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Classical Concerts

Music that will move you. Your favorite masterpieces, from stirring symphonies to deeply emotional concertos.

Carl Tanner

Verdi's Otello

April 23 – 28, 2020, 8:00 p.m.


What’s interesting about this concert:

  • Love, betrayal and jealousy – all trademarks of great tragic opera – “Otello” embraces these themes to the fullest.
  • Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s tale takes you on a journey through a passionate romance destroyed by one of opera’s most loathsome villains.
  • The three leading roles are among Verdi's most demanding, both vocally and dramatically. They are inhabited here by a troika of world-class opera singers: Metropolitan Opera stars tenor Carl Tanner (Otello) and bass-baritone Greer Grimsley (Iago) along with Kelebogile Besong (Desdemona).
  • The South-African soprano is familiar to Orange County audiences from her starring role in Pacific Symphony’s 2017 production of “Aida”
Joyce Yang

Yang Plays Rachmaninoff

May 7 – 9, 2020, 8:00 p.m.


What’s interesting about this concert:

  • Like his fellow countryman Gustavo Dudamel, José Luis Gómez spent formative years in El Sistema, where he performed the concert’s opening work by Carreño over 100 times. You’ll smell the sea air and feel the rhythms of Margarita, the captivating Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast where the composer was born.
  • The Van Cliburn medalist and Grammy-nominated pianist Joyce Yang will show off her justly praised “dazzling fingerwork” in the daredevil variations on a theme by Paganini. It’s such a difficult work that it drove Rachmaninoff to drink: before playing the world premiere, he broke his usual rule against drinking before concerts and had a glass of crème de menthe to steady his nerves!
  • Schumann’s lush Fourth Symphony takes you on a musical journey through one gorgeous melody after another, all without pause.
  • Enjoy image magnification on the big screens for a closer look at the musicians!
Beethoven's "Razumovsky" Quartet

Beethoven's "Razumovsky" Quartet

May 10, 2020, 3:00 p.m.


The first in a series of three string quartets commissioned by the Russian ambassador in Vienna, Count Razumovsky, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 7 is notorious for its technical demands. The concert opens with Leshnoff’s “Radiance” for Piano Quintet and Beethoven’s Trio for Piano, Flute and Bassoon. Enjoy coffee, tea and pastries in the intimate Samueli Theater as host and Orli Shaham guides you through the program.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

May 10, 2020, 7:00 p.m.


Organist Dennis James provides a chilling soundtrack for the silent-film classic, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." The 1923 film, based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel of the same name, is known for the grand sets that recall 15th century Paris as well as for Lon Chaney's performance and make-up as the tortured hunchback Quasimodo, the deaf, half-blind, hunchbacked bell-ringer of the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Conrad Tao

Tao Plays Mozart

May 28 – 30, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

What’s interesting about this concert:

  • Frank Ticheli has written a new piece that uses the audience as an instrument. Ticheli was Pacific Symphony’s composer-in-residence from 1991 to 1998. 
  • Mozart’s popular piano concerto is dramatic and impassioned — hinting, as did Beethoven’s music, at the changes that would come to music during the Romantic era.
  • Filled with nods to Bach and Beethoven, Brahms’ Fourth Symphony is gripping and energetic. Musicologist Donald Francis Tovey says the end of the first movement “bears comparison with the greatest climaxes in classical music, not excluding Beethoven.”
  • Enjoy image magnification on the big screens for a closer look at the musicians!
Pacific Symphony

Brahms' Symphony No. 4

May 31, 2020, 3:00 p.m.

Filled with deep emotion, profound complexity and beautiful melancholy, Brahms’ 4th symphony finishes with a finale that will leave you speechless. The concert opens with a new work by former composer-in-residence Frank Ticheli in honor of Carl's 30th anniversary.

Symphony of a Thousand

Symphony of a Thousand

June 11 – 13, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

What’s interesting about this concert:

  • Because of the huge number of musicians and vocalists required, vastly more than were needed for any other symphony to that time, Mahler’s Eighth earned the nickname “Symphony of a Thousand” (though there will be only about 350 people on stage).
  • The Symphony has been compared to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for its soaring blend of voices and orchestra, and for its spirit of optimism and humanity.
  • The second part of the symphony follows the journey of Faust’s soul, rescued from the clutches of Mephistopheles, on its final ascent to heaven.
  • Grand and celebratory, this symphony serves as a fitting, triumphal finale to Music Director Carl St.Clair’s 30th anniversary season.
Christina and Michelle Naughton

Tchaikovsky's Fifth

September 24 – 26, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

Celebrate opening weekend with twin piano phenoms, Christina Naughton and Michelle Naughton, as they take Mozart’s rarely performed Concerto for Two Pianos to the stage. Maestro St.Clair concludes the evening with Tchaikovsky’ s moving Fifth Symphony.


Inside Tchaikovsky's Fifth

September 27, 2020, 3:00 p.m.

Behind his beautifully melodic Fifth Symphony was Tchaikovsky — one of the most beloved of Romantic composers. Join Maestro St.Clair in an in-depth exploration of this great artist along with the symphonic world premiere of Wayne Oquin’s "Tower Ascending," a work with a serene opening that builds to a thrilling conclusion.

Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson

Beethoven's "Eroica"

October 15 – 17, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

Experience Beethoven’s thrilling “Eroica” symphony—a work so innovative and influential it changed the course of music history. Longtime collaborators Jaimie Laredo and Sharon Robinson also join the evening with a West Coast premiere of Chris Brubeck’s jazz-infused double concerto.


Discover Beethoven's "Eroica"

October 18, 2020, 3:00 p.m.

Maestro St. Clair leads you on a discovery as to why Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony was a work so innovative and influential that it changed the course of music history.

Bomsori Kim

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

November 12 – 14, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

Bomsori Kim, “internationally recognized as one of the most dynamic and exciting violinists of today” (NDR), joins Pacific Symphony with Tchaikovsky’s delightful Violin Concerto. Completing the evening is Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, a masterpiece showcasing each section of the orchestra.

Andrey Gugnin

Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2

December 3 – 5, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

Moscow-born concert pianist Andrey Gugnin visits Orange County with Rachmaninoff’s luxuriant Piano Concerto No. 2. Meanwhile, guest conductor Markus Stenz guides listeners through a gallery of musical styles: from the French-Baroque color of Rebel, a journey into the romantic dream-like world of Debussy and Scriabin’s cosmically charged “Poem of Ecstasy.”

Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax Plays Mozart

January 14 – 16, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

"His greatness, his overwhelming authority as musician, technician and probing intellect emerges quickly as he plays. Within minutes, we are totally captured by his intensity and pianistic achievement." —Los Angeles Times

Edo de Waart

Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony

February 4 – 6, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Revel in the majestic power of the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ in Saint-Saëns‘ most popular symphony featuring a melody that was later adapted for film and the 1977 hit song “If I Had Words.” And delight in Mozart’s charming Clarinet Concerto as Principal Clarinetist Joseph Morris puts his skills on full display.

James Ehnes

James Ehnes Plays Sibelius

February 25 – 27, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Hailed by The Times as a “violinist in a class of his own,” James Ehnes returns to Pacific Symphony with Sibelius’ only violin concerto; a work that perfectly blends drama with technical virtuosity. Brahms’ pastoral second symphony transports you away from the darkness and into the Austrian countryside.

Pacific Chorale

Cathedrals of Sound

March 18 – 20, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

The New York Times calls Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan as “ceaselessly inventive, evocative and penetrating.” He joins Pacific Symphony on a spiritual journey with his major commission Fiat Lux (“Let There Be Light”); a perfect pairing to Strauss’ eternal tone poem Death and Transfiguration.



April 15 – 20, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Verdi’s immortal story about naïve love, betrayal and a vengeance gone horribly wrong features some of opera’s greatest arias including the instantly recognizable “La donna è mobile” and the beautiful “Caro nome.”


Rachel Barton Pine

Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto

May 6 – 8, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

“Prodigious talent with obvious personality and a clear-eyed vision, her technical skills can make the jaw drop. [Rachel Barton Pine] has a full, singing sweet tone and plays with a confidence and elan that make an audience’s heart soar.” — Chicago Sun-Times

Haochen Zhang

Haochen Zhang Plays Rachmaninoff

May 20 – 22, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

An evening of greatness begins with world-class pianist Haochen Zhang who has been described by The Washington Post as having an “imagination that keeps you on the edge of your seat and breathless to hear what comes next”—a worthy challenger to Rachmaninoff’s intense Rhapsody. Following is Schubert’s ninth symphony nicknamed “The Great” for its pure grand majesty and awe-inspiring scale.

Franz Schubert

Schubert's "The Great"

May 23, 2021, 3:00 p.m.

Be amazed by Schubert’s Ninth Symphony nicknamed “The Great” for its pure grand majesty and awe-inspiring scale.


The Mozart Project

June 10 – 12, 2021, 8:00 p.m.

Wolfgang comes to life in this all-Mozart evening!  Maestro St.Clair conducts the legendary composer’s charming overture to Don Giovanni and the gloriously dark and transcendent Requiem, interspersed with a portrayal of his greatest rival, Antonio Salieri, performed by SCR Artistic Director David Ivers.


Mozart's Requiem

June 13, 2021, 3:00 p.m.

In this all-Mozart program, Maestro St.Clair forges an artistic partnership with South Coast Repertory’s artistic director David Ivers. Together, they bring this legendary composer to life with some of his most well-known works including the gloriously dark and transcendent Requiem.
Presented in collaboration with South Coast Repertory.