“Summer Replay” Serves Up Mozart, Berlioz & Tchaikovsky

As summer comes to a close, we would like to thank all of our new and returning patrons for tuning in to our free, virtual Summer Replay Series! Here’s a quick recap of all the concerts we have available – all 3 are available until the dates noted below.

Shaham Plays Mozart Available through Sept. 26

Acclaimed “first-rate Mozartean” by the Chicago Tribune, and “exquisite Mozart interpreter” by The Orange County Register, internationally-renowned Orli Shaham performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major. This bright and joyous work is one of the rare concertos that Mozart composed for another soloist to perform, instead of himself—the Austrian pianist Barbara Ployer.

According to American musicologist and critic Michael Steinberg, “On May 27, 1784, Mozart paid 34 kreuzer—roughly $10 in today’s money—for a starling who could whistle the beginning of the finale of his G Major Piano Concerto, or at least something very close to it. Mozart jotted down the musical notation in his account book with the comment ‘Das war schön’—‘That was fine!’—even though the bird insisted on a fermata at the end of the first full measure and on sharping the G’s in the next bar.”

Eileen Jeanette, senior vice-president of artistic planning, opens this performance with an interview with Orli Shaham.

Symphonie Fantastique Available through Oct. 10

One of the most revolutionary works in classical literature, Hector Berlioz’s 1830 Symphonie Fantastique, showcases large strides forward from the typical instrumentation and musical form that was commonplace in that time. Contrasting themes of light and dark, like gracious ballroom dances with psychedelic depictions of a witches’ sabbath, the piece shows the composer’s obsessive love of the great Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson.

The first movement, “Reveries – Passions,” introduces the idée fixe—the object of fixation that appears in every movement following, represents the object of the Artist’s love. The second movement, “A Ball,” takes us to a ball, where the harps lead the waltz in which the Artist is trying to win the attention of his beloved. The third movement, “Scene in the Fields,” takes place in the countryside and opens with an echo from Berlioz’s childhood: the sound of a cowherd’s melody. This masterwork’s darker, more sinister side is demonstrated in the fourth movement, titled “March to the Scaffold,” where the Artist is executed for the murder of his beloved. Finally, the fifth movement, “Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath,” is represented as a satanic fantasy, where the Artist is surrounded by sorcerers and monsters for his funeral, as well as his beloved, now a witch. The well-known Dies Irae theme is established in this movement, and the orchestra divides to enact the ritual.

Opening with an interview with Principal Bassoonist Rose Corrigan by Eileen Jeannette, this performance is one which you don’t want to miss.

Tchaikovsky Spectacular Available through Oct. 24

It is safe to say that most people recognize the flashy side of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture: the cannons, the church bells, the stabs of brass. This work is known for being widely used to accompany 4th of July fireworks shows, or in movies and TV shows, such as in the opening and ending scenes of the 2005 film V for Vendetta.

The fame and use in popular culture of this piece can be traced back in history. Tchaikovsky was tasked to compose this piece for the opening of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia, and a century later, it was used to accompany a Boston Pops 4th of July show under Arthur Fiedler. This event combined Tchaikovsky’s celebratory work with celebratory fireworks for a brilliant and spectacular tradition.

Along with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, this performance includes Rimsky Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles” from Mlada, and Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” from Prince Igor. The concert opens with an interview with Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins, hosted by Eileen Jeanette.

Alessandra Ramos is a Los Angeles-based music writer, oboist and marketing intern for Pacific Symphony.

KUSC Broadcast: Hadelich Plays Paganini

Augustin Hadelich

This week’s KUSC rebroadcast program on Sun., Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. features an intriguing, atmospheric work by Christopher Rouse, one of America’s most prominent composers of orchestral music. His works have garnered him a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award. The New York Times described his body of work as “some of the most anguished, more memorable music around.” The concert opens with Rouse’s “Prospero’s Room,” a short work that the composer considered to be “an overture to an unwritten opera.”

Rouse notes on his website: “In the days when I would have still contemplated composing an opera, my preferred source was Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death.’… However,… I decided to redirect my ideas into what might be considered an overture to an unwritten opera. The story concerns a vain Prince, Prospero, who summons his friends to his palace and locks them in so that they will remain safe from the Red Death, a plague that is ravaging the countryside. He commands that there be a ball—the ‘masque’—but that no one is to wear red. But of course, a figure clad all in red does appear; it is the red death, and it claims the lives of all in the castle.”

The remarkable Grammy Award-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich performs Niccolò Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Paganini was famous for the virtuosity of his compositions, and the first violin concerto is no exception. And Hadelich is a consummate virtuoso who is up to the task. The New Yorker described him as “a singularly gifted, characterful musician. When Hadelich first came on the scene, he was noted for his pinpoint brilliance and for his sweet-cultured, almost old-fashioned tone. It was as if a Golden Age violinist had jumped out of the grooves of a 78-r.p.m. record…He has a flair for bringing older music into the present tense.”

Sergei Rachmaninoff

The final piece in this rebroadcast is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor. The composer described the premiere of his First Symphony as “the most agonizing hour of my life.” This “agonizing hour” would be one that plunged him into a mental state that would most likely be diagnosed today as clinical depression. Yet he went on to composes a second and finally a third symphony. Rachmaninoff’s Third Symphony opens with a motto theme that returns in the later movements. That haunting theme is derived from half-chant and half-prayer, heard in unison by the muted clarinet, horns, and cellos. As the movement unfolds, Rachmaninoff daringly combines both slow and scherzo characteristics.

Preceding the concert broadcast on KUSC will be a lively discussion featuring Music Director Carl St.Clair and radio host Rich Capparela on Facebook Live. For more information, click here.

Pacific Symphony’s Creativity Continues Through Pandemic

The pandemic may have temporarily halted Pacific Symphony’s ability to perform live music, but it could not deter the organization’s creativity and engagement with the Orange County community. Pacific Symphony musicians recorded over 100 concerts from their living rooms for our “Quarantine Clips” series. Members and alumni of Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles also contributed video recordings from their homes. The Symphony’s virtual concerts have been viewed by audiences in all 50 states and over 50 countries around the world. The orchestra’s online audience has grown since mid-March, increasing two-and-a-half times for more than 4.7 million social media impressions.

Pacific Symphony’s education and community engagement team migrated all programs online and re-imagined each program in a digital context, with some highlights including:

  • The award-winning “arts-X-press” summer camp program was rebranded as AXP@Home, with almost 100 middle-school students experiencing the magic of the arts over Zoom through interactive classes, workshops and performance experiences
  • Students in the three Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles continued their learning in Zoom sessions with composers and conductors
  • Santa Ana Strings, in partnership with Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana and New Hope Presbyterian Church, provided violin lessons over Zoom, and over 60 pre-recorded lessons, to students in 2nd through 6th grades
  • Over 14,000 students in Class Act, Pacific Symphony’s Elementary School Partnership program, received customized video content including lessons, assemblies and concerts direct to their homes

In addition to serving existing program constituents the education and community engagement team launched a “Music and Arts Learning” portal on PacificSymphony.org to offer valuable resources for teachers, parents, students and lifelong learners in Orange County and beyond.

The Impossible Orchestra

The Impossible Orchestra: Danzón No. 2 (Full Video)

The pandemic may have stopped live orchestral performances temporarily, but it hasn’t put a stop to musical creativity. Of all the recent videos online, one of the most interesting may be “The Impossible Orchestra.” Composed of 29 outstanding musicians from 14 different countries, it is truly an all-star ensemble that has been brought together by conductor Alondra de la Parra. Where else might you find famous soloists Maxim Vengerov (violin), Alisa Weilerstein (cello), Emmanuel Pahud (flute) joining forces with jazz greats Arturo Sandoval (trumpet), Paquito D’Rivera (clarinet, saxophone), and operatic tenor Rolando Villazon playing claves?

The Impossible Orchestra made its debut with the interpretation of the quintessential Mexican symphonic composition: Danzón No. 2, by Arturo Márquez. The music is accompanied by prima ballerina Elisa Carrillo with choreography created specifically for the event by renowned Christopher Wheeldon. 

Worried about the impact of the pandemic in her home country, Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra has launched one of the most ambitious projects in contemporary music in order to help Mexican women and children affected by COVID-19. The Orchestra is born from the conviction that music has the power to unite us. No matter our origins, our nationalities or our differences, music creates a universal language of hope in difficult times.

You can read more about this project and view this remarkable video at The Impossible Orchestra website.

Inception Reflection

The creativity of Pacific Symphony musicians knows no bounds. The orchestra’s Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins keeps stretching his musical invention and filmmaking skills above and beyond. In fact, if there were Academy Awards for music videos, Perkins’ latest might be in the running. His video “Inception Reflection” pays homage to the 2010 science fiction action thriller “Inception,” directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  

The video opens with Perkins acting in two roles, evoking the surrealistic mood and ambiguous color palette of the movie’s beginning where DiCaprio sits across the table from his benefactor, Saito, played by Ken Watanabe. This becomes the starting point for a brilliant mosaic video that features Pacific Symphony’s intrepid principal trumpet and the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Principal Trumpet Michah Wilkinson playing original music by Perkins.

In describing the piece, Perkins says, “I used the basic beginning chordal structure from Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, but the rest is an original composition with influences from Telemann, especially when the piccolo trumpet enters.” Perkins has gotten a lot of positive feedback from all over the country. He commented, “There is even a university in Florida that is using the video as a listen/watch assignment.”

“Inception Reflection” is a thought-provoking video, especially in the middle of a global pandemic when reality can, at times, seem like a dream and dreams can be even more unreal than usual.

Younger Listeners Find Solace in Classical Music

As observed by Classic FM, “with the rise of streaming services, young people are listening to more Mozart and Bach than they did 10 years ago. And during lockdown, classical music has experienced a second boom.”

Classical music is gaining more popularity among young audiences, according to joint studies performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the streaming service Deezer (a Spotify competitor) and British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Of those who are streaming classical music, one third (34 percent) were aged 18-25 this past year, and during the same time period, classical streams by people under 35 years old increased by 17 percent.

When the nation’s lockdown began in March, classical musicians had to start getting creative and for many, this meant reaching out to a broader audience. Musicians are doing this by combining today’s popular music and classical music—making classical versions of many songs that are widely listened to by younger audiences. Deezer reports that over 3 months, classical music streams among 18 to 25-year-olds increased by 11 percent.

Of those streams, composers Mozart and Bach were the most popular, and streams of female pianists, including Martha Argerich and Khatia Buniatishvili, soared during those 3 months.

Also, according to an earlier report done by the RPO, 35 percent of people under age 35 said that listening to orchestral music helped them relax and maintain their wellbeing during the lockdown.

During these difficult times, it can be hard to stay positive when you are dealing with feelings of isolation. One way to help alleviate those tough emotions is with mood-based playlists. Playlists such as “Calm,” “Feel Good” and “Sleep,” have been linked to the pandemic, as young people listened to these playlists as a method of reassurance and relaxation. (Check out our favorite one, “Soothing Classical,” here!)

Not only are playlists gaining more popularity, but albums are making somewhat of a comeback, as classical music listeners tend to stream them in full, in comparison to listeners of other genres who often seek out the latest hit singles from chart-topping popular artists.

Alexandre Desplat

Academy Award-winning film composer Alexandre Desplat expressed, “It’s heartening that the appeal of classical music is clearly expanding and connecting with a broader and younger audience.

“The ease of discovery and connectivity through streaming, must be playing its part,” he adds, “but so too is the global reach and power of film soundtracks, which draw such inspiration from classical composition.”

British-German composer Max Richter comments, “As well as being a historical art form, classical music is also part of what is happening now, and it is great to see more people embracing it.” Richter makes the important point that classical music isn’t a dead art form, but one that is constantly evolving and growing with its audience.

Classical music time and time again has been found to aid others through tough times and is utilized in other fields of work such as psychology and music therapy to help those in need. Musicians do what they do because there is nothing more rewarding than being able to truly reach someone through this art form, and that is what many people struggling during this time look forward to embracing.

Alessandra Ramos is a Los Angeles-based music writer, oboist and marketing intern for Pacific Symphony.

The Organization Exploring Diversity in Composition

Are you looking for new music to listen to or for new repertoire to learn, during this time of self-isolation? The Institute for Composer Diversity is a great resource to find music by composers in underrepresented groups. With over 4,000 composers in the databases, you might just find your next favorite artist!

Operating within the State University of New York at Fredonia’s School of Music, the Institute has evolved over time from a simple resource project for the School to bring more awareness to female composers, into a robust research and advocacy organization.

Elfrida Andrée

If you’re in the mood to jump down a classical-themed rabbit-hole, you can dive into the Institute’s Composer Diversity Database to find composers you may have never heard before – broken down by genre, sub-genre, gender, demographics and location.

For example, here’s a wonderful composer this writer had never heard of: Elfrida Andrée (1841−1929), from Sweden. Noted as a pioneer for Swedish women in composition, performance and conducting, Andrée was the first woman in Sweden to graduate as an organist. Her work, “Andante quasi recitativo,” is a longing and gorgeous one-movement piece for string orchestra. Check it out below!

You can also check out their social media @instituteforcomposerdiversity.

Shaham Plays Mozart

Acclaimed “first-rate Mozartean” by the Chicago Tribune and an “exquisite Mozart interpreter” by The Orange County Register, internationally-renowned pianist Orli Shaham performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major for this latest Summer Replay virtual concert this Thursday at 7 p.m.

Shaham holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Columbia University, and in the fall of 2019, she released recordings of Mozart’s Piano Concertos K. 453 and K. 491 (Nos. 17 and 21) with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

This bright and joyous concerto was one of the rare concertos that Mozart wrote for another artist to perform (and not himself) – the Austrian pianist Barbara Ployer. As his guest, Mozart brought along the renowned Italian composer Giovanni Paisiello, whose latest piece, “The Barber of Seville,” had already made Figaro an operatic celebrity before either Mozart or Rossini took a stab at the character.

Eileen Jeanette, Pacific Symphony’s senior-vice president of artistic planning, opens this concert with an interview with Orli Shaham, so please join us on Thursday, August 13 at 7:00pm to watch this free virtual performance of Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major by W.A. Mozart as part of our Summer Replay series!

Check out her ongoing Midweek Mozart project below, as she prepares to release her album of the complete Mozart piano sonatas!

From Costa Mesa to Costa Rica

When Carl St.Clair had the idea of a video project that would bring together the principal trumpets of the two orchestras where he is currently the music director, he approached Barry Perkins, Pacific Symphony’s principal trumpet. As Perkins tells it, “Carl asked if it were possible for me to collaborate on a video project with Juan Carlos Meza, principal trumpet of the National Symphony of Costa Rica. I was certainly more than happy to get something together for this musical endeavor and fortunately, I stumbled upon an arrangement I had done for my group, The Barry Perkins Collective, called ‘La Muerte del Ángel’ by Astor Piazzolla. I thought if I could re-arrange this for 5 to 7 trumpets, it would fit perfectly as a musical mosaic for Juan and me.”

Perkins continues the story, “Also, now that video creation and editing is my new passion, I thought this was a great way to put these skills to work! Seeing that both of our orchestras were not performing because of the pandemic, we were able to get this recorded in a relatively short amount of time. The result so far has been very well received both here in the United States as well as in Latin America.”

“La Muerte del Ángel” turned out to be a fortuitous choice for this Costa Mesa-Costa Rica collaboration. Astor Piazzolla was born in Buenos Aires, but grew up in New York City. He returned to Buenos Aires to play tango and study with Alberto Ginastera. As an Argentine-American composer he represents both American and Latin American cultures. Piazzolla, who was a master of the bandoneón (the tango accordion), revolutionized the traditional tango into a new style called nuevo tango, which incorporates elements from jazz and classical music. As an added bonus, Juan Carlos Meza had actually experienced Astor Piazzolla himself performing “La Muerte del Ángel” in Buenos Aires.

Piazzolla composed “La Muerte del Ángel” as incidental music for the three-act play “El tango del Ángel” (1962) by the Argentine dramatist Alberto Rodríguez Muñoz. The work tells the story of an angel who comes down to earth to heal broken human spirits in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, but ends up dying in a brutal knife fight with the devil. “Death of the Angel” is a startling example of the manner in which Piazzolla pushed the limits of traditional tango. It is a five-voice fugue with a propulsive bassline. The rhythms and harmonies are uncompromising, and the piece itself is exhilarating.

Barry Perkins’s arrangement is completely faithful to the energy of Piazzolla’s original composition. In fact, the intensity of five trumpets seems to emphasize the angular muscularity of the fugue. Listening to this arrangement, it’s easy to imagine the desperate knife-fight to the death between angel and devil.

Watch Barry Perkins’s video here!

In the 1950s, Astor Piazzolla became a pariah back home for his unconventional, complex tangos.

Symphony Mixer Serves Up Musical News & Views

Every Wednesday at 4 p.m., Pacific Symphony’s Principal Flute Ben Smolen hosts the Symphony Mixer. It’s a weekly web series where Ben interviews conductors, composers, Symphony colleagues, and people in the music business.

The conversations are stimulating and thought-provoking and include intimate performances. Watch Pacific Symphony’s Facebook page for notices of upcoming Mixers to join the show live. But all the Mixers are recorded so that you can enjoy them on demand whenever you’d like. Just click here!