Pianist Orli Shaham Premieres David Robertson’s “A Goldberg Conjecture”

The Pacific Symphony’s chamber series Café Ludwig features world premiere of new version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for piano and string quartet.

On Sunday, Feb. 24, pianist and host of Pacific Symphony’s Café Ludwig, Orli Shaham performs the world premiere of David Robertson’s “A Goldberg Conjecture.” This new version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations re-imagines this famous solo harpsichord work for piano and string quartet.

Orli and RobertsonThe pianist Orli Shaham, curator and host of the popular chamber music series in Costa Mesa, said she was looking for a different kind of entry point into this seminal work by J.S. Bach. “It’s such an incredible piece,” she said. “Every pianist wants to perform it. And, pretty much every pianist has performed it.”

Shaham felt that the combination of piano and string quartet was one of maximum versatility, and so she turned to David Robertson to create this new adaptation for her and selected members of the string section of Pacific Symphony. Why him? While Mr. Robertson is internationally known as a conductor, he has long had an interest in writing music – even before he triple-majored in composition, conducting and French horn at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Over the past few years, he has created a number of transcriptions for the interactive concert series for children, Orli Shaham’s “Bach Yard” (formerly “Baby Got Bach”).robertson-a0bcb19435a29019c2ce788c58c991b4f031874c-s1100-c15

“A Goldberg Conjecture” is beyond a mere transcription of Bach’s music, says Robertson. “It is actually a hybrid form. There are places where I allow Bach to be just him, and then there are moments where I really get in there and mess things up. It’s an enlargement of elements that I feel are fascinating within the piece.” Robertson’s title is a play on words of the “Goldbach Conjecture,” an 18th century mathematical treatise.Orli red dress by Christian Steiner.jpg

Orli Shaham is delighted with the way David Robertson takes advantage of the modern keyboard and its reach in this music. “He’s taken into account how different sounds and timbres affect each other. In some cases, he’s put variations on top of one another to be played simultaneously. He has created a fascinating sound world employing various string techniques in combination with the piano.”

The premiere on February 24 includes just half of the variations from Bach’s original music. Robertson is still working on his ‘conjecture’ of the entire Goldberg Variations, so Café Ludwig audiences have something to look forward to.

Performance Details
Sunday, February 24 at 3:00 p.m.
Pacific Symphony’s Cafe Ludwig
Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Orli Shaham, piano and host
Dennis Kim, violin
Bridget Dolkas, violin
Meredith Crawford, viola
Timothy Landauer, cello

PERLE: Classic Suite, Op. 3
BACH/MOZART: Fugues transcribed for String Quartet from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, K. 405
BACH-LISZT: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, originally for organ, BWV 543
J.S. BACH /D.E. ROBERTSON: “A Goldberg Conjecture” (World Premiere)

There are only a few tickets left for this concert – call our Box Office at (714) 755-5799 to reserve yours! For more information on this concert, please visit our website.

Pacific Symphony 2019-20 Season Announcement

Carl St.Clair, music director of Pacific Symphony and John Forsyte, the Symphony’s president, announce programming for the orchestra’s 2019-20 season. Pacific Symphony will celebrate Carl St.Clair’s 30th year as music director of the orchestra and pays homage to Beethoven to honor the 250th anniversary of the great composer’s birth. This landmark season commences on Thursday, Sept. 26 with Maestro St.Clair conducting the combined forces of Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale in a program featuring two great blockbusters: Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” a forerunner to his mighty Ninth Symphony along with Carl Orff’s popular masterpiece “Carmina Burana,” the most frequently performed choral work of the 21st century.

Comprising 18 programs, the 2019-20 classical season features the Maestro’s preferred composers, works and performing artists that he has enjoyed over the past three decades. He has carefully selected artists, repertoire and new works by contemporary composers he’s worked with in the past. The season also reflects the orchestra’s diverse repertoire—from core symphonic works to world premieres to full-length operas.

Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte commented: “We are fortunate to have had Carl St.Clair guiding and building Pacific Symphony for 30 years. He is the longest-tenured music director of America’s leading orchestras and only the second music director in Pacific Symphony’s 40-year history. The people of Orange County have enjoyed the benefit of this brilliant musician’s singular vision for the orchestra. For three decades, in which we have experienced Pacific Symphony’s tremendous growth, he has creatively shaped the musical taste of Orange County audiences and has expanded their listening horizons.”

“My musical experiences with the incredible musicians of Pacific Symphony has been an incredible gift,” acknowledged Carl St.Clair. “It has been my pleasure to work with these brilliant artists over the past 30 years, and I have selected for the 2019-20 season particularly meaningful repertoire that showcases their virtuosity and humanity as well as our shared musical history.”

St.Clair continued, “I see my 30th season as music director with Pacific Symphony as a time to reflect and also celebrate. I am pleased that long-time friends and recently discovered collaborators will be sharing the stage with me during this special season: for instance the French Canadian pianist Alain Lefèvre and Benjamin Pasternack, who has played more with Pacific Symphony than any other pianist, as well as new friends such as Alexander Romanovsky, the brilliant young Ukrainian pianist, who will be joining us for an immersive weekend where together we’ll traverse all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos. I’m also gratified to include world premieres written especially for this season at my request. Elliot Goldenthal, who composed “A Vietnam Oratorio” for my first recording with Pacific Symphony, agreed to write a new work especially for this season. My dear friend and USC colleague Frank Ticheli will also be writing a new work to be premiered with us this season. And, of course, my 30th season wouldn’t be complete without including special works by composer John Williams, who was so instrumental in encouraging me to come to Pacific Symphony in the first place.”

Pacific Symphony guest soloists during the 2019-20 season include pianist Benjamin Pasternack playing Beethoven’s “Choral” Fantasy and on the same program soprano Celena Shafer, tenor Christopher Pfund and baritone Hugh Russell are the soloists for both the Beethoven and Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (Sept. 26-28); Pacific Symphony’s concertmaster Dennis Kim performing Ravel’s virtuosic “Tzigane” (Oct. 17-19) and Beethoven’s Romances Nos. 1 and 2 (March 20, 2020); Vadym Kholodenko performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (Dec. 5-7); Alain Lefèvre playing Ravel’s Concerto in G Major (Feb. 6-8); Augustin Hadelich performing Paganini’s First Violin Concerto (Feb. 27-29, 2020); and Alexander Romanovsky performing all five Beethoven Piano Concertos (March 19-21, 2020).

Soloists making their Pacific Symphony debuts are pianist Aaron Diehl, performing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement (Nov. 14-16), Clara-Jumi Kang, an award-winning young pianist in demand throughout Europe, performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto (Jan. 16-18, 2020); and Metropolitan Opera star Carl Tanner as Otello (April 23, 25 and 28, 2020).



All concerts at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Programs, artists, dates and prices subject to change.




Sept. 26-28, 2019 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Celena Shafer, soprano

Christopher Pfund, tenor

Hugh Russell, baritone

Benjamin Pasternack, piano

Pacific Chorale — Robert Istad, artistic director

Beethoven: “Egmont” Overture

Beethoven: “Choral” Fantasy

Orff: “Carmina Burana”



Oct. 17-19, 2019 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Dennis Kim, violin

Williams: “Tributes! For Seiji”

Ravel: “Tzigane”

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”



Nov. 14-16, 2019 • 8 p.m.

Mei-Ann Chen, conductor

Aaron Diehl, piano

Chadwick: “Jubilee” from Symphonic Sketches

Price: “Dances in the Canebrakes”

Price: Piano Concerto in One Movement

Gershwin: “Rhapsody in Blue”

Gershwin: “An American in Paris”



Dec. 5-7, 2019 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Vadym Kholodenko, piano

Goldenthal: Adagio for Carl’s 30th (World premiere)

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7



Jan. 16-18, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Christian Arming, conductor

Clara-Jumi Kang, violin

Beethoven: Violin Concerto

Dvořák: Symphony No. 8



Feb. 6-8, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Alain Lefèvre, piano

Ravel: “Tombeau de Couperin”

Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major

Berlioz: “Symphonie Fantastique”



Feb. 27-29, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Michael Francis, conductor

Augustin Hadelich, violin

Rouse:”Prospero’s Rooms”

Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 1

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3


Beethoven Immersion Weekend


Mar. 19-21, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Alexander Romanovsky, piano

Dennis Kim, violin


Beethoven: Overture to “Coriolan”

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1

Beethoven: Overture to “Prometheus”

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4


Beethoven: Romance No. 1 in G Major

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2

Beethoven: Romance No. 2 in F Major

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3


Beethoven: Symphony No. 8

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”



April 23, 25, 28, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Kelebogile Besong, soprano

Carl Tanner, tenor

Greer Grimsley, bass-baritone

Pacific Chorale — Robert Istad, artistic director

Verdi: “Otello”



May 7-9, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Jose Luis Gomez, conductor

Joyce Yang, piano

Carreño: “Margariteña”

Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Schumann: Symphony No. 4 (1851 version)



May 28-30, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Conrad Tao, piano

Ticheli: New work to be announced (World premiere)

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor

Brahms: Symphony No. 4



June 11-13, 2020 • 8 p.m.

Carl St.Clair, conductor

Pacific Chorale — Robert Istad, artistic director

Mahler: Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand”

Review: “Slava!, Shostakovich, and Scheherazade at the PSO”

The Bernstein Centenary juggernaut may be departing, but its echoes are still around, as evinced by the PSO opening its most recent concert with Slava! A Political Overture (1977). Carl St. Clair directed this late, brief, orchestral explosion by his late mentor “Mr. B” with tons of energy, to which the band responded with equal enthusiasm—every growled trombone glissando and wah-wah trumpet wail relished.


Against a wandering, muted first violin line, the ‘cellist plays high harmonics against isolated celesta notes, like stars seen through night mist, before passing without a break into the unaccompanied Cadenza that forms the entire third movement. Mr. Elschenbroich’s concentrated account of this, delivered like the inward musings of a philosopher puzzling his way towards the solution of a conundrum, held the audience rapt until the brief fast finale burst in to relieve the tension. … this was a fine performance of a powerfully original, demanding, and enigmatic work.


Rimsky-Korsakov’s Symphonic Suite Scheherazade used to be as familiar a concert-hall staple as, say, any Brahms or Beethoven symphony, but in recent years it seems to have slipped a bit in frequency of appearance, though the PSO itself played it as recently as March 2017. Whatever, it was an unalloyed pleasure to re-encounter concert music’s most guileful seductress, particularly when her manifold charms were unfolded in such a glittering, sumptuous array as by the PSO and Maestro St. Clair.

… Mr. Kim’s postlude was eloquently long-drawn, the book of “One Thousand and One Nights” slowly and lovingly closed to conclude a performance that more than equaled any that I can recall. For once, the standing ovation that southern Californian audiences seem compelled to give any performance, however workaday, was thoroughly deserved.


You can read the full review by David J. Brown on LA Opus here.

Celebrating the Year of the Pig!


Photo Credit: James Pan

Quick, what time is it? What about today’s date? A millennium or two before the cell phone came along, you couldn’t just reach into your pocket for a reminder. It took some figuring, and the first step was to look upward.

Like a daily calendar in the night sky, the changing phases of the moon provided a luminous diagram of the moon’s repeating cycle. Most early cultures tracked the changing seasons according to lunar phases. Our English word “month” shares its origin with the word “moon,” and can be traced back to that practice. If it sounds simple, it wasn’t: with about 12.4 lunar cycles in a given year, marking the end of one year and the beginning of another took some fancy figuring.

The modern Gregorian calendar ended much uncertainty and imprecision, but it certainly didn’t end the richness of the lunar calendar traditions around the world. The lunar calendar of traditional Chinese culture gives rise to what is perhaps the world’s most popular celebration: Lunar New Year. When transferred to the modern Gregorian calendar, the date varies from one year to the next. This year, Tuesday, Feb. 5 marks the beginning of a period of revelry and ceremony designed to honor the past, propitiate good fortune and greet the new year with gaiety. The festivities officially last for 15 days and are filled with the sounds of music and fireworks. It’s estimated that around the world, more incendiaries are ignited during Lunar New Year than during the rest of the year combined.

In keeping with the Chinese zodiac, each year is keynoted by one of 12 animals whose traits help determine our fortunes. The coming year is a year of the pig, as were 2007, 1995, 1983 and so on. Persons born in these years are credited as good providers and problem-solvers who think logically and prosper in business. The rest of us should pay particular attention to these areas throughout the coming year.

While 15 days might seem like a long time to sustain a celebration, the festival is actually a multi-faceted event spanning many special moments. One of these is familiar to everyone lucky enough to live in a city where the flamboyant Dragon Parade takes place. Friends and neighbors from all over town (and of all ethnic backgrounds!) gather to witness the fantastically colorful, loud, winding procession as the dancing dragon—actually a jointed construction borne along in caterpillar fashion by concealed dancers—makes its way through the streets. More than just entertainment, the parade represents the dragon’s grace and strength, qualities we hope to learn by example.

In a time when we strive to value and celebrate diversity, the Dragon Parade has helped us meet and learn about each other. But other elements of the Lunar New Year are quieter, more contemplative and family-oriented. This spirit is embodied in shorter musical excerpts and songs. Their stories honor relatives, friends, ancestors, cultural heritage and national pride in music as they propitiate aspirations for the months to come.

Appropriately, we greet the lunar new year with compositions ancient, modern and in-between. For those of us less familiar with the traditions of Chinese music, its expressiveness is especially fascinating. It focuses on the sound of individual notes as they begin, bloom and fade, more than on melodic resolution. For experienced listeners, even the material of a Chinese musical instrument—any of seven categories including wood, stone, clay, gourd, bamboo, silk and hide—says something about the meaning of the music played on it.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor‑in‑chief for The Santa Fe Opera.

Pacific Symphony is presenting three concerts in celebration of the Lunar New Year, including an evening “Lunar New Year” classical concert, a morning “Lunar New Year for Kids” family concert and an all-day community celebration called “Lantern Festival.” Click the links to learn more, or purchase your tickets!

Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia Promoted to Associate Conductor!


His contract has also been extended through August 31, 2020! Read excerpts from the press release below:

Pacific Symphony announces the promotion of Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia to the position of Associate Conductor as well as his contract extension through August 31, 2020. It’s been four years since the Symphony first announced Kalia as its second in command (under Music Director Carl St.Clair). Kalia’s position, endowed by The Mary E. Moore Family, began at the start of the 2015-16 season. In addition to assisting St.Clair with conducting duties, Kalia has played—and will continue to play—a vital role in the Symphony’s education initiatives. These include programming and conducting the Family Musical Mornings series presented by Farmers & Merchants Bank, which introduces children ages 5 to 11 to the exciting world of orchestral music through engaging and educational concerts.

“Roger has made important musical contributions to Pacific Symphony,” says Maestro St.Clair. “In just a little over three short years, he has gained the respect of the musicians and also the staff with whom he works very closely. Because of the wonderful job he has done, we were pleased to offer Roger this promotion to the position of Associate Conductor and also to extend his contract to August 31, 2020.”

Roger Kalia commented, “I am thrilled to have been promoted to Associate Conductor with Pacific Symphony. I am extremely grateful to Maestro St.Clair and the amazing musicians and staff of Pacific Symphony for their trust and support in me. It will be very special to be a part of Maestro St.Clair’s 30th anniversary as music director, which is a momentous occasion. I have made so many special memories with this organization—from the tours to Carnegie Hall and China to the PBS Great Performances broadcast. I look forward to continuing my work with the fantastic Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, and conducting Pacific Symphony in our Family Musical Mornings, Class Act Youth Concerts and other exciting projects.”

If you’d like to read the full press release, you can visit our press room here.