Interview: Meredith Crawford, principal viola

By ERICA SHARP

Meredith Crawford, principal viola of Pacific Symphony, cheerfully picked up the phone to talk to an interviewer at the appointed time. She said she had just come back from a walk on the beach. She currently resides in Belmont Shore, a neighborhood in Long Beach, commuting to Costa Mesa to play in the orchestra. 

Crawford found Pacific Symphony while finishing up her studies as a college student, wanting to find orchestras just so she could gain audition experience for her professional career, which she thought would come much later. 

But during her research of this orchestra, she said the image of the musicians photographed on the beach began to change her mind to take the audition more seriously. The idea of moving to California to become part of what she perceived to be a well-loved and innovative group was her dream. 

Crawford was born in Massachusetts in 1986 but her family moved to Maine shortly thereafter. Although she grew up in a musical family, in which both of her grandparents were musicians, she jokes that the music “skipped a generation,” since her parents were not.  

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Interview: Dennis Kim, concertmaster

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Dennis Kim is the new concertmaster of Pacific Symphony, named in April to the position after a long search, replacing Raymond Kobler, who retired in 2016 after 17 years with the orchestra. Kim just moved to Irvine the other day, but already looked like a local as he waited for a reporter to arrive: athletic shorts, a logo T-shirt and neon-colored running shoes. Sitting on a bench outside a coffee and bagels place, he was checking his cell phone, just like natives everywhere. The only thing that gave him away as a foreigner was the logo on the shirt. It belonged to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Born in Korea, Kim moved to Toronto when he was three months old, grew up and learned to play the violin there. He’s moved here from Buffalo, where he served as concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic for the last three years and drove regularly to Toronto (90 minutes away) to teach there at the Royal Conservatory of Music, his alma mater. He starts his new job in September. You’ll see him in the first chair for the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular on Sept. 8, at Pacific Amphitheatre, and then at the opening concerts of the indoor season Sept. 27-29, at Segerstrom Concert Hall. In the latter concerts, the audience will get to hear Kim as a soloist in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364.

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Pacific Symphony: September concerts

The summer season ends with fireworks and the 40th anniversary indoor season begins with shooting stars this month.

The annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, Sept. 8, features big works by Pyotr Ilyich and his Russian compatriots. The commanding Van Cliburn-winning pianist Vadym Kholodenko returns to perform Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and of course the same composer’s 1812 Overture, festooned with cannons and fireworks, ends the proceedings. Festive works by Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin are also performed. Carl St.Clair conducts. Tickets here

The opening night concerts, led by St.Clair on Sept. 27-29, are a kind of 40th birthday party for the Symphony (founded in 1978). The orchestra’s first composer-in-residence, Frank Ticheli, is back with a new version of his Shooting Stars; new concertmaster Dennis Kim and principal violist Meredith Crawford step forward to solo in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante; the eloquent pianist Olga Kern takes on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3; and, wrapping it all up, a special performance of Ravel’s Boléro, played in tandem with a special film tracing the orchestra’s 40-year history. Tickets here

Our newly named Sunday Matinées series opens the next day (Sept. 30) with a slightly shortened version of the above (Rachmaninoff and Ravel). Tickets here –TM

Miscellany

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Plácido Domingo, 77, has sung his 150th role. …

Architect Frank Gehry has designed a new concert hall for L.A. Phil’s youth orchestra. …

The music director of the Long Beach Symphony adds the Portland Symphony (Maine) to his resume. …

The Philadelphia Orchestra is going to test drive new works by six young women composers. …

The Concertgebouw Orchestra has fired its celebrated chief conductor. …

George Walker, the first African American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize, has died at 96. …

At the Bayreuth Festival, Wagner gets a timely update. …

None other than Yo-Yo Ma offers a sampling of Bach for his Tiny Desk Concert. …

–TM

Weissenberg plays ‘Petrushka’

Here’s one of my favorite concert videos. It features pianist Alexis Weissenberg playing Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka. The director is Ake Falck, and while he didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, the lighting and the camerawork here are superb. Notice how they actually focus your listening rather than distract, as visuals often do. Weissenberg reportedly recorded the piano part in the studio and synced to the recording for the film. –TM

Lukas Foss: Piano Concerto No. 1

The neoclassical Piano Concerto No. 1 by Lukas Foss (1922-2009), recorded by Pacific Symphony, Carl St.Clair, conductor and Jon Nakamatsu, piano. Released 2001. The piece was first written as a clarinet concerto when Foss was 17. He made this version of it four years later.

–TM