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Be Strung Along By The Beauty Of Music And Young Talent When Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings Opens Season With Prelude Chamber Strings And Music From Baroque Era To Now
Orange County, Calif. — October 25, 2017
It’s a BIG season for Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles’ youngest students (grades 6-9), one that culminates in a once-in-a-lifetime tour next summer to Costa Rica! This will be the second tour for the very talented string instrumentalists who make up Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings (PSSS)—the first being in March 2016, when the ensemble travelled to Tampa, Fla., to take part in the American String Teachers Association National Orchestra Festival by special invitation. Among the top in their field, the students of PSSS look forward to growing and polishing their impressive abilities during their season opener, featuring the Prelude Chamber Strings, grades 2-8 (conducted by Helen Weed). Tackling “Petite Classics” for this concert, the students journey over centuries of classical music, from the Baroque era to today.
Led by PSSS Music Director Irene Kroesen, under the artistic advisement of Music Director Carl St.Clair, the concert takes place Sunday, Nov. 19, at 1 p.m., at Soka University Performing Arts Center. Admission to this concert is free, but tickets are required. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“PSSS is a group of amazing young musicians,” says Maestra Kroesen. “Although they are young in age, they perform well beyond their years. I look forward to every rehearsal because they are focused, intelligent and have an amazingly positive attitude towards learning.”
The program, “Petite Classics,” includes selections from four of the classical periods of music, beginning with the Baroque period and the “Fugue in G minor,” also known as “The Little Fugue,” by the “father” of Baroque music, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). This famous work is a great example of Baroque counterpoint. Then, to segue into the Classical period, PSSS will play the first movement of “Sinfonia in D Major” by Johann Christian Bach, who was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian and is credited with developing the early classical symphony, as well as being a teacher of the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“The challenge in playing pieces from such different periods of music,” says Kroesen, “is to learn to play in different styles. While playing bold and strong for ‘Fugue in G minor,’ the students must then change it up to play light and with great precision for ‘Sinfonia’ from the Classical period. As PSSS experiences different performance practice for each period of music, they will become more knowledgeable and confident. These works are not only necessary to their education, they are also fun to play, especially if the tempo is fast.”
Bach, the father, was the most famous in his large German family of musicians who lived during the late Baroque period. He enriched established German styles in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organization, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms and textures from abroad, particularly Italy and France. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty and intellectual depth. “Little Fugue” was written in G minor for organ, on which Bach was a virtuoso. Early editors of Bach’s work included “little” in the title to distinguish it from his later and longer, “Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor.”
It’s surprising to realize that Bach’s son was more celebrated in his time than his father, who became the better-known composer after a 19th-century revival of his larger choral and orchestral works. His "Sinfonia" is one of a number composed in the gallant style of the early classical period. Mozart held the younger Bach in high esteem as a composer, and arranged three sonatas from the older composer’s Op. 5 into keyboard concertos.
“‘Capriccio Espagnol,’ composed by the Romantic composer, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, in 1887, captures the characteristics of Spanish dance,” says Kroesen. The work, in five brief movements, is a robust, intoxicating orchestral panorama of Spain, full of passionate tunes and brilliant colors. Like the Spanish melodies and scenes that inspired it, ‘Capriccio Espagnol’ is bursting with beauty and inventiveness. The composer made the orchestral music so dazzling that every musician had to be a virtuoso in order to play it. Despite being relatively short (approximately 15 minutes), it is among the more popular works performed today.
“Next, we will play ‘Troika’ from the film music of “Lieutenant Kiji” by one my favorite 20th-century composer, Sergei Prokofiev,” says Kroesen. “This fast-moving piece is meant to capture the feeling of speed and exhilaration as the three-horse carriage races across the icy cold winter landscape of Russia. Our finale is the exciting ‘Rhythm Dances’ by the contemporary composer, Brian Balmages.”
With playfulness, brazen lyricism and intense rhythmic outbursts, this final piece by Balmages is sure to be riveting as it takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster—trotting, stumbling, floating, running and eventually careening into a firecracker conclusion!
“Every season I hope that these students build stronger musical skills, build confidence not only in performance but also as people,” says Kroesen. “And I hope that they remember a musical experience that ‘wowed!’ them. My goal is for these students to feel accomplished, engaged, and make strong connections with fellow members—and also, experience a successful and rewarding tour to Costa Rica!”
Maestro St.Clair, who is also the music director for Costa Rica’s National Symphony Orchestra, has played an important role in shaping the tour for PSSS. The ensemble will be based in the capital of San José from June 28-July 3, during which time the students will have the opportunity to engage in cultural exchanges with musical peers and to explore the cultural and natural landscape of Costa Rica. Workshops with peer ensembles will take place in the idyllic town of San Ramón and Cartágo, the capital city of Costa Rica, at the base of the Irazú volcano. These events allow students to have meaningful interactions with musicians from the SINEM program, patterned after the popular El Sístema method. There will also be opportunities for sightseeing to highlight the rich culture and natural environment of the region.
This opportunity to embark on tour of such a high artistic and educational level is certain to positively impact the PSSS students and broaden their horizons as high-level musicians, global citizens and lifelong learners.
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