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Pacific Symphony’s 2015-16 Café Ludwig Chamber Series—curated by consummate pianist Orli Shaham for 8th year—opens with “Schubert’s ‘Trout’ And More,” music inspired by literature
Orange County, Calif. — October 20, 2015
Pacific Symphony musicians shine in this intimate musical foray into the minds of some of the world’s best composers during the 2015-16 Café Ludwig chamber series led by pianist and host Orli Shaham—kicking off with “Schubert’s ‘Trout’ and More.” An afternoon of music inspired by literature, the program opens with Korngold’s joyful Suite from “Much Ado About Nothing” for Violin and Piano, which he adapted from his own score for the 1918 Viennese production of Shakespeare’s play. The early German romance “Undine” is expressed in the imaginative interplay between flute and piano as Principal Flutist Benjamin Smolen joins Shaham for this Sonata in E Major, written by Carl Reinecke. The performance concludes with one of the most popular pieces in the chamber music repertoire, Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, which offers dramatic storytelling and is inspired by a song he wrote two years earlier, based on a pastoral poem titled “The Trout.”
Along with Smolen, the concert features Symphony musicians: Concertmaster Raymond Kobler, Principal Viola Robert Becker, Principal Cello Timothy Landauer and Principal Bass Steve Edelman. Coffee, tea and desserts are served along with the music on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 3 p.m. in the Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Tickets are $69 and $85. Subscriptions for all three concerts are still available for $180 and $228. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“I’m always fascinated by how the arts cross-reference each other and how a work of art in one medium inspires an artist in another medium,” says Shaham. “When I put this program together, I thought it would be fun to explore the relationship between words and music. Each of the pieces provides a different example—from the spoken words of Shakespeare to the German legend of Undine, to a poem that inspired a song that inspired a quintet— but I think that’s what makes them a nice grouping.”
One of the most remarkable prodigies in the history of classical music, Eric Wolfgang Korngold not only began creating a sensation in Europe as a composer of operas and concert music by the age of 11, but also became famous for his film scores when he moved to Hollywood in 1934. He won the Academy Award for best original film score for “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and was later nominated for “The Privates Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” and “The Sea Hawk.”
When he was 20 years old and already a respected composer in his native Austria, Korngold was commissioned to write original music for the Vienna Burgtheater’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” After touring it around Europe as a five-movement work for chamber orchestra, he adapted it into a four-movement suite for violin and piano.
“The Korngold piece has been one of my favorites for years,” says Shaham. “He uses a lot of the same music in his score to the movie ‘Robin Hood,’ so it’s fun to hear the combination of his swashbuckling movie-writing style with the rich harmonies he created for the ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Suite. It’s a really joyful piece filled with real creative ingenuity.”
Diving into an underwater world, Reineke’s Sonata for Flute, “Undine,” is influenced by a German romantic tale by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque. Undine is a water sprite who yearns for life and love as a human. The piece is filled with fantastic creatures, enchantments and ethereal, lush musical lines, and has been cited as the composer’s most important work, although relatively unknown beyond the flute community.
“This is a piece that I didn’t really know about being a pianist and not a flutist, but all of the flutists know it,” admits Shaham. “Yet, when I finally played it a little while ago, I thought, ‘Where has this piece been all my life?’ It’s spectacular writing. It’s so dense and rich, and yet the balance between the instruments is so lovely. Reinecke really pushed the repertoire for flute and piano at that time. By capturing the different timbres and tone colors of the flute, he really takes advantage of everything that the flute can do. I’m really looking forward to hearing it come alive with Ben Smolen’s sound.”
Written by one of music’s great storytellers, Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet is loved for its unforgettable and compelling melodies. He composed the song, “Die Forelle,” or “The Trout” after a carefree evening drinking wine, and the joyfulness in composing can be heard throughout the Quintet as well.
“The Schubert ‘Trout’ Quintet is probably one of the most well-known pieces of the chamber music repertoire,” says Shaham. “And it fits in so beautifully in this program, first of all, because it has the kind of Viennese sound and influence of the Korngold Suite. Even though they are separated by a long period of time, Korngold was so enamored with Schubert’s writing, and I think he modeled himself in many ways after Schubert. And secondly, because of the many dramatic characters who come to life through the music. In addition to the babbling brook and fish sound in the final movement, which is quite literal, Schubert clearly delineates some kind of story throughout the work and imbues the piece with a literary personality.”
Recognized for her grace, subtlety and vitality, Shaham has established an impressive international reputation as one of today’s most gifted pianists. Hailed by critics on four continents, she is in demand for her prodigious skills and admired for her interpretations of both standard and modern repertoire. In 2015, Shaham released a new solo CD, “Brahms Inspired,” which includes music by Brahms and his compositional forefathers along with new works by Brett Dean, Avner Dorman and Bruce Adolphe. Also released in 2015 is Shaham’s recording of John Adams’ Grand Pianola Music with the pianist Marc-André Hamelin and the San Francisco Symphony.
The Café Ludwig series continues on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, with lively dances from “star” composers during “Dancing with the Stars,” and concludes on Sunday, May 8, 2016, with “Café Concertos,” which includes solo works from Vivaldi, Bach, Holst and Mozart.
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