Interview: Conductor Anu Tali

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Anu Tali is on the line from her home in Sarasota, FL, where she is music director of the orchestra (though not for much longer), and we ask her about being named recently as one of the world’s top “Female Conductors to Watch” by The Washington Post.

“There are two ways of answering your question — if female conductors should be named separately, or if I’m happy to be nominated,” the Estonian conductor, 45, says in elegant accent. “An answer: I’m happy to be nominated. Because I’m just grateful when people notice my work. And I think I am done and over with complaining every time your name comes in one or the other row,” i.e. male or female.

There’s no use fighting it, anyway, with women conductors on the rise internationally, and therefore much in the news. It’s just that Tali, who makes her debut conducting the Pacific Symphony next week, doesn’t see the world in terms of gender, she explains.

“For me, there are interesting male and female artists and people, if you please. For me it is one big stock of artists, not separated.”

The conductor recently announced her departure at the end of next season from the Sarasota Orchestra, where she has served as music director since 2013, saying she wanted to focus on her international career and guest conducting. She’s open to another music directorship, too, but isn’t in a hurry.

“I don’t like planning my life ahead so that I can’t breathe anymore. For me, it’s very important to keep options open because I still have two years here. So it’s quite a long time to do your job properly and I’m not going to go al niente diminuendo (diminish to nothing) you know. We want to gradually grow and It’s very important for me to leave Sarasota Orchestra to the next hands in a very good position to raise from there.”

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Interview: Carl St.Clair takes on Bruckner 8

Carl St.Clair

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 — massive, glowering, spiritual — is on the schedule this month for the first time in the history of Pacific Symphony. The performances, on Nov. 9-11, will also be the first anywhere for Music Director Carl St.Clair, who seems determined not to waste the opportunity.

“I’ve wanted to conduct this piece for many years, but it’s like Mahler 9, it’s like all the pinnacle works, you have to build up to them,” St.Clair said recently in an interview at the orchestra’s Irvine offices. Not only does he, as a conductor, need to build up to Bruckner’s Eighth, but so do the musicians and the audience, he says. Accordingly, St.Clair has added an extra rehearsal for the orchestra. He’s also devised a prelude to the performance of the Eighth that he hopes will prepare the audience to hear the work.

“You can’t white knuckle it down the 5 or the 405 and every time you come to a stop you look at your phone, you text somebody, you send an Instagram, you answer the phone. You valet park, you run in, you slosh down a glass of white wine and you rush to your seat and then you hear the music of Anton Bruckner — it’s impossible,” he says.

Instead, audience members will enter the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall before the performance as Gregorian chant is sung from the stage by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael Abbey. Organist Christoph Bull will play organ music by Bach and Bruckner. Video artists Nick and Clemens Prokop will project visuals on three screens that evoke the interiors of the majestic St. Florian Monastery in Linz, where Bruckner served as organist and is buried. The lighting will be low.

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Pacific Overtures

Here’s our new monthly newsletter, Pacific Overtures. It is written and curated by yours truly. Much of this month’s content has appeared on this blog, but every month will be a little different in that regard. Click on the link below.

Pacific Overtures. October, 2017.

‘Harry Potter’ comes to O.C. courtesy of home-grown conductor

Justin Freer conducts “Harry Potter” in Royal Albert Hall

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Only a handful of people will know the answer to the following bit of extreme trivia: Who is the only musician born and raised in Orange County to have conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra, just to name a few? The answer is — Justin Freer. Never heard of him? Get in line.

Freer, 37, a native of Huntington Beach, is co-founder of a company called CineConcerts, which, as the name implies, produces live concert performances of film scores synchronized with screenings of the films. He conducts these performances in darkened concert halls around the globe as audiences watch beloved movies, not him. These screenings with live music are something of a rage these days in the world of symphonic orchestras. CineConcerts currently offers such titles as “It’s a Wonderful Life” (music by Dimitri Tiomkin), “The Godfather” (music by Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola) and the “Harry Potter” series (music by John Williams and others).

We wondered about the rage, about why someone would spend $50 and up on such presentations when they could just as well stream the movie at home on a giant flatscreen with good sound.

“I think the first thing is that it’s not the same as viewing it at home, or listening to it at home, or even in a movie theater,” Freer says, seated in his glassed-walled office at company headquarters in Burbank. “It’s so radically different. People are coming to a concert. Ultimately, that’s what separates this from seeing it at home or from another concert.”

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Top six posts on Pacific Symphony Blog

Catch up on the ones you missed or enjoy the thrill of reading them again.

Concert etiquette for beginners. June 13, 2017.

A swan song and a ‘Resurrection’: John Alexander takes the next step in a long career. June 5, 2017.

Pacific Symphony assistant conductor wins Solti award. June 1, 2017.

Thoughts While Attending the First Symphony in the Series My Wife Want to Buy. July 19, 2017.

Video: Yuja Wang plays ‘Tritsch-Tratsch Polka.’ August 1.

Van Cliburn gold medalist brings Rachmaninoff for his debut with Pacific Symphony. September 2.