Symphony Staff Holiday Music Picks!

This year, the staff of Pacific Symphony celebrates the holiday season the best way we know how – by celebrating the incredible music that warms our hearts, inspires us, and reminds us of the season. Here are some Symphony staff’s holiday favorites!

Abby Edmunds, Director of Volunteer Services
Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus from “Messiah”

Abby chose Handel’s “Hallelujah” Chorus Orchestra, which she feels is a song of hope for the holidays and the new year to come. She likes this virtual, socially distanced performance by the Chorus of the Royal Opera House, London.

Chris Adriance, Marketing & Loyalty Campaigns Manager
Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” – Act II: Pantomime

“I’m partial to ‘Hänsel und Gretel’ because I performed it in the pit orchestra back in college but everything about it feels festive and cheery (except that evil witch). The melodies are memorable, grand and filled with the kind of fantasy you’d expect from a Disney movie. I can’t help but picture a cozy German cottage in the middle of winter. Some neat trivia: The opera was first performed on December 23, 1893, conducted by none other than Richard Strauss!”

Jean Oelrich, Director of Marketing & Communications
VOCES8 singing Gustav Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”

“Since moving from Chicago to Southern California, I have developed a deep appreciation of winter … watching it in the movies and on the Weather Channel, but not having to worry about physically dealing with snow and sub-zero temperatures. My favorite carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter,’ reminds me of many chilly Christmases in the Windy City. The lyrics by the 19th century English poet Christina Rosetti perfectly evoke the season: ‘Frosty wind made moan; Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter long ago.’ My favorite rendition of this carol is by the vocal group VOCES8. They’re an a capella octet from the United Kingdom, who have recorded a lot of wonderful holiday music. Here they perform the piece in an arrangement by the brilliant young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.”  

Kurt Mortensen, Director of Audience Engagement
Prokofiev’s “Troika” from “Lieutenant Kijé”

“Though the Russian film Lieutenant Kijé, for which Prokofiev wrote the music, is a satire about bureaucratic incompetence and therefore nothing to do with Christmas, a section of music called ‘Troika’ has become associated as such for its musical depiction of a sleigh ride through the winter snow. A troika is a traditional Russian three-horse sleigh, and Prokofiev titled the piece to evoke this imagery, while using jingling bells and an infectious Christmas-like melody, resulting in an accidental Christmas favorite. Classic Rock fans will recognize this tune as the instrumental break in Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe In Father Christmas,’ which narrowly missed the number #1 spot on the singles chart upon release in 1975, beat out only by Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Ironically, this popular ‘Christmas song,’ still heard frequently during the holidays today, was a written as a protest of the commercialization of Christmas by the former King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer front man, becoming once again another accidental Christmas classic which has subsequently been covered by many others including: Vertical Horizon, U2, Toyah Willcox, Sarah Brightman, Susan Boyle and Robbie Williams.”

Ashlyn Ronkes, Box Circle & Governing Members Concierge
Tchaikovsky’s “December: Christmas” from The Seasons

“In his The Seasons, a collection of twelve short pieces, Tchaikovsky reflects through his piano on the characters of the months of the year as he experienced them in Russia. His last piece of the collection is ‘December: Christmas.’ This carefree A-flat major waltz carries a simple, nostalgic and childlike innocence, and is a wonderful listen if you need to take a deep breath and a remind yourself of the joy that the season brings!”

Alexey Bonca, Public Relations & Social Media Manager
Vitamin String Quartet’s arrangement of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

“One of my favorite Christmas songs comes from John Lennon, with his 1971 ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ – I chose the Vitamin String Quartet’s arrangement, from their 2010 Christmas album. While technically a protest song, Lennon’s original has an unbelievably powerful melody, and this arrangement gives his emotional performance its due. I hope we can all take the spirit of this piece with us into the New Year, and have an incredible 2021.”

Lorraine Caukin, Director of Sales
Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” (Weihnachtsoratorium)

“I lived many years in Germany, which has provided us with many of our favorite Christmas traditions. In the performing arts, however, Germans differ from us somewhat with their holiday fare. While Americans flock every December to Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ Germans are more likely to attend a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio.’ Bach’s six-part masterwork opens with soaring trumpets, thundering timpani and a joyful chorus that never fails to make my heart sing. This 1981 performance is led by conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, one of the pioneers of the Early Music movement.”

Top YouTube Picks to Celebrate “Beethoven@250”

In celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Pacific Symphony’s President John Forsyte lists some of the composer’s greatest hits in landmark recordings, all easily available on YouTube.

Symphony No. 5
Berlin Philharmonic | Wilhelm Furtwangler, conductor
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique | John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

For fun, listen to very contrasting recordings: the first is a 1954 recording of the legendary conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic. Furtwangler’s interpretations of Austro-Germanic masterworks were completely distinctive. Undoubtedly, this is a wonderful, urgent and dramatic reading, but our views of Beethoven interpretation have evolved, particularly about his tempo markings, which would suggest much faster readings.

And from 2016, a contemporary view of Beethoven’s tempos and sound world utilizing instruments more clearly matching the sonorities of the early 19th century, as conducted by John Elliott Gardiner.

Symphony No. 7
The Concertgebouw Orchestra | Carlos Kleiber, conductor

With this imaginative and expressive conductor, and a truly magnificent Dutch ensemble, it’s hard to imagine a more riveting performance. 

Symphony No. 9
The Berlin Celebration Concert 1989 | Leonard Bernstein, conductor

This was perhaps the most important concert that Bernstein conducted, celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and performed on Christmas Day in 1989. Substituting the word “freiheit” (freedom) for “freude” (joy), this concert was known as the “Ode to Freedom” and captured the ecstatic reunification of the country and a time filled with optimism. The orchestra was comprised of musicians from East and West Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and the US.   

Piano Concerto No. 4
Pianist Emil Gilels | Philharmonia Orchestra | Leopold Ludwig, conductor

This is a revered performance and, for me. It has the greatest range of expression and perfect pacing. The great Soviet pianist Gilels, recorded this work numerous times, but never better than this version in my opinion. While there is no video of the performance and the audio is relatively primitive by today’s standards, it is worth the journey! Listen to the contrast between orchestra and piano in the second movement, which I doubt has been rendered more poignantly.

Violin Concerto
Movement I: Violinist Henryk Szeryng | Jorge Mester, conductor
Movement II: Violinist Isaac Stern | Leonard Bernstein, conductor
Movement III: Violinist Yehudi Menuhin | Wilhelm Furtwangler

As a violinist, I am going to tilt my selections to this masterwork, simply to explore the range of possibilities. There are so many great performances of the violin concerto from different generations: Heifetz, Oistrakh, Grumiaux, Ferras and Schneiderhan. Later Perlman, Chung, Mutter and today a whole group of wonderful violinists are reimagining their interpretations now. I have a personal attachment, however, to a few older performances.

First, I recommend this performance of a violinist who had a connection to my family. He was a neighbor of my Dad’s family in Warsaw before the war, and he performed in Chicago when I was a child, and I will never forget his performance of the Beethoven. It is filled with directness, nobility and beautiful tone. In the outdoor venue where I heard Henryk Szeryng, his sound really was luminous.

I also love another historic recording of Isaac Stern, with Bernstein conducting. The second movement is so poetic. 

And another profound interpretation is that of Yehudi Menuhin, again with Furtwangler conducting:  

Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano, “Triple”
David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sviatislov Richter
Moscow Philharmnic Orchestra | Kirill Kondrashin, conductor 

Simply put, these are my three musical heroes. David Oistrakh’s recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Ormandy was my first classical music recording and it captured my imagination as a 15-year-old. I was hooked on the classics! The three artists together were peerless. Try to set aside the poor video and listen to a perfect chamber trio in lockstep with a conductor they had long known. 

Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 23, “Appassionata”
Pianist Yuja Wang

So I don’t only offer orchestral masterworks, here is a non-orchestral work. This sonata is most moving to me, and feels like a personal “portal” into the private feelings of Beethoven. This is a video where it seems you have the privilege of sitting in a private room with one of the great pianists of our time, Yuja Wang.  

“Beethoven @ 250” Airs

Episode 4: Beethoven @ 250
– KCET broadcast: December 16 @ 8 p.m.
– PBS So Cal broadcast: December 26 @ 7 p.m.

As the final episode of Southland Sessions approaches, we would like to invite all of our patrons to tune in to honor “classical music’s birthday boy,” as Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. This program concludes with the composer’s “great work to humanity,” Symphony No. 9, in a 2012 recording of the orchestra’s Plazacast at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. This four-program series aimed to showcase the vibrancy and resilience of creative minds across Southern California during the pandemic.

Symphony No. 5, Movement 1 | Sergei Prokofiev

Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony is considered to be one of the greatest orchestral works of the 20th century. Pacific Symphony last performed the work in January 2017. This symphony is the first of three that he would compose while living in the Soviet Union. Not long after the premiere, he wrote, “I regard the Fifth Symphony as the culmination of a long period of my creative life…I conceived of it as glorifying the grandeur of the human spirit…praising the free and happy man—his strength, his generosity, and the purity of his soul.”

“There Will Be Rest” | Frank Ticheli

“There Will Be Rest” is based on a poem by Sarah Teasdale, with the same title. Frank Ticheli set this to music originally for chorus and dedicated it to Pacific Chorale (1999) “in loving memory of Cole Carsan St.Clair, the son of my dear friends, conductor Carl St.Clair and his wife, Susan.” This performance features Pacific Chorale a capella in a recent mosaic video.

Symphony No. 9, Choral Finale | Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s Ninth is arguably the most popular piece of classical music in the world. Beethoven set the music to the poem “An die Freude” (Ode to Joy) by Friedrich Schiller, which addresses the unity of brotherhood, expresses a sense of community, and calls for people to change the world from a place of despair into one of joy, peace, and freedom. The phrase, “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (“All men will become brothers”) is probably the most significant line from the text because it embodies the struggle and the desire to change the world. With the introduction of the human voice into the symphony, the audience must have been stunned and since then would have left every composer admiring this new direction in composition. Beethoven paved a way for future composers and their grand works such as Franz Liszt’s symphonic poems, Richard Wagner’s melodramatic operas, Gustav Mahler’s drawn-out symphonies and countless other compositions.

Tune Into “A Christmas Carol”!

Pacific Symphony invites you to enjoy an audio performance of “A Christmas Carol” presented by South Coast Repertory, our cultural colleague at Segerstrom Center, starting Dec. 15. Charles Dickens’ classic story made its debut in 1843 and has become a holiday favorite ever since. This month, join Tony Award-winning theatre group South Coast Repertory as they give you a chance to enjoy and stream the show for FREE from Dec. 15-31.

Southern California may be under a regional stay at home order but that doesn’t mean some holiday traditions can’t happen. When old time radio programming gained popularity in the early 20th century, it made theatre more accessible. Classic radio Christmas shows like Campbell’s Playhouse’s “A Christmas Carol” (1939) and Lux Radio Theater’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1947) were listened to by folks across the nation.

South Coast Repertory’s audio performance is a great way to escape for a couple of hours. If you’d like to enjoy a screenless night, just cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate and wrap yourself in a blanket by the fire. Turn on your Christmas tree and dim the lights. The holidays may look different this year but that’s okay. The festive spirit can still thrive safe at home.

This performance of Charles Dickens’ classic will be performed by actor Richard Doyle. It is directed by Hisa Takakuwa and adapted from the novella by John Glore. Original music and sound design is by David R. Molina. “A Christmas Carol” follows the story of businessman Ebenezer Scrooge as he goes on a transformative journey on Christmas Eve. Welcome back to Victorian Britain!

We’re proud to be one of South Coast Repertory’s community partners. To listen to this audio performance, click here!

From the Desk of John Forsyte @ Home: A Remembrance of William J. Gillespie

I am truly saddened to share that our beloved William J. Gillespie has passed away.

I find that words don’t express the extraordinary qualities he possessed. Bill was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and unpretentious individuals I have encountered. Anyone who knew Bill, immediately experienced his enthusiasm for beauty, and his impeccable dress. He was a deeply loyal friend and was extremely close to Carl and Susan, and Carl shared his thoughts:

William J. Gillespie and Music Director Carl St.Clair

“Bill was loved and respected by everyone. All of the musicians and the Symphony family held Bill in the highest esteem. Throughout most of the life of the Symphony, Bill was always there—supporting us, cheering us on, celebrating with us, and enjoying the great music he loved so dearly. What an honor to hold the William J. Gillespie Music Director Chair for all these many decades. Bill’s passion for music was a powerful source of inspiration to me and to all of us on stage. Our friendship was a blessing and his spirit will fill the heart of the Pacific Symphony forever.”

In fact, Bill was our first honorary member of the orchestra. He was always welcomed on stage for a rehearsal. 

Earlier in his life, Bill was a Marine and a Vietnam veteran. He was proud of his service and supported our Hail to the Heroes concert with immense pride. Carl shared that Bill was even a sheriff at one time. Later in life, Bill became a funeral director at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar, and he carefully and sensitively coordinated some of the most poignant and painful times for the Symphony family and countless community members. He was a wellspring of soulful and empathetic concern for people he loved.

As a very private person, perhaps Bill is best known in Orange County for his numerous philanthropic commitments that transformed the organizations he touched. These investments include the endowment of the William J. Gillespie Music Director Chair in 1995, the ABT William J. Gillespie School of Dance at the Segerstrom Center, the William J. Gillespie Organ in the concert hall, and immeasurable other donations to the arts. He was particularly fond of the Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony partnerships, and supported both organizations with generous sponsorships of great choral masterworks. He was also a major supporter of dance programming at UC Irvine, and served on the Board of the American Ballet Theater.

Bill shared with me that his college roommate was the renowned conductor Lawrence Foster, who taught him to appreciate classical music. He said it was classical listening day and night, and he developed a great affection for the highly spiritual works such as the Duruflé Requiem, Mahler’s Second and Eighth Symphonies, and other large orchestral works. It was always a joy for me to talk about repertoire with him, send him the latest recording…and he ALWAYS expressed appreciation for the gifts of artists.

I think few people realize that when Pacific Symphony was struggling to meet payrolls in the 1980s, he personally loaned the organization money and often forgave the loans. He was among the very first individuals to make an endowment gift to help solidify the early stages of our growth.   

Bill was blessed to be able to use his family’s Farmers Insurance inheritance to launch a philanthropic foundation in 1994. The following year, he stunned the OC arts community by pledging $6.6 million to five cultural organizations, at the time the largest gift of its kind in Orange County history. Pacific Symphony received $1.2 million of that pledge.

In the early days of his philanthropic life, he had a sincere interest in Orange County’s cultural development. He was deeply worried about the arts and the resilience of the organizations as they developed. His dear friend, investment advisor, and long-time supporter of the Symphony, Rich Gadbois was quoted in 1995 as saying: “The idea is to immediately guarantee the future success of the organizations…There are no strings attached to this. This is cash coming in for immediate utilization.” Rich went on to say, “occasionally in life you run into angels who sort of are there when you need them, and Bill’s one of those.”  

Bill Gillespie was a private person, but had a very loyal group of friends with whom he attended concerts and events. His loss is profound, but his legacy leaves an indelible imprint on his friends, family, and the cultural life of Orange County. My heart goes out to his dear friends, like Carl and Susan, Rich, Janice Johnson, and many others who I know are stricken with grief. We will miss him terribly and undoubtedly there will be a concert dedicated to his memory which we will announce.



Smart Ideas That Benefit You and Pacific Symphony

To paraphrase England’s Queen Elizabeth: “2020 is not a year on which we shall look back with undiluted pleasure … it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis.’ ”

The Latin phrase meaning “horrible year” certainly seems to sum up this extraordinarily challenging year we’ve been living through. With year’s end approaching, Pacific Symphony can help you to explore a silver lining in the form of tax savings and possible income benefits.

Here is a handy checklist of some tax-wise year-end charitable gifts to Pacific Symphony that can provide you with tax savings and possible income benefits:

Make a direct gift of cash or appreciated assets
If you can contribute cash or appreciated property, like securities or real estate, you could receive a charitable deduction for the current value of the asset, and pay no capital gains tax on the transfer.

Fund a charitable gift annuity
If you would like to increase your financial security and create a stream of fixed payments you can never outlive … all while making an impactful gift to the work of Pacific Symphony, then the charitable gift annuity is a worthwhile option to consider. 

Establish a charitable remainder trust
Did you know that with a charitable remainder trust, you can transfer cash, an appreciated asset or other property to a special trust that is invested to generate income for you and any other beneficiaries you select? After all payments have been made, the balance of the trust passes to our organization.

Make a gift of life insurance
Did you know you can make Pacific Symphony a beneficiary of life insurance policies and receive significant tax benefits?

If you’re interested in finding the silver lining in this “Annus Horribilis” and turning next year into an “Annus Mirabilis”—a year of miracles—contact Gary Good, Pacific Symphony’s Senior Executive for Legacy & Endowment Giving, by email at or by phone at (321) 331-1344.

Pacific Symphony Works with UCI Public Health Experts on COVID-19 Plan

University of California, Irvine public health experts are providing consulting services to Pacific Symphony to enable the Orange County ensemble to once again play music together—which hasn’t happened since early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of a consultation agreement between UCI and Pacific Symphony, UCI public health and epidemiology experts have reviewed Pacific Symphony’s plans for mitigating employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 and recommended ways to improve infrastructure, procedures and policies to protect against it. Watch this ABC7-exclusive segment about the Symphony-UCI partnership here.

“Pacific Symphony has some very unique considerations related to preventing the spread of the virus,” said Karen Edwards, chair and professor of epidemiology in UCI’s Program in Public Health and the project’s faculty lead. “Even without audiences present, they’ll need to take a number of precautions to stay physically distant, especially when performing music.”

UCI experts conducted a walk-through at Pacific Symphony’s concert hall and provided online training about the spread of infectious diseases and the best mitigation practices. The training included several Q&A sessions with remote attendees, and a recording is available for Pacific Symphony to share with employees.

The university team also created templates so that Pacific Symphony can establish procedures for staff screening, symptom and temperature checks, staff self-monitoring, physical distancing, hand hygiene and masking.

“UCI brought tremendous expertise in their review of the plans my staff and I developed. While they were complimentary of our preparation, they had important recommendations that will ensure the highest levels of safety for the musicians and staff involved in returning music to the stage,” said Eileen Jeanette, Pacific Symphony’s senior vice president of artistic planning and production.

Assistant Concertmaster Jeanne Skrocki, who is herself an engineer and the musicians’ representative, shared: “The musicians are pleased that Pacific Symphony has consulted with UCI’s Department of Public Health to address these health and safety issues. We are ready and eager to return to the concert hall stage and this first important step paves the way for making music together again, while assuring the highest levels of safety for musicians on stage.”

Symphony leadership hopes to be able to bring musicians back this season to record concerts – without audiences – either indoors or outdoors. For those sessions, players of wind instruments are likely to sit farther apart than players of string instruments, with Plexiglas separating them.

“We know the musicians have missed playing and our audiences have missed hearing them,” said John Forsyte, president and CEO of Pacific Symphony. “We look forward to the time in the hopefully not-too-distant future when we can again record great classical music in the pristine acoustics of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. And this is the first important step in that direction.”

Shining A Spotlight On Our Star Volunteers

Symphony volunteers at our annual Lantern Festival event

International Volunteer Day, mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1985, is held each year on December 5. It provides an opportunity for organizations to celebrate the energetic efforts of their volunteers and to thank them for their contributions. Pacific Symphony is grateful for the incredible creativity and hard work of all our volunteers. For this year’s celebration of International Volunteer Day, we would like to shine a spotlight four of our star volunteers.

Rosalind Britton
As a member of Symphony 100, the Board of Counselors Governing Committee, an active volunteer with Pacific Symphony’s Saturday Morning Family Concert carnivals, and a costume coordinator for operas that have been adapted for our Family Series, Rosalind is hardly new to volunteering! What is amazing, however, is the ease at which she does each task and the creativity she infuses into each role. Recently, when invited to design the Symphony’s Holiday Tree for South Coast Plaza’s First Annual Pavilion of Holiday Trees for the Arts, Rosalind graciously accepted the invitation and threw herself into the theme of The Nutcracker. Designing hand-sewn decorations, creating one-of-a-kind musical scrolls using The Nutcracker score, and making sure each detail a work of art, Rosalind was at her finest! Thank you, Rosalind, for the love and perfection you bring to the Symphony and everyone you meet!

Brenda Hardwig
As an established volunteer with the Symphony, Brenda has been an amazing concert hall volunteer for several years. She has manned the Welcome Table in the Concert Hall more times than any of us can count. Her warmth and love of people are the perfect combination to make our concert guests feel welcome and important! Most recently, during COVID, Brenda has continued to volunteer with Pacific Symphony through her role as Corresponding Secretary for the League. She has called and sent notes of concern to League members to keep them engaged and to let them know that they are loved and cared about. Brenda is also a fantastic photographer and this year, one of her beautiful photos was selected by the League to grace their holiday card this month. Taking a cue from the League, Volunteer Services also invited Brenda to share another of her gorgeous photos with all the volunteers which was used in one of the weekly messages sent out by the Volunteer Services Department to our many volunteers. Thank you, Brenda, for the many ways you support Pacific Symphony!

Marilyn Liu
Marilyn has been volunteering as a skills-based volunteer with the Symphony for the past year. Marilyn’s personality and skills have made her a hit with all of our departments! She has worked on several high-level projects and during COVID has continued to share her expertise with the Volunteer Services and Development Departments, in particular. Marilyn takes on big projects with ease and always brings exciting and fresh eyes to our work. As staff, we are indebted to her for her commitment and follow-through. During 2019, she also joined the Pacific Symphony League and took on a leadership position as Membership Chair. Again, her original and creative ideas have added immeasurably to this group during the long months of quarantine. Thank you, Marilyn, for your dedication and enthusiasm!

Scarlet Baker
Scarlet became an apprentice intern with the Symphony this year in July after COVID began. Scarlet is presently earning her degree in Music Business Management with the Berklee School of Music in Boston, however, due to the pandemic, we have been very fortunate to have her remain located in Orange County. As an oboist, Scarlet has participated in the Pacific Symphony Wind Ensemble and worked closely with Carl St.Clair. Her energy and passion for excellence have made her a huge asset to the Volunteer Services Department where she has worked on projects for our general volunteer program, Pacific Symphony League, the new Pacific Symphony Store (online) and more. Thank you, Scarlet, for always bringing your best to all that you do!  

Symphony volunteers at Pacific Amphitheatre during our annual SummerFest outdoor concert series
Symphony volunteers and interns working on last year’s Christmas Tree in the Hal & Jeanette Segerstrom Concert Hall

Abby Edmunds is Pacific Symphony’s Director of Volunteer Services. If you are interested in volunteering, you can reach her at You can read more about volunteering at Pacific Symphony here!

From the Desk of John Forsyte @Home: Musical Musings on Rachmaninoff

As we approach the holidays, Pacific Symphony’s planned December concert for the Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Classical Series would have featured Rachmaninoff’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2 with guest pianist Andrey Gugnin, a brilliant pianist and recording artist, and guest conductor Markus Stenz. This is a work our musicians love and perform with extraordinary commitment. Hopefully, we will hear it live in the not-too-distant future. 

As some little compensation, I thought you might enjoy sampling the interpretive range that different pianists and conductors have brought to this work. You must suspend some judgment because of the varying audio quality of these different eras, studio vs. live recording and so on.
For your listening pleasure, here is an artistic survey listed in chronological order.   

Let’s start with Sergei Rachmaninoff himself performing his own work from 1929 (so fortunate to have this historic recording). Note the tempo and lack of sentimentality? The work was nearly three decades old at this point.

Van Cliburn (1958): During the height of the Cold War, the 23-year-old pianist from Shreveport, Louisiana captivated Soviet audiences in Moscow.

Sviatoslav Richter (1959): This is considered one of the great recordings of the work.

André Watts (1988): Who could forget his performance with us a few years ago?  An OC favorite.

Helene Grimaud (2008) The renowned French pianist brings her extraordinary virtuosity to the work. (Note the concert hall was a tour stop for Pacific Symphony in 2006: Lucerne)

Evgeny Kissin (2014) One of today’s most celebrated artists, this brilliant virtuoso is considered a leading Russian pianist of our time.

Enjoy and let me know your thoughts! What were your favorites and why? Please leave a reply below.

—John Forsyte, Pacific Symphony President & CEO