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 2017-2018 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 New subscribers should visit

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.

St.Clair and Pacific Symphony bound for Carnegie Hall in salute to Philip Glass


Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony are about to make a big trip, in case you hadn’t heard — a trip to Carnegie Hall. Conductor and orchestra have been invited to perform at the venerable venue on Saturday, April 21, in the final program of a series celebrating the 80th birthday of American composer Philip Glass. It will be the first time performing there for both St.Clair and Orange County’s 39-year-old symphonic ensemble.

St.Clair has been in Carnegie many times, of course, both as a listener (he remembers hearing Herbert von Karajan’s last concerts there with the Berlin Philharmonic) and as a would-be participant, during his years as an assistant conductor with the Boston Symphony, which has long made regular appearances at the hall. But as it happened, he was never asked to step in when the orchestra was visiting New York, not even in rehearsal.

“I have not conducted on that stage,” St.Clair said categorically in a recent conversation at the Symphony’s Irvine offices. But he’s looking forward to it.

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El Sistema alum joins Pacific Symphony


After finishing runner-up at her previous audition, Kaylet Torrez, the newest member of Pacific Symphony, knew she had to win the next one. It had become her dream ever since her move to Los Angeles. With renewed focused on her practice regime, she was able to get through six intense rounds of challenging orchestral excerpts and she was hired in November as the Symphony’s Assistant Principal French horn.

She realized that now with Pacific Symphony she can continue developing her skills as a musician, something she had always had the passion for while starting off as a young musician. “I want to get better at the horn, I want to be the best that I can for the orchestra. I want to do my best, that’s my main goal,” she said on a recent weekday afternoon, sitting in a coffee shop in her Los Angeles school.

While growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, Torrez began her music career in the acclaimed music education program, El Sistema (“The System”). Coming from a musical family with a sister who also played the French horn, she said music has always been the center of her life. She even remembers reading musical notation before anything else.

“I started music when I was 3,” she said. “I used to read music actually before I read normal letters.”

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Books on classical music: Some essentials (2)

Having a few books of music criticism — the right ones, at least — is an essential part of any serious classical music lover’s library. Good music criticism teaches us how to listen to and think about music.

A great book to start with is Tim Page on Music by none other than my friend Tim Page.

It’s a terrific volume for many reasons, but one of them that I’m always struck by is his prose style. It is conversational in the best sense, but not “breezy” in the way that most people mean when they say “conversational.” No, Tim’s prose has a real warmth, grace and flow. You can read it out loud and it sounds well (probably because Tim does that himself before he publishes a piece). It addresses the reader as if he is as intelligent as Tim, and just as interested in the subject matter.

Sometimes considered a critical no-no, the first person pronoun is used by Tim in a masterly way. He makes its use thoroughly convincing because somehow he talks directly and intimately to the reader and the use of the “I” becomes modest rather than boastful.

Along with Martin Bernheimer and Justin Davidson, he is one of only three living music critics to have won the Pulitzer Prize.

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