Pacific Symphony: May concerts

The Giant Egg in Beijing

Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony are off to China in May, performing concerts in Shanghai, Hefei, Wuxi, Chongqing and Beijing in the early and middle part of the month. Their program, previewed in Orange County, features Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloe” Suite No. 2, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (with Pinchas Zukerman) and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in Ravel’s famous transcription.

The orchestra gives concert in OC both before and after the tour, however.

On May-3-5, the orchestra welcomes back the always scintillating pianist André Watts, who will join the musicians in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. On the second half of the program, St.Clair and the musicians grapple with one of the 20th century’s greatest symphonies, Shostakovich’s Tenth. Tickets here

At the end of the month (and the beginning of the next), May 31-June 2, young British conductor Ben Gernon, the principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, makes his Pacific Symphony debut, leading a program of music by Prokofiev (the “Russian Overture”) and Stravinsky (the 1947 version of “Petrushka”). In between, Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg revives Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Tickets here

Elsewhere on the monthly schedule, Pacific Symphony youth ensembles give their season finales.

On May 6, the Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings, conducted by Irene Kroesen, play music by Britten, Vaughan Williams and others, in a program featuring music of the British Isles. Admission is free but tickets are required

On May 20, Gregory X. Whitmore conducts the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble a wide-ranging American agenda that includes John Philip Sousa’s rarely heard “In Memoriam: President Garfield’s Funeral March” and Robert Russell Bennett’s “Suite of Old American Dances.” Admission is free but tickets are required 

Later the same day, Roger Kalia leads his Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra in a concert that features the dual winners of the concerto competition. Violinists Danielle Liu and Leo Matsuoka play the first movements of the Glazunov and Sibelius Violin Concertos. The program winds up with Gershwin’s “American in Paris.” Admission is free but tickets are required

Pacific Symphony: March concerts

Here’s your quick roundup of Pacific Symphony events in the month of March, mobile-friendly and with links to tickets. There will be a total of 12 presentations.

Chief among them will be concerts previewing the orchestra’s first tour of China in May. The performers and repertoire are the same as on tour. Carl St.Clair leads a program with two orchestral showpieces as bookends, Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from “Daphnis et Chloe” and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” (orchestrated by Ravel). In between, the orchestra welcomes back esteemed violinist Pinchas Zukerman as soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. The Mussorgsky will be accompanied by striking visual animation created by eleven students from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Performances are March 15-17 in Segerstrom Concert Hall (tickets here). The concert is repeated, without Ravel’s “Daphnis,” on March 18 in Segerstrom (tickets) and on March 19 in McCallum Theatre for the Performing Arts in Palm Desert (ticket info).

Zukerman will also give a masterclass on March 18, working with three students from Orange County. The masterclass will be held in Samueli Theater and the public is welcome. Tickets are $10.

The month opens with the third annual Lantern Festival (March 4), a free community event celebrating the return of spring and reunion of the family. A dragon dance, puppet show, Chinese folk dance, lantern making and more are featured. Watch a video of last year’s event. Tickets are free, but required.

Los Angeles-based composer Steven Mahpar will narrate his own “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” to open Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble’s spring concert (March 10). Conductor Gregory X. Whitmore continues the concert with two classics of the 20th century: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ gorgeous “The Lark Ascending” (with flutist Yuri Choi) and Paul Hindemith’s boisterous “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber.” Free. Tickets here

On March 12, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra and conductor Roger Kalia give their own ambitious spring concert featuring Brendan Faegre’s “Analog Intelligence (a 21st Century Dance Suite)” and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan.” Admission is free, but tickets are required.

The Family Musical Mornings series continues (March 17) with Kalia presiding over a program of music from popular video games, including “Super Mario Brothers” and “The Legend of Zelda.” The premise of the show is two kids getting lost inside their favorite video game. Popular classical selections by Wagner, Stravinsky and Mahler are also performed by Pacific Symphony side-by-side with Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra. Tickets here

Finally, on the pops series, Pink Martini returns (March 23-24). The stylish ensemble resurrects popular music of the past, with elegance and panache. Conductor Richard Kaufman and Pacific Symphony join them. Tickets here

Band on the run: Youth Wind Ensemble to take European tour

By TIMOTHY MANGAN
Writer-in-residence

Gregory X. Whitmore is a band guy through and through, a protege of the legendary bandsman H. Robert Reynolds, a former drum major of the Michigan Marching Band, able to rattle off the history of the “Washington Post March” at a moment’s notice. He’s also just finished his third season as music director of Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble, which has just finished its 10th. To celebrate the ensemble’s milestone, Whitmore is taking it on its first tour this summer — to Vienna, no less. The band will compete in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in July there.

“This just felt right,” Whitmore said recently, speaking of the festival over a cup of coffee. Not only is it held in Vienna, “the home of Western music,” filled with sites for musical pilgrims, “but more than that, the chance to have a concert in the Musikverein, the home of the Vienna Philharmonic, the chance to also play at the Vienna Konzerthaus” — where the Pacific Symphony culminated its own European tour in 2006 — “and the chance to play at the MuTh, the home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, just was an exclamation point on what is going to be a superb tour.”

Though many orchestras support their own youth orchestras these days, few make room for youth wind ensembles as well. “That really is a testament to the vision of Mr. St.Clair and feeling very strongly about having a youth ensembles family that makes artistry and education a really tandem experience,” Whitmore said. Wind ensembles, or bands, have a rich history in the United States, and a rich repertoire. In the late 19th century, it was estimated that there were some 10,000 bands in the country, professional, military and amateur.

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Upcoming concerts

‘Tis the season between seasons, but there are still a few things to listen to.

Acclaimed contemporary music pianist Gloria Cheng will make a guest appearance on the next “Sonic Kitchen” concert (8 p.m. June 29 at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art). Cheng joins members of the Pacific Symphony in a program to include music by George Crumb (the “Vox Balaenae”); Michael Daugherty, Philip Glass, Mohammed Fairouz and Frederic Rzewski (selections from “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”).The concert is part of the Center’s current exhibit “Art as Protest” and will be performed in the galleries. Pre-concert events begin at 7:15; attendees can view the exhibit and purchase craft beers and wines at this time. Tickets are $20. Visit pacificsymphony.org or call (714) 755-5799.

At 7 p.m. on June 30, conductor Gregory X. Whitmore will lead the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble in a preview of the tour programs that they will take to Vienna in July. Whitmore will select items from the touring repertoire by Bach, Ticheli, Whitacre, J. Strauss II, Sousa, Basler and Perrine. At the Claire Trevor Theatre, UCI. Tickets are free.

The official opener of the orchestra’s summer season is again July 4, but this year it’s held at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, the group’s new outdoor home. Pops conductor Richard Kaufman directs a program of film and patriotic music and is joined by Matt Ryan & The American dream for a set of “Symphonic Springsteen.” With Fireworks. Tickets start at $25; military comes free. 8 p.m.

We also recommend, the 37th annual Baroque Music Festival, Corona del Mar, June 18-25. Artistic director and violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock calls this year’s agenda a “Festival of Novelties,” and among other offerings it will include a fencing demonstration set to Baroque music; a program devoted to music for four violas da gamba; and a “Music from Monticello” concert. Sunday’s closer (June 25), featuring the stereophonic music that Monteverdi and Gabrieli wrote St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, looks particularly attractive. For info here.