Miscellany

San Francisco Conservatory of Music

After four critically acclaimed seasons, Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” is no more….

Composer Jennifer Higdon wins $100,000 Nemmers Prize….

A new economic impact study shows that the Boston Symphony is pumping huge amounts into the local economy….

British orchestra musicians may have to wear earplugs after high court ruling….

You should never have gotten rid of that record player. Something called “high definition vinyl” is in the offing….

The Pulitzer Prize in music goes to … Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop artist….

The Pacific Chorale has announced its 2018-19 season and it includes the performance of a big work with Pacific Symphony….

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music will build a huge addition which will also house its students….

Did you see the April 12 cover of The New Yorker? Classical music is featured….

Pacific Symphony names new concertmaster

After more than a yearlong search, Pacific Symphony music director Carl St.Clair named violinist Dennis Kim as the orchestra’s new concertmaster today. He replaces concertmaster Raymond Kobler, who retired in the summer of 2016 after 17 years in the position.

“In Dennis Kim, I welcome a brilliant violinist, consummate musician and a dedicated musical partner,” St.Clair said. “As one who has been concertmaster of leading international orchestras, he is just the right artist to lead Pacific Symphony and its wonderful musicians toward all our musical aspirations.”

“I am excited and honored to take this important position with Pacific Symphony,” Kim said. “When Carl and I first worked together, there was an instant spark and both of us knew there was a special chemistry in our music making.”

Kim, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music, will assume the Eleanor and Michael Gordon Concertmaster Chair in September, at the beginning of Pacific Symphony’s 40th anniversary. He has already been playing with the orchestra, however, appearing as concertmaster in its three performances at Soka Performing Arts Center this season. 

In concerts June 14-17, Kim will perform as concertmaster-designate in a program that features Richard Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben,” a work with extensive violin solos.

Born in 1975 in Korea, Kim is currently concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic under music director JoAnn Falletta. He has also served as concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Seoul Philharmonic and the Tampere Philharmonic (in Finland). Additionally, Kim has performed as a guest concertmaster with a number of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Helsinki Philharmonic among others.

“Dennis is such a great match for Carl’s passionate approach to music making,” Pacific Symphony president John Forsyte said. “He possesses experience with such a wide range of orchestral, solo and chamber repertoire. We welcome him and his family to Orange County and wish him a long and artistically rewarding tenure.”

Kim’s teachers have included Jaime Laredo, Aaron Rosand and Peter Oundjian. He plays a violin with a distinguished pedigree, the 1701 “ex-Dushkin” Stradivarius, once owned by the violinist and Stravinsky collaborator Samuel Dushkin.

Pacific Symphony: May concerts

The Giant Egg in Beijing

Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony are off to China in May, performing concerts in Shanghai, Hefei, Wuxi, Chongqing and Beijing in the early and middle part of the month. Their program, previewed in Orange County, features Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloe” Suite No. 2, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (with Pinchas Zukerman) and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in Ravel’s famous transcription.

The orchestra gives concert in OC both before and after the tour, however.

On May-3-5, the orchestra welcomes back the always scintillating pianist André Watts, who will join the musicians in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. On the second half of the program, St.Clair and the musicians grapple with one of the 20th century’s greatest symphonies, Shostakovich’s Tenth. Tickets here

At the end of the month (and the beginning of the next), May 31-June 2, young British conductor Ben Gernon, the principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, makes his Pacific Symphony debut, leading a program of music by Prokofiev (the “Russian Overture”) and Stravinsky (the 1947 version of “Petrushka”). In between, Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg revives Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Tickets here

Elsewhere on the monthly schedule, Pacific Symphony youth ensembles give their season finales.

On May 6, the Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings, conducted by Irene Kroesen, play music by Britten, Vaughan Williams and others, in a program featuring music of the British Isles. Admission is free but tickets are required

On May 20, Gregory X. Whitmore conducts the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble a wide-ranging American agenda that includes John Philip Sousa’s rarely heard “In Memoriam: President Garfield’s Funeral March” and Robert Russell Bennett’s “Suite of Old American Dances.” Admission is free but tickets are required 

Later the same day, Roger Kalia leads his Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra in a concert that features the dual winners of the concerto competition. Violinists Danielle Liu and Leo Matsuoka play the first movements of the Glazunov and Sibelius Violin Concertos. The program winds up with Gershwin’s “American in Paris.” Admission is free but tickets are required

Reflections on a program: Beethoven and Shostakovich

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73, “Emperor”; Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10. Pacific Symphony, Carl St.Clair conductor; André Watts, piano. May 3-5, 2018.

Beethoven was, of course, famously against emperors. When Napoleon, the original dedicatee of the “Eroica” Symphony, crowned himself emperor in 1804, the composer angrily erased his name from the title page. No, he obliterated it; there’s a hole in the manuscript where Napoleon’s name was. He had just as little reason to dub his Piano Concerto No. 5 as the “Emperor” and indeed did not. During the time of its composition in 1809, Napoleon’s troops were bombarding Vienna, where it is said that Beethoven cowered in a basement with a pillow over his head, trying to protect what little hearing he had left. He wrote a letter to his publisher at the time, describing the Viennese scene: “What a destructive and disorderly life I see and hear around me, nothing but drums, cannons, human misery in every form.”

No, though this concerto, contrary to the circumstances under which it was composed, is celebratory and heroic in character, it celebrates no emperor of this world. The name is said to come from a French army officer, who stood up at the Vienna premiere in 1811 and shouted “C’est l’Empereur!” If the composer heard it, surely he was not amused. If anything, Beethoven would have seen the concerto form as elevating and honoring the individual above any ruler or state. The meretricious soloist becomes the ideal citizen, overcoming all obstacles, including emperors.

In the ever-controversial “Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich (as related to and edited by Solomon Volkov),” Shostakovich has a thing or two to say about emperors, or more exactly a dictator named Joseph Stalin. “I did depict Stalin in … the Tenth,” Shostakovich says there. “I wrote it right after Stalin’s death, and no one has yet guessed what the symphony is about. It’s about Stalin and the Stalin years. The second part, the scherzo, is a musical portrait of Stalin, roughly speaking. Of course, there are many other things in it, but that’s the basis.” 

There are unresolved issues with the book’s authenticity (though many who knew Shostakovich attest to its basic veracity). What’s more, Shostakovich’s statement itself raises aesthetic questions as to what music is able to express. Music suggests adjectives, not nouns. Still, there can be no doubt, taking “Testimony” at its word or not, that this desolate and anguished symphony reflects something about life under Soviet rule. There are few things in music as bleak and chilling as the duetting piccolos at the end of the first movement. If we don’t see Stalin’s mustache and uniform in the scherzo, it is nonetheless fierce and threatening. 

And the work’s resolution is provocative in its implications. In the third movement, shortly after the Stalin “portrait,” Shostakovich introduces a theme, foreshadowed previously, that is made out of the initials of his name in its German spelling, DSCH or D, E-flat, C, B. This theme eventually takes over the symphony, and is loudly reiterated over and over at the end of the finale, ultimately by pounding timpani. Calling this the triumph of the individual over the state is no stretch. Calling this Shostakovich having the last laugh on Stalin isn’t either.

Pacific Chorale announces 2018-2019 season

The Pacific Chorale, longtime artistic partners of Pacific Symphony and most recently collaborators on “The Passion of Ramakrishna” performance at Carnegie Hall, has unveiled plans for its 2018-2019 concert season.

The Costa Mesa-based resident choir of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, led by artistic director Robert Istad, will perform six programs as part of its subscription schedule.

A performance of Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation” launches the season on Nov. 4, in the Chorale’s first performance of the work in 45 years. Soprano Elissa Johnston (who recently sang with the group at Carnegie Hall), tenor Derek Chester and bass
Paul Max Tipton are the soloists; the Pacific Symphony assists.

On March 9 (2019), Istad and the Chorale offer a Baroque concert at the Musco Center for the Arts in Orange. Bach’s “Magnificat” and Vivaldi’s “Gloria” will be performed with the period instrument ensemble Musica Angelica.

A program of music by women composers is slated for March 30. Composers Hildegard von Bingen, Lili Boulanger, Gabriela Lena Frank, Alice Parker, and Rosephanye Powell are included, as well as a world premiere by Seattle composer and conductor Karen P. Thomas.

The season ends (May 18) in a concert featuring the group’s British composer-in-residence Tarik O’Regan. The agenda will include the premiere of O’Regan’s first commissioned work for the Chorale.

December is taken up with the ensemble’s popular annual series of holiday concerts, including “Carols by Candlelight” on Dec. 1 and “Tis the Season!” on Dec. 22 an 23.

The non-subscription concert (free) in the group’s annual Choral Festival will be held Aug. 12. Music by Mozart is performed with the participation of community singers.

In addition, the Chorale will make a number of guest appearances. These include performances with Pacific Symphony in a “Bernstein @ 100” program, Handel’s “Messiah,” for Chinese New Year, “Madame Butterfly,” Verdi’s Requiem and Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand.” The Chorale will also partner on the latter with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall (May 30-31, June 2).

Subscription tickets are available now in packages of 3, 4 and 6 concerts, ranging in price from $60 to $500. For more information, visit pacificchorale.org or call 714-662-2345.

Ticket deal for ‘Watts Plays Beethoven’

Dmitri Shostakovich

Readers of this blog will receive 20 percent off of their ticket purchase for ‘Watts Plays Beethoven’ by going here and entering the promo code “blog”.

The concert features the venerable André Watts as soloist in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Shostakovich’s epic Tenth Symphony, one of the greatest of the 20th century. Carl St.Clair conducts. The orchestra is just back from its triumph at Carnegie Hall.

The concerts takes place at 8 p.m. on May 3-5 at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.