plaza. The Thursday evening performance is sponsored by Ellie and Mike Gordon.
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