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Jean Oelrich
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joelrich@pacificsymphony.org

Breathe it in—Pacific Symphony’s celebratory “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” draws summer to a close with cannons, fireworks and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2

Orange County, Calif. — August 17, 2015

Olga Kern

Music for Hope: Musicians don turquoise accents to raise awareness for lung health as Symphony partners with American Lung Association in California

Romantic Russian masterpieces give way to a thrilling orchestral battle featuring fireworks, cannons and brassy fanfare for Pacific Symphony’s “Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” featuring the composer’s “1812” Overture. The program’s centerpiece is Rachmaninoff’s virtuosic showpiece—the achingly beautiful, grand and lyrical Piano Concerto No. 2, performed by Olga Kern. Born in Russia to a family of musicians with direct links to both Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, the captivating pianist was the first woman in 30 years to win the Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (2001). Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, the concert opens with enchanting ballet music including excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” and Stravinsky’s shimmering Suite from “The Firebird.” Summer Festival 2015 comes to a dramatic close with an electrifying display of fireworks and 16 cannon shots in Tchaikovsky’s victorious “1812” Overture, featuring the Huntington Beach Concert Band, which also provides pre-concert entertainment.

This annual summer tradition takes place on Saturday, Sept. 5, at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (formerly Verizon Wireless Amphitheater). The concert begins at 8 p.m. and audience members are welcome to picnic on the grounds starting at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$107 and kids are half price in most sections. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

It’s a breathtaking evening on multiple levels. On stage, musicians sport turquoise accents to help raise awareness for the American Lung Association in California LUNG FORCE Walk in a unique partnership between the two organizations. The Lung Association launched LUNG FORCE to unite everyone in the fight against lung cancer and for lung health. The orchestra is keenly aware that playing a wind instrument—or any instrument—requires healthy lungs. Breathing easy is, frankly, key to a fulfilling life. But the fact is, lung disease is the No. 3 killer in the U.S.; lung cancer is No. 1 cancer killer for both women and men, and; 70 percent of the population lives in areas affected by unhealthy air. On the flip side, research has shown that music has the power to ease pain and suffering, and to heal. The Symphony and the Lung Association join forces on this one special night, a victorious concert with its thundering cannons and spectacular fireworks, to raise awareness about the organization’s work. The audience is invited to stand together in support of lung health and hope for the future. For more information about the Lung Association and the LUNG FORCE Walk, call (714) 332-3273 or email Kellie.Maguinness@lung.org.

No one combines musical intimacy and sensuality with grand, monumental sound quite like Rachmaninoff, especially in his Piano Concerto No. 2. As a pianist as well as a composer living at the turn of the 20th century, Rachmaninoff became a celebrity in America, where he showed off virtuosic concertos he had written himself. Out of his four concertos, his second has become the most popular and admired by critics.  

“The melodies are so beautiful and the music so recognizable, that everyone wants to play and hear it over and over again,” says the evening’s guest pianist Kern. “From the first opening piano solo chords sounding like bells in a church, through magnificent and magical dialogue between clarinet, piano and violins in the second movement, until the grand tutti of orchestra and piano together in the end of the third movement, Rachmaninoff transports all of us—performers and listeners—to a different world, full of incredibly beautiful harmonies and melodies, sadness, melancholy, love and passion.”  

To begin the evening, the irresistible melodies of Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” (1890) take listeners to an enchanted forest where fairies dwell and a princess is lulled into a deep sleep. The Symphony performs two excerpts: “Introduction: The Lilac Fairy,” originally

composed to the choreography and dance of Marius Petipa, and “Waltz,” from which Disney procured the melody for the song “Once Upon a Dream” in the 1959 film.  

Twenty years after “The Sleeping Beauty” premiered, another Russian composer was on the verge of success. The young Igor Stravinsky, currently studying with Rimky-Korsakov, was given a great opportunity by Serge Diaghilev to compose a new score for the 1910 season of the prestigious Ballets Russes. The story drew from an old Russian folktale about a magical bird whose feathers glittered and flickered like flames. Stravinsky composed the score for “The Firebird,” combining iridescent melodies with rhythmic and exotic sounds in an evocative tale about the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

“For me, the most striking effect in ‘The Firebird’ was the natural-harmonic string glissando near the beginning, which the bass chord touches off like a Catherine wheel,” wrote Stravinsky. “I was delighted to have discovered this, and I remember my excitement in demonstrating it to Rimsky’s violinist and cellist sons.”  

Tchaikovsky’s exhilarating “1812” Overture, with its distinct brassy sound and victorious climax, is the quintessential backdrop for an evening of fireworks and orchestral music under the stars. As the Symphony welcomes the Huntington Beach Concert Band onstage and St.Clair signals for 16 cannon shots to be fired, fireworks light up the sky and the summer season comes to a festive close.  

Guest pianist Kern is recognized as one of her generation’s great pianists, captivating fans and critics with her vivid stage presence, confident musicianship and extraordinary technique. She is featured in three documentaries about her historical gold medal-winning performance at the 2001 Cliburn Competition, titled “Playing on the Edge,” “Olga’s Journey, Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg” and “They Came to Play.” At age 17, she won first prize at the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition and is a laureate of many international competitions and tours internationally.

This concert is generously sponsored by South Coast Plaza. Summer Festival 2015 is supported by the Orange County Register, Avenue of the Arts Wyndham Hotel and media sponsors K-Earth 101, KPCC, KUSC and PBS SoCal.

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