Southland Sessions Presents Pacific Symphony

Episode 1: “Opening Night with Pacific Symphony”
Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. on KCET | Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. on PBS SoCal

Following in the tradition of past season openers, Pacific Symphony’s virtual “Opening Night” has been reimagined for the uncommon era in which we find ourselves. The program—a virtual piano extravaganza—will be offered in an innovative way, featuring five internationally renowned piano soloists in their home studios around the world: Olga Kern, Louis Lortie, André Watts, and piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton. Works featured include 19th and 20th century masterworks by popular composers. Music Director Carl St.Clair hosts the evening.

Here’s a guide to the “Opening Night” program with information about the performing artists.

Carnival Overture – Antonín Dvořák

“Boogie” for Two Pianos – Paul Schoenfeld
Christina and Michelle Naughton
“There’s no such thing as sibling rivalry for the Naughton piano duo” as stated by the Washington Post. Christina and Michelle Naughton are especially passionate about American 20th century music and have immersed themselves in projects to showcase their interest. Notable is their 2019 album “American Postcard,” and they performed the world premiere of John Adams’ “Roll Over Beethoven” at NYC’s WQXR Greenspace. Tonight they perform “Boogie” for Two Pianos by Paul Schoenfeld.

Le Tombeau de Couperin: “Rigaudon” – Maurice Ravel

Moonlight Sonata: “Adagio sostenuto” – Ludwig van Beethoven
Louis Lortie

For over three decades, French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has performed world-wide, building a reputation as one of the world’s most versatile pianists. He extends his interpretative voice across a broad spectrum of repertoire, and his performances and award-winning recordings attest to his remarkable musical range. In demand on five continents, Lortie has established long-term partnerships with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France and Dresden Philharmonic in Europe, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, and, of course, Pacific Symphony. Lortie performs the “Adagio sostenuto” movement from Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. A German music critic coined the sonata’s nickname because he felt the “Adagio sostenuto” movement reminded him of moonlight glistening on water.

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor: I. Allegro con brio – Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major: II. Andante con moto – Ludwig van Beethoven
André Watts

The internationally renowned André Watts enjoys a long association with Pacific Symphony and a close friendship with Carl St.Clair. Both were discovered by the legendary Leonard Bernstein. Watts burst upon the music world at the age of 16 when Bernstein chose him to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic on one of the orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts, a concert which was broadcast nationwide on CBS-TV. Only two weeks later, Bernstein asked him to substitute at the last minute for the ailing Glenn Gould in performances of Liszt’s E-flat Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, thus launching his career in storybook fashion. More than half a century later, André Watts remains one of America’s most distinguished and celebrated performing artists. Watts performs the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, a work he has performed frequently throughout his career. The New York Times praised Watts’ interpretation of the Fourth Concerto for his “straightforward interpretation enhanced by pianism of extraordinary refinement…He seemed to have an almost infinite range of colors and moods at his disposal.”

Moment Musicaux No. 4 in E Minor – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 18: Andante cantabile – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Olga Kern
Russian-American pianist Olga Kern is now recognized as one of her generation’s great artists. With her vivid stage presence, passionately confident musicianship and extraordinary technique, the striking pianist continues to captivate fans and critics alike. Olga Kern was born into a family of musicians with direct links to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff and began studying piano at the age of five. She jumpstarted her U.S. career with her historic Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than thirty years. At age 17, Kern won First Prize winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition and throughout her career, she has been a favored interpreter of the composer’s music.

Pacific Symphony Partners with KCET and PBS SoCal

This fall, Pacific Symphony is partnering with KCET and PBS SoCal for the upcoming airing of four programs as part of its new weekly arts and culture series “Southland Sessions.” Pacific Symphony is pleased to be featured on this new series, which showcases the vibrancy and resilience of creators across Southern California during the pandemic, featuring everything from drive-thru art exhibitions to Chicano comedies and underground DJ sets. Pacific Symphony concerts to be featured include “Opening Night with Pacific Symphony,” “Virtual Violin Virtuosos,” “A Salute to the Heroes” and “Beethoven @ 250.”

Due to the uncertainty caused by coronavirus, Pacific Symphony is postponing the originally scheduled 2020-21 season at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall to the 2021-22 season. Music Director Carl St.Clair has pivoted in his creative thinking to reimagine programming for the current season, keeping in mind current health regulations. Southland Sessions Presents Pacific Symphony is the first reimagined programming to be announced for this season.

“As Pacific Symphony has focused on alternate, reimagined programming for the 20-21 season, we are pleased to partner with KCET and PBS SoCal on the innovative Southland Sessions series,” comments Pacific Symphony President and CEO John Forsyte. “For the four programs, the orchestra is opening its vaults of recorded concerts. Each concert will feature the Symphony in replays of masterworks from the archives and newly recorded original performances, as well as artist and conductor interviews. And our Music Director, Carl St.Clair, will be the host for all four episodes.”

Enjoy your Pacific Symphony in four engaging episoldes from the comfort of your home:

“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.