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Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair announce 2015-16 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series

January 20, 2015

Season includes superstar performances by violinists Cho-Liang Lin, Midori, Philippe Quint; pianists Conrad Tao and André Watts

Pacific Symphony debut performances from pianists David Fray, Simone Dinnerstein; violinist Dan Zhu; guitarist Pablo Villegas

Returning favorites include bass-baritone Kevin Deas; and organists Paul Jacobs and Christoph Bull

Giants of the repertoire include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and No. 3 and Piano Concerto No. 4; Brahms’ Symphony No. 1; Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, “New World”; Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 and Symphony No. 35; Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5; Holst’s “The Planets”; Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”

“OC in Unison”:  New work inspired by the input of community members, written by Composer-in Residence Narong Prangcharoen, premieres on Opening Night

Fifteenth American Composers Festival spotlights king of instruments: sublime organ music by American composers, notably Stephen Paulus

Opera/vocal initiative enters sixth year with semi-staged production of Puccini’s “Turandot”      

Orange County, Calif. - Jan. 20, 2015 - Now enjoying near-record subscription numbers and unparalleled community appreciation during Music Director Carl St.Clair’s 25th-anniversary season, Pacific Symphony today announces the 2015-16 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series—packed with familiar favorites, exciting world premieres and hidden gems. Bookended by popular Beethoven works and featuring superstar guest artists like violinist Midori, and pianists André Watts and Conrad Tao, Maestro St.Clair’s season includes repertoire by popular composers including Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Gershwin, Vivaldi and more. The Symphony’s opera and vocal initiative, “Symphonic Voices,” continues with Puccini’s “Turandot,” while the critically acclaimed American Composers Festival enters its 15th year with a spotlight on the king of instruments: the organ.

“Each and every concert has been created to both enlighten and nourish our audiences with music’s beauty and power,” said St.Clair. 

Season-ticket packages are on sale now. “By subscribing to all 12 concerts, patrons will experience the full breadth of Pacific Symphony, from the majestic Beethoven Symphony No. 9 to the intimate beauty of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ to Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” says Symphony President John Forsyte. “Pacific Symphony’s musicians and Carl St.Clair offer an extraordinary range of sonic beauty and joyous music-making.” 

“The Maestro’s Series,” featuring all 12 concerts, is $300-$1,100. Six-concert packages range from $150-550.  Four-concert Sunday Casual Connections subscriptions are $85-$325. For more information or to purchase, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org. 

Additional support for Pacific Symphony’s Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series comes from The Nicholas Foundation, Mercedes-Benz, Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel, KUSC-FM, PBS SoCal and KPCC.

 

OPENING NIGHT INCLUDES BEETHOVEN’S “ODE TO JOY”

AND NEW OC-INSPIRED WORK

The Symphony’s 2015-16 season opener includes an epic work: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which has thrilled listeners around the world for nearly two centuries. When it premiered in 1824, conducted by Beethoven himself, he was so profoundly deaf that he could not hear a note, nor the five standing ovations for the most ambitious and grand choral work ever composed. Bass-baritone Kevin Deas—who accompanied Pacific Symphony on its 2006 European tour and has performed with the orchestra on multiple occasions—and Pacific Chorale perform with the Symphony. 

“We begin our new season as we began our time in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall—with two American works,” notes St.Clair, explaining the inclusion of Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living” from “The Tenderland,” and a new work, inspired by Orange County and its residents, written by Pacific Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence Narong Prangcharoen, for the community engagement project “OC in Unison.”

Over the past year, Prangcharoen has been studying the county and discovering how the region has grown from sprawling orange groves into a thriving cultural community. He has been inspired by the range of scenery, but has been most influenced by the people he’s met and the experiences they’ve had living here.

 “What I want to do is create a piece of music where all of these differences in Orange County are unified,” says Prangcharoen. “I want to stress in the piece that we all should be united, and we should celebrate that we’re all here in this county together.”

Additionally, Prangcharoen and the Symphony are seeking inspiration by inviting members of the community to answer the questions, “What makes Orange County home?” and “What unites the people of Orange County?” through story, song, dance, photography, art, video or social media.

“How many times in your life do you have the chance to inspire artists to do their work?” Prangcharoen asks. “This is a great opportunity to inspire a composer to write a specific piece of music about the place where you live. I think the most fun and interesting part will be coming to see the concert, where you can hear how your stories and submissions have inspired the music.”

“This community-inspired composition will be a highlight of the season,” says Forsyte. “Narong has so quickly engaged with our diverse community and rich heritage.”

 

A SEASON OF CLASSICS OLD AND NEW

“During each of the first four concerts we will feature one of the most celebrated masterworks of the repertoire,” says St.Clair, “from Beethoven’s Ninth and his ‘Eroica,’ to Dvorák’s ‘New World,’ to Brahms’ mighty First Symphony. To complement these major musical monuments, there will be two beloved piano concertos and Bruch’s Violin Concerto.”

“In addition, there are important new initiatives,” adds Forsyte, “such as a festival exploring music of America’s early musical pioneer Charles Ives in partnership with Chapman University, a tribute to the late American composer Stephen Paulus and his contributions to the organ repertoire, as well as commissioning inspiring visual imagery set to works such as ‘An Alpine Symphony.’”

On the second concert of the season, guest pianist David Fray, described by the Chicago Tribune as having “brilliant technique and a serious and thoughtful regard for the music,” plays Schumann’s romantic Piano Concerto. The concert begins with “Black Swan for Orchestra” by Bright Sheng, set to a tender piano melody created by Brahms, and ends with Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, described as infinitely rich, astonishingly simple and exquisitely enchanting.

Prepare to be dazzled by violinist Dan Zhu, widely recognized as one of the finest Chinese musicians on the international stage today and praised as “an artist of affecting humility and beautiful tone production” by The Strad magazine, as he performs Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Guest conductor En Shao, of whom The Mercury said, “His direction is flawless and clearly magnetic,” leads Pacific Symphony in Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony, a piece influenced by both Native American music and African-American plantation songs. Opening the concert is Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture, a Chinese orchestral work depicting the scene of a Chinese New Year celebration in the Shanbei region. In 2007, the work was selected to be carried and broadcast into space on China's first lunar probe.

Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is considered his masterpiece, and Pacific Symphony has a master to perform it: Conrad Tao, who has become a Pacific Symphony audience favorite since his debut at age 16. Now 20, he has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer, and has been dubbed a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, a “thoughtful and mature composer” by NPR, and “ferociously talented” by Time Out New York.  Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony tackle Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” one of the composer’s most popular—filled with drama, death, resistance, strife and ultimate rebirth.

Starting 2016 off in grand style is special guest Cho-Liang Lin, a conductor and violinist who performs Mozart’s mighty Violin Concerto No. 4 and then conducts Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” Romance in F Minor by Dvorák and Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, “Haffner.” Critics say Lin’s violin technique is “magnificent, his intonation immaculate, with a glittering top, breadth and radiance below.”

Conductor Manuel López-Gómez, who has been taking the musical world by storm as one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the internationally renowned Venezuelan music program “El Sistema,” is the guest conductor for a concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s melodic and triumphant Symphony No. 5, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol,” and he welcomes guitarist Pablo Villegas for a performance of Rodrigo’s “Fantasy for a Nobleman.” Villegas is hailed by critics as one of the world’s leading classical guitarists and celebrated as a natural ambassador of Spanish culture with performances in more than 30 countries since his auspicious debut with the New York Philharmonic under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos at Avery Fisher Hall. His “beautifully rounded guitar tone” and “soulful rendition” (The New York Times) makes him one of the most sought-after soloists by today’s foremost orchestras, conductors and festivals.

Jazz and folk music find their way into the concert hall when St.Clair conducts Gershwin’s iconic “Rhapsody in Blue,” performed by American pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who plays with “arresting freshness and subtlety,” according to Time Magazine. The New Yorker said she has “lean, knowing, and unpretentious elegance.”  The program also includes Ives’ Symphony No. 2 (which alludes to popular American folk tunes including “Camptown Races,” “Turkey in the Straw” and “America the Beautiful”) and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, a piece also heavily influenced by jazz. Joseph Horowitz serves as artistic adviser for the concert.

Superstar violinist Midori was a child prodigy who was invited by Zubin Mehta to make her now legendary debut—at the age of 11—at the New York Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert, on which occasion she received a standing ovation and the impetus to begin a major career. She has blossomed into a mesmerizing virtuoso who performs Korngold’s achingly beautiful Violin Concerto (reimagined from his Oscar-winning film scores). Guest Conductor Bramwell Tovey leads the Symphony in “Clair de Lune” by Debussy/Stokowski and “The Planets,” Holst’s dramatic interpretation of the cosmos—which will be accompanied by stunning visuals on the big screen. 

Southern California may only have two seasons (nice and nicer), but Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” one of the most beloved works of the Baroque repertoire, is a lyrical masterpiece that paints tantalizing pictures of Earth’s changing seasons. Grammy Award-nominated violinist Philippe Quint tackles Vivaldi’s dynamic and popular piece.  Then, experience an excursion up and down the Bavarian Alps, brought to life by Richard Strauss’ lush, splendid musical descriptions in his Alpine Symphony.

To close the 2015-16 season, Pacific Symphony welcomes the return of a true classical music giant: pianist André Watts, who burst upon the music world at the age of 16 when Leonard Bernstein chose him to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic in their Young People’s Concerts, broadcast nationwide on CBS-TV. Only two weeks later, Bernstein asked him to substitute at the last minute for the ailing Glenn Gould in performances of Liszt’s E-flat Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, thus launching his career in storybook fashion. More than 50 years later, Watts remains one of today’s most celebrated and beloved superstars. In his hands, Beethoven’s revolutionary Piano Concerto No. 4 is a fitting farewell to the season.  Also on this program, Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.”

 

OPERA SO GRAND

Inspired by St.Clair’s stellar career as an opera conductor in Europe, the Symphony once again presents uniquely staged concert opera.  From the successful debut in 2011-12 of Puccini’s heartbreaking “La Bohème,” to Puccini’s “Tosca” in 2012-13, Verdi’s “La Traviata” in 2013-14 and Bizet’s “Carmen” in 2014-15, this season the Symphony offers a semi-staged production of Puccini’s “Turandot,” a spectacular masterpiece about a bloodthirsty princess whose icy, vengeful heart softens as she comes to know true love. The lyrical, sweeping score is filled with operatic treasures including the signature aria, “Nessun Dorma,” which has been used in many Hollywood scores and as the theme for BBC’s World Cup television coverage. Eric Einhorn, the visionary behind the imaginative staging of “Tosca” in 2013, is the stage director, while the vocals are provided by world-class soloists and Pacific Chorale.

St.Clair was the former general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle (GNTS) in Weimar, Germany, where he led Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” to great critical acclaim. During his tenure at the Komische Oper Berlin, St.Clair led acclaimed productions of not only “La Traviata,” but also the world premiere of Christian Jost’s “Hamlet” and the heralded production of “Lear” by Aribert Reimann.

 

AMERICAN COMPOSERS FESTIVAL

The Symphony’s critically acclaimed American Composers Festival enters its 15th season Feb. 4-6, 2016, with organist Paul Jacobs curating the Symphony’s spotlight on the king of instruments. Two of the world’s finest organists deliver music filled with sublime beauty, luminous textures and sacred spirit. Jacobs and Christoph Bull perform (with Pacific Chorale) “Lux Aeterna” by Morten Lauridsen, a world premiere by Wayne Oquin, and Concerto No. 4 by Stephen Paulus. Paulus’ vocal masterpiece “Pilgrim’s Hymn” is on the program, as well.

“I want to explore the many worlds of organ repertoire and the instrument itself,” says St.Clair. “We will celebrate the life of Stephen Paulus, who recently passed. What a master he was. A true American composer. Our guest organists will ‘raise the roof’ with the glorious sounds of our concert hall’s organ.”

Dubbed “one of the most supremely gifted organists of his generation” by the Chicago Tribune, Grammy award-winning organist Jacobs unites technical skills of the first order with probing emotional artistry. His performances of new works and core recital and symphonic repertoire have transfixed audiences, colleagues and critics alike. “I have seldom heard an orchestral audience leap to its feet and whoop at a solo organ piece, but the adulation was well deserved,” said The Washington Post of Jacobs’ performance. 

Bull has been described as “the rock star of the organ world” by KPCC-FM, which isn’t surprising since he likes organ music, rock music and rocking organ music. Equally versed in classical and popular music, he is considered one of the most versatile and unique organists of our time. In his concerts, he presents the multicolored sounds, styles and collaborative aspects of the organ in a new light and excites wide audiences.

The evening pays homage to Paulus, who passed away in October 2014. Paulus composed more than 500 works ranging from operas to orchestral pieces, including many that incorporated the organ as a featured or solo instrument. American composer Morten Lauridsen is a National Medal of Arts recipient. He was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale for seven years, and has been a professor of composition at USC for more than four decades.

Wayne Oquin, who is writing a world premiere in honor of Paulus, has composed a body of work highly regarded for its craft and power to communicate a wide range of musical expression. The music’s acclaim is testament to its dramatic capacity: “dreamlike spirit,” “tremendously exciting,” “unaffected simplicity” and “beautiful complexity” are all descriptions of his music that has earned Oquin substantial recognition among today’s young composers.

 

CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS

The grandeur and ebullience of Handel returns for the annual favorite—Messiah”—a timeless masterwork that transcends three centuries of ever-changing trends in music. Thrill once again to blazing trumpets, thundering timpani and the electrifying, uplifting “Hallelujah” chorus at Orange County’s most popular rendition of this cherished holiday tradition. The orchestra is joined by conductor Robert Moody and the angelic voices of the Pacific Chorale for an afternoon that is full of joy, reflection and renewal.

 

SUNDAY CASUAL CONNECTIONS

Sunday Casual Connections, including four Sunday matinees with repertoire from the Classical series, offers an intimate and informative experience. Audience members peer beneath the surface of the music to explore a world of fascinating history, intrigue and discovery. They are invited to experience great masterworks in a casual, Sunday afternoon performance featuring commentary from stage. To expose the next generation to great music, the Symphony offers children under 17 a free subscription to Sunday Casual Connections, when accompanied by a full-paying adult.

Sunday Casual Connections begins with Beethoven’s crowning achievement: Symphony No. 9, a monumental fusion of soloists, chorus and music, all set to the magnificent “Ode to Joy.” Also, Pacific Symphony’s composer-in-residence Narong Prangcharoen debuts his OC-inspired composition. The concert includes popular American composer Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living” from “The Tenderland,”

Guest conductor and violinist Cho-Liang Lin leads an exploration of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 and his grand and festival “Haffner” Symphony. Also, a close look a “Siegfried Idyll,” an intimate and beautiful piece unlike Wagner’s other grandiose works.

Tin Pan Alley meets Carnegie Hall in Gershwin’s groundbreaking composition, “Rhapsody in Blue,” now among the most popular in the repertoire. Also heavily influenced by jazz is Ravel’s beautiful Piano Concerto in G Major.

And finally, Carl St.Clair plums the depths of “Symphonie Fantastique” by Berlioz, the semi-autobiographical story of an artist’s self-destructive passion for a beautiful woman. Berlioz’s symphony describes obsession and dreams, tantrums and tenderness, suicide and murder, ecstasy and despair.