Pacific Symphony: June concerts

This month we wind up the season with classical concerts and pops concerts. Here’s a quick guide to all of our events in June, with links to tickets.

Anne Akiko Meyers

A pair of young musicians who are already established in international careers visit the orchestra May 31-June 2. British conductor Ben Gernon, born in 1989, principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, makes his Pacific Symphony debut with a program that includes Prokofiev’s “Russian Overture” and Stravinsky’s vibrant ballet “Petrushka.” In between, Israel pianist Boris Giltburg, born in 1984, winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2013, takes on Rachmaninoff’s ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2. Tickets here

Pops conductor Richard Kaufman is on hand for the series finale (June 8-9), when Stayin’ Alive, a Bee Gees tribute band, arrives to re-create the hits of the kings of falsetto. On the first half of the program, Kaufman leads light classics by Johann Strauss Jr., Otto Nicolai, John Williams and others. Tickets here

Richard Strauss’ rambunctious tone poem “Ein Heldenleben” is featured in concerts June 14-16. With its extended violin solos, the work serves to introduce local audiences to the orchestra’s new concertmaster, Dennis Kim. Star violinist Anne Akiko Meyers also appears in a trio of short solo works, Ravel’s “Tzigane,” Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” and Bernstein’s “Somewhere.” Carl St.Clair conducts, opening the program with Glinka’s Overture to “Ruslan and Ludmilla.” Tickets here

A slightly truncated version of this concert (Lauridsen, Ravel, Strauss) is offered as a matinee on June 17. Tickets here

Also this month, at the Balboa Bay Resort, Pacific Symphony presents the 11th annual Pacific Coast Wine Festival, featuring  a wine auction and wine-paired dinner, and wine tasting of exceptional wines from the premier wine producing regions of the world. Tickets here

Miscellany

Tim Page reviews — or ponders — the largest boxed set of CDs ever produced (all conducted by Herbert von Karajan)….

Soprano Nina Stemme is awarded the Birgit Nilsson Prize and lots of money….

Anne Akiko Meyers, who visits Pacific Symphony in June, talks about playing the world’s most expensive violin….

Acclaimed composer Charles Wuorinen gives a really cranky interview to The New York Times….

Police were called in Ohio after a man playing bassoon was thought to have a gun….

A celebrated American film director will make his debut directing opera at La Scala next season….

A new classical music talent show may be on television soon and Plácido Domingo might be a judge….

That time Igor Stravinsky was in a watch ad

I happened upon this photo the other day — the composer Igor Stravinsky with a cat.

My son and I were curious about the watch — Stravinsky was always a dapper dresser — and we came upon this (click on photo to enlarge, see lower left):

See also: That time Philip Glass was in a whisky ad

Musicians on tour

Joseph Foley, practicing in Chongqing airport.

It was great to catch up with the musicians of Pacific Symphony on the China tour, many of whom I hadn’t spoken to since the European tour in 2006 (which I covered for a newspaper), some of whom I was meeting for the first time. Here are a few of my interactions.

Waldemar de Almeida, cello: “Wally” has been in the orchestra for more than 30 years and has lots of stories and a thick accent (he was born in Brazil). Anyway, one of the most amazing things I found out about Wally is that he was a member of the venerable Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva in 1964-65 and played under the baton of  legendary conductor Ernest Ansermet there. He even made some recordings with them, which I vowed to listen to when I got home.

Eric Byers, guest principal cellist: I recognized Eric for a couple of days before I could place him. Then I realized he was the cellist in the Calder Quartet, a group I had heard perform many times. I fell in stride with Eric at a train station or airport one day and we chatted about the tour. He was impressed with the logistics and magnitude of the thing. The Calder Quartet, he explained, was a for profit organization, so all its traveling is done as cheaply as possible, including the hotels. The group might have a gig at Wigmore Hall in London, but all it has to pay for everything is the not-so-huge performance fee, so the group makes do with budget travel and lodgings. Eric was enjoying and admiring the comparatively all-arranged, luxury travel of an orchestra on tour.

Josephine Moerschel, viola: This was Josephine’s first extended trip away from her two daughters, ages 2 and 4. Turns out she is married to the violist in the Calder Quartet, and dad had his hands full in her absence, sending her S.O.S.s even as we spoke. By the end of the trip, Josephine was saying she’d be bringing home her husband a bottle of duty-free scotch to help with his recovery.

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Jeanne Skrocki: A violinist flying high

By ERICA SHARP

Jeanne Skrocki remembers a time when she had given up the violin and might not ever play again.

Twenty-five years later, she is the now assistant concertmaster of Pacific Symphony, a spot that seems like it was reserved especially for her, empty for five years before she filled it in 1993. This week, she will be returning home with her daughter, who is also a professional violinist, and the rest of the Symphony from their recent five city tour in China.

Before jetting to China, Skrocki learned that she would lead Pacific Symphony as concertmaster for its first international tour since going to Europe in 2006. Originally, when auditioning for the orchestra in 1992, she placed fourteenth violin.

Before that audition, Skrocki had not practiced the violin for ten years while she was exploring other interests as a college student and after graduation.

“I got the violin out, dusted it off and I started practicing. It was horrible, it was really awful. I couldn’t do anything. It was a solid six months before it even was enjoyable again,” she said. “I just worked really hard, got back into shape, took the audition and here I am now leading the orchestra on tour.”

Skrocki began playing the violin at age five with her mother, renowned violinist and teacher Bonnie Bell. Later, when she turned ten, she began studying with her stepfather, Manuel Compinsky of the famed Compinsky Trio.

When she was eight years old Skrocki remembers other famous musicians coming over to her Los Angeles home to play chamber music with her father almost every week. With this musical upbringing, Skrocki went on to play chamber and then orchestral music as a teenager with various youth orchestras and ensembles.

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The bass drum in Wuxi Grand Theatre

In the video below, you’ll get just an inkling of what the bass drum sounded like — the fidelity isn’t great — when Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony played “Daphnis and Chloe” in Wuxi Grand Theatre in China recently.

I wrote about it here.

Tuesday in Beijing

I finally got laser tagged in Beijing.

All I was doing was trying to get a photograph of bassoonist Andy Klein, on crutches, being helped off the stage of the National Center for the Performing Arts there on Tuesday. It was right after Pacific Symphony’s performance of “Daphnis and Chloe,” which opened the concert. Some other Symphony musicians had come to Andy’s aid, as he struggled to get off the riser and into the wings. The audience sat in silence watching. No music was being played. Sitting in the balcony, I raised my smart phone to get a snap (I am a reporter, after all), and, presto, the red scribble of a laser pen flashed on my screen. That’s Chinese for “Oh no you don’t.” The usher who immediately came to my seat told me as much, in the nicest possible way.

So, we don’t have a shot of Andy coming off stage. We do know, though, that Andy fell on the uneven pavement at the Forbidden City earlier that day, wrenched his knee and had to be taken to the hospital. His first concern, apparently, was making it to the concert that night.

There was some bad luck going around in Beijing. Clarinetist Joshua Ranz had also landed in the hospital with a serious case of food poisoning. (Tour physician Dr. Larry Snyder took him there.) Josh, who later told me it was the worst and most epic case of food poisoning he had ever had, was unable to play the concert. (Taylor Marino and Peter Nevin stepped in at the last minute to cover Josh’s parts on E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet.) He wasn’t certain what had caused him to get sick, though he had his suspicions. (And it wasn’t fried scorpion, which another musician tried from a street vendor.)

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