Pacific Symphony: April concerts

For Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony, April is the coolest month. It’s all about Carnegie Hall. As in the conductor and orchestra will make their debut there. Yes, it’s a big deal.

The 80th birthday tribute to Philip Glass presented this season by Carnegie is the occasion for the visit from our local musicians. They’ll give the New York premiere of Glass’ oratorio “The Passion of Ramakrishna” as a climax to that tribute, on April 21. The program delves deeply into the influence of Indian music on Glass and also includes “Meetings Along the Edge,” a collaboration with Ravi Shankar, and Shankar’s Sitar Concerto No. 3, with Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar as soloist.

Luckily, if you can’t make it to Carnegie Hall for the performance, the program is performed here in Orange County three times, April 12-14. Tickets here

The month opens with the return of Cirque de la Symphonie, the popular acrobatic troupe.   Fliers, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, strongmen, gymnasts and what have you perform amazing feats accompanied by live symphony orchestra. Roger Kalia conducts the orchestra in this new show with music by John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Randy Newman and others. April 6-7. Tickets here

A slightly shorter version of the same, called “Cirque for Kids!,” is performed as part of the Family Musical Mornings series on April 7. Tickets here

If you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to visit the acoustically vibrant Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, April 15 might be the perfect time to do so. St.Clair conducts the Symphony, the USC Thornton Choral Artists and soloists in a single work, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral.” Tickets here

Silent movie musical scholar and organist Dennis James is back to climb aboard the Gillespie pipe organ on April 29, this time to accompany the classic German Expressionist film “Nosferatu,” a still creepy 1922 re-telling of the Dracula tale. Tickets here

Also on April 29, the Cafe Ludwig chamber music series closes its season with a mostly French program that includes Francis Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata and Gabriel Faure’s glorious Piano Quintet No. 1. Pianist Orli Shaham with Symphony principals. Tickets here

Miscellany

An inside look at James Levine’s lawsuit against the Metropolitan Opera….

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony have a new contract, negotiated without rancor….

John Williams’ next “Star Wars” film will be his last….

Here’s a fresh idea for a classical concert — Poems While You Wait….

Several classical titles have been named to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, including Artur Schnabel’s complete recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas….

Zack Ferriday makes a strong case for ditching the term “Maestro”….

José Abreu, founder of Venezuela’s El SIstema, has died….

That time Philip Glass was in a whisky ad

“In the Spring of 1984, I had just finished writing Akhnaten and I was getting ready for a double opening at the Houston Grand Opera and at the Stuttgart Opera. I had already used up all the commission money to pay for the preparation of the conductor’s score and the piano reduction used by the singer’s for rehearsals. In addition, I had to pay for copying the parts from which the musicians in the orchestra would play, and for that I needed about fifteen thousand dollars. Before computers, this work, an intense amount of labor, had to be done by hand, requiring three or four copyists. Out of the blue I got an offer to do a print ad for Cutty Sark, and, miraculously, they offered me fifteen thousand dollars. I was overjoyed and didn’t hesitate. A photograph was taken of me holding a glass of Scotch whisky with musical notes floating in it. I took the money and had the parts done for the opera.” — from “Words Without Music” by Philip Glass

Audio: Ravi Shankar

People of a certain age, including your scribe, remember when virtuoso sitarist Ravi Shankar became famous in the 1960s, celebrated especially among the young. It seemed to me that most households had, along with the records of Herb Alpert, some Ravi Shankar in their collection.

Here’s Nicolas Slonimsky on Shankar:

“As a consequence of the growing infatuation with Oriental arts in Western countries, he suddenly became popular, and his concerts were greeted with reverential awe by youthful multitudes. This popularity increased a thousandfold when the Beatles went to him to receive the revelation of Eastern musical wisdom, thus placing him on the pedestal usually reserved for untutored guitar strummers.”

The album above was released in 1968. You’ll hear Shankar discussing and demonstrating some of the elements of Indian music and also performing pieces. I have to admit, it remains compelling after all these years.

Pacific Symphony plays music by Shankar and Philip Glass (a disciple), including Shankar’s Sitar Concerto No. 3, April 12-14.

Here’s a short clip of Shankar teaching George Harrison how to play the sitar:

Pops season announced

Pacific Symphony unveiled programming today for its 2018-2019 pops season, seven programs each repeated twice, running October to June. Richard Kaufman returns for his 28th season as principal pops conductor. All performances are held in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

The season opens Oct. 12-13 with actress and singer Vanessa Williams joining the orchestra to perform songs from throughout her career.

Several vocalists will appear in “The Wonderful World of Oz” (Nov. 9-10), a show featuring songs from “Wicked,” “The Wiz” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

The Christmas show (Dec. 14-15) is highlighted by teenage singer Jackie Evancho, who will perform songs from her holiday album and more.

Valentine’s Day comes around and so does Kenny G (Feb. 15-16). The popular saxophonist will offer his cool jazz sound in symphonic arrangements.

Leslie Odom, Jr., star of “Hamilton,” arrives March 15-16. The Tony and Grammy winning singer will offer Broadway and jazz hits, including from Jerome Kern and Nat King Cole.

The tribute band Windborne delves into the symphonic rock of Queen (April 26-27), promising revivals of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and others.

The season ends (May 31-June 1) with semi-staged performances of Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical “My Fair Lady.”

Subscriptions are available now in packages of seven and four concerts. Call (714) 755-5799. Renewing subscribers can also go to pacificsymphony.org/renew. New subscribers should visit pacificsymphony.org/pops.

Expanding your repertoire: ‘Sensemaya’ by Revueltas

Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) was one of the most remarkable Mexican composers of the 20th century. His music combines modernist, folkloric and primitivist elements and is notable for its vitality and vibrancy. His most famous work is “Sensemayá,” inspired by a Cuban poem of the same name about an Afro-Cuban religious ritual involving the sacrifice of a snake.

Unusually, the piece is mostly in 7/8 meter, which causes that skip in the beat at the bar lines.

In this recording from 1962, Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic.