The Science of an Organ


A picture of a Hydraulis, the first known version of the organ

The organ has been played over centuries for its enchanting melodies and unique tone. The first organ can be dated all the way back to the 3rd century B.C. in Greece. Originally called the Hydraulis, it was made with many pipes positioned above a compartment of air. Water pressure would then force air through the pipes, creating its unique sound. Since its creation, the organ has evolved to include many different types such as the theater organ, reed organ and electronic organs. But how does this classical instrument work in the first place?

Simply explained, the pipe organ is like a big box of whistles. Underneath each pipe sits a hollow wind chest filled with compressed air, which is provided by an air blower. There are multiple “stops” at the organ console that represent a set of pipes and there is a different pipe for every note on the keyboard. When the player pulls the stop, a slider under a specific set of pipes is activated, which allows a sound to be created when a key on the keyboard is pushed. Not only is this amazing instrument intricate in the way its played, but no two organs are alike. Each organ is unique to where it is located and what the buyer wants, which can make every experience new and different.


William J. Gillespie Concert Organ, built specifically for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

The pipe organ is one of the most unique and eclectic instruments in the world with its vast history and wide variety.  It can be experienced live in our organ series, including a performance by organ superstar David Higgs. On March 1st, he will be showcasing the beauty and power of the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ with the music of Duprè, Liszt, Duruflè and more. Check out our website here for tickets and details!

Augustin Hadelich’s Violin

Of the world’s most talented musicians, there are an exclusive few who play on valuable instruments loaned out from art collectors and museums. These rare instruments can be worth millions of dollars apiece.

Augustin Hadelich woods 2 lowrezAugustin Hadelich is one of these artists. He plays on an instrument called the 1723 ex-Kiesewetter Stradivarius, named after its original owner Christophe Gottfried Kiesewetter, who unfortunately was not an accomplished player, and died penniless. The meek origins of the instrument would seemingly disqualify it as one history’s “famous instruments,” but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

S1483-1vn-Stradivari-Antonio-c1723-ex-Kiesewetter10-04-16The most important part of this instrument’s legacy is that Antonio Stradivari, the greatest luthier (violin-maker), built it during his “golden age.” With a price tag of $4 million, the 1723 Strad is safely in the top 10 most expensive violins of all time, and one of only a few remaining that can be performed safely—the rest residing in private residences and museums.

And considering the ex-Kiesewetter’s recent history, the world is lucky to still have it.

In 1910, US officials confiscated this instrument after owner Horace Havemeyer smuggled it through U.S. Customs without paying the proper import taxes. It was eventually returned to him years later, after he successfully argued that the statute of limitations laws protected him.

Another scare occurred in 2008, when Philippe Quint, the instrument’s previous owner, and former guest artist with our orchestra, left the violin in the trunk of his cab. It was missing for 6 hours before the cab driver turned it in. The cab driver received Newark, New Jersey’s highest honor and a private concert for him and his fellow cabbies.

So how does this $4 million violin play? In Hadelich’s description, there is a depth to this valuable piece that allows you to discover your musical personality. In a 2017 interview by String Magazine, Hadelich says, “You gradually discover your personal sound on that instrument and grow to sound more and more like yourself as the relationship deepens.” It allows you to find yourself in it—like an existential awakening—it is as Hadelich says, “more like a spirit than a person.”

Come out on February 27-29 at 8:00 pm to experience Augustin Hadelich and his $4 million violin in concert. He will perform Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1—one of the toughest and most virtuosic pieces for a violinists who like a real challenge.


Based on a Love Story


When you think of a classic romance, there is none more timeless than Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Two lovers forbidden to be together put their family values aside to be with one another. Their undying love ends in the most tragic of ways, for they cannot cope with being separated from one another. As one of the most well-known love stories of all time, “Romeo and Juliet” has inspired many composers to create their own pieces of art—let’s take a look at the most famous examples.


Tchaikovsy’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture

Inspired by the idea of his colleague Mily Balakirev, Tchaikovsky wanted to utilize his own unique musical style to explore the classic heart-wrenching story. Rather than portraying the play’s events in their occurring order, the composer decided to present each character and each mood of the play with contrasting melodies. It opens with a soft, serene clarinet and bassoon melody representing Friar Laurence, the lovers’ personal and political ally throughout the entirety of the play. The beautiful melody helps the audience experience who the character is and what his role is throughout the story wordlessly—the Friar seeks to end the civil strife in Verona due to the infighting between the dueling Montagues and Capulets.

When Tchaikovsky portrays scenes of violence and war, the music becomes chaotic to show this feud between the two families. Eventually, the “lovers’ theme” emerges. As the piece progresses, violence and love share the same stage with a feeling of urgency until Romeo and Juliet’s theme is played in a minor key, suggesting their tragic deaths. Overall, Tchaikovsky’s brilliant work is a beautiful and romantic homage to a timeless classic.

Below, check out Tchaikovsky’s Overture to “Romeo and Juliet”:


Berlioz’s “Romèo et Juliette”

In 1827, Berlioz attended a production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Paris which starred his beloved Harriet Smithson playing the title heroine role of Juliet. So enamored and motivated by her and this play, he wrote one of his finest and most original works, “Romèo et Juliette.” For Berlioz, it was a particularly cherished work, as it paid homage to his two mentors, Beethoven and Shakespeare, as well as his own personal Juliet—Smithson would become the focus of his affection leading to his creation of his psychedelic masterpiece, the “Symphonie Fantastique.” He mixes different musical elements to portray the vendetta of the two families, utilizing both instrumental and choral music. At the heart of the symphony, the composer includes a beautiful love scene where the orchestra alone depicts the innocent romance between the main characters. Throughout the entirety of the symphony, voices and instruments masterfully dance to highlight the emotion of each scene of the play.

Below, check out Berlioz’s “Romeo and Juliet”:


No matter how or with who you choose to spend Valentine’s Day, cozy up and fill your heart with the most romantic classical love songs of all time. Whether it’s based on the love story of Romeo and Juliet, or any beautiful piece that emulates love and joy, music is the cherry-on-top to celebrate the ones you love.

Enjoy this playlist of the most romantic classical love songs of all time, and check out our concert, “Valentine’s Day with Chris Botti,” featuring one of the most premiere and prized trumpeters who crosses the boundaries between pop, classical, jazz and rock. For more information and tickets, visit out website!


The Lantern Festival (元宵節)

073_DSF8527The Lantern Festival (元宵節), also called the Yuan Xiao Festival, is a 2000-year-old Lunar calendar celebration that welcomes the return of spring, represents the reunion of family and marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebration. Join us on Saturday, Feb. 22 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. as we partner with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center/Irvine Chinese School for the fifth year in a row, to throw the most immersive Lantern festival that we have ever done!


The festival, spread throughout the concert hall and the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza, will feature pan-Asian culture, music and arts and a variety of colorful performances showcasing local music and dance groups. Other popular demonstrations from last year are also back, including performances by the Pacific Symphony Chamber Ensemble, the South Coast Chinese Orchestra, Pacific Symphony Youth Octet, Pacific Symphony Santiago String Quartet and the Irvine Chinese Chorus. Come out and make lanterns, appreciate Vietnamese woodblock art and try your hand at Calligraphy. Don’t miss all the photo opportunities, like where festival-goers can try on traditional Áo Dài Vietnamese outfits and other traditional attire at our photo booth.


If you have never been to a Lantern Festival before, there is no better time. Take part in the joy of all the activities traditionally associated with the Lantern Festival—like the Lion Dance (舞狮), Riddle Games (猜灯谜) and the finale of the day: the Dragon Dance (耍龙灯). Learn the meaning symbolized in all the festivities and connect with the global community in a new way. Everyone is encouraged to come!

The event is free and open to the public, but due to the limited capacity, remaining available tickets will go fast. Entry is first-come, first-served; tickets must be reserved in advance through, or with our Box Office at (714) 755-5799. Guests are recommended to bring cash for the numerous activities, including the popular lantern making Lantern with Bowers Museum. The Lantern Festival is made possible through the support of the James Irvine Foundation and is presented in cooperation with Segerstrom Center for the Arts.




A Congratulations to Philip Glass

Carl and Philip GlassCongratulations, and Happy (belated) 83rd-Birthday, to world-renowned composer and pianist Philip Glass on being awarded the GRAMMY Trustees Award, awarded by The Recording Academy to individuals “who, during their careers in music, technology and so on have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.”

Glass’ relationship with Pacific Symphony has been an instrumental part of our success. Back in 2006, we worked with him to debut his “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” one of our most important commissions. In 2018, we were invited by Carnegie Hall to perform “The Passion of Ramakrishna” at the Hall’s year-long celebration of the great composer’s 80th birthday.

Philip GlassGlass is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the late-20th and 21st centuries. Through his operas, film scores, concert pieces, theater works and wide-ranging collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, Paul Simon and Martin Scorsese, his music’s repetitive structures have shaped the modern contemporary classical cannon.

Join us in congratulating, and celebrating, one of the leaders of modern composition!


Passion, Dreams & Obsession: Inside Berlioz’s Fantastical Symphony

Alain LefevreKnown for his phenomenal technique and fascinating interpretations, Alain Lefèvre is a world-renown pianist who breaks the mold on international trends. He has performed in over 40 countries and in some of the most prestigious venues in the world, including Carnegie Hall, Thèatre des Champs-Èlysèes and Teatro Colon, just to name a few. On top of his extensive and impressive resume of performances, awards and training, he has released over 40 CDs, many of them ending up as best-sellers on the classical charts.

In a concert titled “Passion, Dreams and Obsession” on February 6-8, Lefèvre will be the guest pianist performing Ravels’ Piano Concerto in G Major. (Lefèvre also performs this work that Sunday, Feb. 9 for our Sunday Matinee series.) In this piece, Ravel aims for a piano tour-de-force, where the virtuosity of jazz improvisation and concerto overlap, but within a more traditional context. It highlights the majesty and melodic rhythm of the piano, while entrancing an audience with smooth jazz tones and blues twists. With Lefèvre’s unequivocal talent and Ravel’s incredible composition, it is truly going to be an unforgettable performance.

Rav_TdeCIn addition to guest pianist Alain Lefèvre, Pacific Symphony, conducted by Maestro St.Clair, will be performing another one of Ravel’s pieces, “Le Tombeau de Couperin.” At age 39, the French composer enlisted in the army and served as an ambulance driver and nurse in World War I. The war had a pretty profound impact on him, as each movement in this composition are dedicated to one of Ravel’s friends who had died in combat. In fact, this work’s title is one of several that cannot be—or in any event ought not to be—translated literally. While the literal meaning of the word tombeau is a tomb or burial place, there is a long and honored French tradition in which it designates a piece, or collection of pieces, by a single composer or by several, written in tribute to a departed colleague or master.

The finale of this concert, also performed by Pacific Symphony and Maestro St.Clair, is Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” Alternately titled “Episode in the Life of an Artist,” this first symphony by Berlioz was one of the most original and fanciful works of the 19th century. Completed in February, 1830, the programmatic symphony described a romantic, if opium-induced, tale of a young artist meeting a woman, his unreciprocated love, and the eventual tragic sequences. This wondrous piece of music includes five movements: Reveries-Passions, A Ball, Scene in the Country, March to the Guillotine and Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath, with the last movement including the infamous and enchanting motif, Dies Irae.

We can’t wait to see you for Pacific Symphony’s “Passion, Dreams and Obsession – Berlioz’ Fantastical Symphony” in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall next week!