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.
Pacific Symphony’s arts-X-press program, an arts immersion summer program for middle school students [focused on creative risk taking, individual exploration and community building], continues remotely this fall. The arts-X-press remote program which launched this summer, AXP@Home, presented its alumni workshop series last week with the “Attitude of Gratitude” workshop, a Thanksgiving-themed afternoon that focused on the spirit of appreciation.
Pacific Symphony’s arts-X-pressprogram, an arts immersion summer program for middle school students, continues this fall. The arts-X-press remote program which launched this summer, AXP@Home, presented its alumni workshop series last week with the “Attitude of Gratitude” workshop, a Thanksgiving-themed afternoon that focused on the spirit of appreciation.
Arts-X-press creative expression instructor, Mohammad Jaffrey, led our group. No stranger to giving back, Mohammad has been named Disneyland’s volunteer of the year and attended arts-X-press as a student. He explained how gratitude can be viewed as a muscle. “The more you do it, the easier it becomes to practice and express to other people. Gratitude can help people feel valued, and it’s always feels nice to be appreciated.”
In a time when our lives are “especially inundated with screens, it’s important to come back to yourself,” Jaffrey emphasized. This can also foster healthy social habits regarding screen-time limitations, as “it is important to express and show gratitude for our loved ones by being present with them rather than be distracted by technology.”
Students then created their very own “gratitude jars.” Jaffrey encouraged students to keep these jars and fill them with various notes and items that echo moments of thanks or random acts of kindness in their lives.
Whether it’s the special people in our lives or the little things that keep us going every day—from music and books to the fresh smell of hot chocolate and the oxygen from trees that allows us to breathe—students took this time to consider the positive things in their lives. Mohammad empowered students to write and send letters to two important people that they’re thankful for, whether it be family members, friends, or teachers.
The Attitude of Gratitude workshop served as a perfect introspective moment to pause and reflect. It was riveting to see the students’’passions and personalities come forth even more as we continue to strengthen the bond within this amazing arts-X-press community. Instructor Jaffrey encouraged us all to see gratitude as an active and ongoing practice—something we can all collectively take part in to make the world a more inclusive and thankful place.
It’s easy to sometimes get lost in the negativity that 2020 continues to project, but stopping and recognizing the positivity in our lives can surely make a difference in how we can adapt and learn to tackle any new challenges.
We hope that each one of our students enjoyed this exercise in gratitude and will join us again for our next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series—Holiday Diversity Celebration—a winter-holiday-themed workshop taking place on Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on registration, news, and content!
Pacific Symphony’s Online Shop is now open for all your holiday shopping needs. You’ll be able to find unique and distinctive gifts for family, friends and everyone on your list. And at the same time, you’ll be benefiting Pacific Symphony!
Here are some ideas for the choosier people on your holiday list:
What do the coming years hold for the arts under a new presidential administration? As The New York Times writes, “If Mr. Biden’s tastes run to 1967 Corvettes, Grisham novels and ‘Crocodile Rock,’ he is, nonetheless, someone arts leaders say has always embraced the practical usefulness of the arts as an economic engine, political action trigger and community builder.”
Robert L. Lynch, president and chief executive of Americans for the Arts says that the president-elect’s attitude is “less from a consumer point of view and more about the inspirational value and transformational value of the arts … It’s not, ‘Look, I loved this piece, or this song.’ It’s more about the bigger role of the arts in society.”
If you compare President-elect Joe Biden to a public figure like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a rabid operaphile often seen at The Metropolitan Opera or Santa Fe Opera, Biden doesn’t seem to measure up. When he was Barack Obama’s vice-president for eight years, he attended events at the Kennedy Center and a Washington National Opera gala, among others, but his profile as an arts aficionado seems somewhat modest by comparison to the likes of Justice Ginsburg.
It appears, though, that as a senator and then vice-president, Biden has been a consistent advocate of government funding for the arts. And as recently as last month, Biden won the endorsement of the Actor’s Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers. No mean feat—this was only the second time in its history that the Actor’s Equity Association has made a presidential endorsement.
“The future—who we are, lies in the arts.” —President-elect Joe Biden
“Joe Biden will be the most consequential president for the arts industry in a generation,” Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, said in a statement. “At a time when live entertainment is still largely dark because of the coronavirus, we will finally have a partner in the White House who will create a national strategy to bring the pandemic under control and put everyone in the arts back to work. Until then, we need to reinstate pandemic unemployment so that displaced workers can pay their bills, increase arts funding and finally pass a COBRA subsidy to make health insurance affordable as unemployment stretches on.”
Robert Lynch commented, “We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to support both the nonprofit arts community as well as independent artists working in the growing gig economy… He understands that the arts are integral to both revitalizing the soul and rebuilding the infrastructure of America.” He concluded by saying, “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris bring a commitment to get creative workers working again. Our nation needs to capitalize on the abundance of under-employed yet talented creative and racially underrepresented workers in America to aid in the recovery, to unify, and to heal our nation’s communities and economy.”
You only have until Dec. 31, 2020 to take advantage of The CARES Act’s charitable giving incentives.
Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act includes provisions designed to encourage charitable contributions of cash. It allows a growing number of taxpayers who do not itemize their returns to receive a tax deduction of up to $300 for cash donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations during calendar year 2020. And taxpayers who do itemize returns may now deduct up to 100% of their 2020 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).
Everyone knows about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday: three days dedicated to consumerism. But it’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, now known as Giving Tuesday, that kicks off the generosity season by inspiring people to give back. Pacific Symphony is pleased to join millions of other nonprofit organizations around the world participating in this global generosity movement on December 1.
This year’s Giving Tuesday offers a special opportunity to double the impact of your donation to Pacific Symphony. We are grateful Symphony board members Susan and Sam Anderson have generously offered to match your donation dollar-for-dollar, up to $30,000.
What better time could there be to give? Every single dollar you donate to Pacific Symphony on Giving Tuesday will be doubled.
According to a recent survey cited by Forbes magazine, 59% of U.S. adults believe in the concept of Giving Tuesday and 62% of all respondents intend to participate in Giving Tuesday on December 21, in spite of the many economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 epidemic.
If you are able to do so, we hope you will consider donating on Giving Tuesday, keeping in mind all that Pacific Symphony does for the community with its educational programs and online offerings. And remember, on Giving Tuesday, Susan and Sam Anderson will match your gift amount dollar-for-dollar, up to $30,000.
Southland Sessions Presents Pacific Symphony Episode 3: “Soundscapes” PBS So Cal Broadcast: November 21 at 7 p.m.
Join us on the third episode of Southland Sessions, “Soundscapes,” where Maestro Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony explore the ability of an orchestra to paint vivid pictures in selections from works that tell a colorful story.
You’re invited to take a sonic journey through major European travel destinations in France and Italy.
Starting the program in France, Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique is subtitled “Episode in the Life of an Artist in Five Sections.” For this broadcast, the Symphony performs the last two movements, which tells the story of an artist with a vivid imagination who poisons himself with opium out of despair for being spurned by the love of his life. The fourth movement, “March to the Scaffold,” takes on an ominous character: having taken too little opium to kills himself, the young artist dreams that he has killed his true love and is about to face the consequences for his crime. The fifth and final movement, “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” sees the artist in the midst of a hideous gathering of ghosts and monsters who have come to his funeral. Once the funeral bell tolls, we hear the distorted Dies irae from the Catholic Mass for the Dead—the witches are dancing.
Continuing on south to Venice, Italy, we hear a Baroque concerto from one of Vivaldi’s best-known works: The Four Seasons, “Winter,” performed by violinist and Symphony audience favorite, Philippe Quint. This set of four concertos has accompanying sonnets, which may have been written by Vivaldi himself. Following is the sonnet text which accompanies “Winter”:
In icy snow we tremble from the cold, Caught by the bristling wind with its harsh breath; We run and stamp our feet at every moment, With teeth a-chatter, cold as very death; Or by the fire we sit content and happy While outside pours down a torrential squall, And tread across the ice with careful footsteps, Cautious from fear that we might trip and fall; We turn abruptly, slip, and crash down earthwards, Then rising, hasten on across the ice In case the surface cracks and breaks apart. Through bolted doors we hear the winds competing, Sirocco, North Wind, all the winds at war: It’s winter, but it brings us joy for sure.
Finally, we finish our musical travelogue further south in Rome, Italy. Ottorino Respighi is known mostly for his “Roman Triptych,” a set of three orchestral tone poems. The three tone poems of Respighi’s Triptych—Fountains of Rome (1916), Pines of Rome (1924) and Roman Festivals (1928)—each depict the rich aspects of Italian culture and specifically of Roman landscapes. Pines of Rome, as the title suggests, depicts these trees in four different locations in Rome at different times of the day.
Respighi wrote detailed descriptions of each movement:
The Pines of the Villa Borghese Children are at play in the pine groves of Villa Borghese; they dance round in circles, they play at soldiers, marching and fighting, they are wrought up by their own cries like swallows at evening, they come and go in swarms. Suddenly the scene changes.
The Pines Near a Catacomb We see the shades of the pine trees fringing the entrance to a catacomb. From the depth rises the sound of mournful psalm-singing, floating through the air like a solemn hymn, gradually and mysteriously dispersing.
The Pines of the Janiculum A quiver runs through the air: the pine trees of the Janiculum stand distinctly outlined in the clear light of a full moon. A nightingale is singing.
The Pines of the Appian Way Misty dawn on the Appian Way; solitary pine trees guard the magic landscape; indistinctly, the ceaseless rhythm of unending footsteps. The poet has a fantastic vision of bygone glories. Trumpets sound and, in the brilliance of the newly risen sun, a consular army bursts forth toward the Sacred Way, mounting in triumph to the Capitol.
“Pavilion of Holiday Trees” South Coast Plaza Nov. 14 – Dec. 4
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and to celebrate the season South Coast Plaza begins a joyous new holiday tradition: “The First Annual Pavilion of Holiday Trees.” Pacific Symphony is proud to be participating in this exciting new interactive fundraiser hosted.
We’ve decorated a special Nutcracker-themed holiday tree, which we’ve named “Nutcracker Sweet,” and you can bid on it in an online auction. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the winning bid will benefit Pacific Symphony. “Nutcracker Sweet”—along with 35 other arts organization creations—will be on display at South Coast Plaza’s “Pavilion of Holiday Trees” from November 14 to December 4 (Sunday 12-7 p.m., Monday-Saturday 11-7 p.m.). The event is located at the existing open-air Pavilion at South Coast Plaza, adjacent to Hermès and Chanel.
We invite you to visit the Pavilion of Holiday Trees and/or consider bidding online for our tree at SCPARTS.givesmart.com. The tree will be delivered to the highest bidder in time for your holiday celebration.
And while you’re at South Coast Plaza, check out the restaurants now reopened to enjoy on your afternoon or evening out!
Thank you for your support and have yourself a merry little Christmas!
If there were an Academy Awards for orchestral musicians creating engaging videos during the quarantine, Pacific Symphony’s Principal Trumpet Barry Perkins could be a contender in many categories: “Best Actor,” “Best Director,” “Best Story and Screenplay, “Best Cinematography,” “Best Production Design,” “Best Film Editing,” “Best Sound Editing” and “Best Sound Mixing,” to name just a few. To say Perkins is multi-talented is an understatement, as his two latest videos attest.
Perkins finds an outlet for his virtuosity in this parody of the “Late Night Tryouts” scene from the 2002 hit movie “Drumline” that starred Zoe Saldana and Nick Cannon as teens who find romance through their love of the arts. The original audition scene features a gifted young drummer trying out for the fictional Atlanta A&T University’s celebrated marching band. The judges recognize the young musician’s ability but don’t like his cocky attitude in showing off his musical prowess when he adds his own flourishes after playing the required piece.
For the required piece is his parody, Perkins plays an excerpt from Georges Enescu’s trumpet piece, “Legende.” It’s a technical tour de force replete with challenging triple-tonguing and fast, finger-twisting chromatic passages. But then, unable to contain his musical enthusiasm, he segues into the heroic trumpet solo from Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony.
“I thought that this idea of ‘The Audition’ would be relatable to both students and professional musicians,” comments Perkins. “It represents a time where most musicians are just looking for any place to play their instrument. The audition candidate plays the required piece, and then can’t help himself but to play something he used to play in the orchestra before the pandemic.”
If you’re curious to know how Perkins managed to look like he was in the actual movie, here’s his explanation: “The process was pretty tricky. I used a green screen, but lighting had to be absolutely perfect so everything fits together. I was so happy to hear that a lot of people thought I was actually on the football field and these actors were friends of mine.”
Barry Perkins, like so many other musicians, is teaching all of his students via Zoom for the time being. You’ll also enjoy his humorous take on a somewhat surreal Zoom experience. And you’ll enjoy hearing his crisp and flawless playing of an exciting piccolo trumpet passage from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.
Vampires, werewolves and witches galore! Arts-X-press is back for the fall season—this time through AXP@Home Alumni Workshops.
This year, our summer arts immersion program, arts-X-press, went fully digital in response to ongoing covid-19 restrictions. Rebranded as AXP@Home, which transformed the typical arts-X-press environment into an online medium, this initiative brought together middle-school students who wanted to renew their own creative sparks amid the pandemic lockdowns. The program, which ran in two sessions between June and July, successfully fostered a close-knit community around instrumental music, theater, visual arts and more, despite the general limitations of an online format.
AXP@Home’s first, Halloween-themed, workshop on Oct. 28 allowed students, counselors and staff to reunite from this past summer’s remote program to create more magic moments in the spirit of artistic creativity.
The Halloween Creative Risks workshop—the first of a five-workshop seasonal series presented by Pacific Symphony’s Education & Community Engagement department—focused on the theater arts to facilitate creative expression. Led by some familiar faces from AXP staff—theater coach Becky Wheeler and four of our veteran counselors—our group delved into various theater techniques and Halloween-themed character improvisation.
Counselors brought the energy to kick off our workshop with a quick “ice-breaker,” which instructed students to describe a character of their choice in 10 words. Instructor Becky then led them through a series of techniques revolving around “movement words” to produce tonal dialogue and vocal variance.
Using such categories as “shape, weight, space, time and flow,” students could see how they can change their manner of dialogue to match a particular mood or goal of a script. For example, a “punch” shape might represent a “quick yell,” or “repressed anger” coming from “deep in your body,” according to multiple AXP students. This can be critical for making different character choices come to life.
In Zoom breakout rooms, counselors and students worked together to expand on their character interactions, where they built foundations on Halloween character archetypes, using “moods” and “movements” to set characters apart from each other, along with their own personal touches, such as physical props or vocal styles. From there, everyone re-joined the main Zoom room together to share their group scripts and character choices in pairs!
We hope that each and every one of our students enjoyed re-sparking the magic and will join us again for our next workshop in the AXP@Home Alumni Workshop series, Attitude of Gratitude, a Thanksgiving-themed workshop taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Please stay tuned to @artsXpress on Instagram and Facebook for updates on registration, news and content!