Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony are about to make a big trip, in case you hadn’t heard — a trip to Carnegie Hall. Conductor and orchestra have been invited to perform at the venerable venue on Saturday, April 21, in the final program of a series celebrating the 80th birthday of American composer Philip Glass. It will be the first time performing there for both St.Clair and Orange County’s 39-year-old symphonic ensemble.
St.Clair has been in Carnegie many times, of course, both as a listener (he remembers hearing Herbert von Karajan’s last concerts there with the Berlin Philharmonic) and as a would-be participant, during his years as an assistant conductor with the Boston Symphony, which has long made regular appearances at the hall. But as it happened, he was never asked to step in when the orchestra was visiting New York, not even in rehearsal.
“I have not conducted on that stage,” St.Clair said categorically in a recent conversation at the Symphony’s Irvine offices. But he’s looking forward to it.
The following note on “Wild Wood” was provided by the composer Paul Chihara. The orchestral version of the score, substantially rewritten from the original for wind band, will be given its premiere by Pacific Symphony in concerts Feb. 1-4. I have attached an MP3 recording, made at the premiere, of the wind band version of “Wild Wood” at the end of the post.
“Wild Wood” was commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Festival and premiered at the final concerts of the 2015 summer programs celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Berkshire Music Festival in 1940.
The original instrumentation was for a large wind and percussion band without strings: woodwinds in groups of threes, six horns, five trumpets, five trombones, tuba, 10 percussionists, harp and double basses. It was a celebratory work, filled with fanfares and brilliant instrumental colors. The original composition was in binary form, the two parts modeled on the Baroque tradition of Slow and Fast, a sort of grand “song and dance”!
The opening music is solemn and processional, a stately choral scored primarily for the six horns, later reinforced by the trumpets, trombones, and tuba. Woodwinds enter to give color and movement to this formal opening, and introduce a Chinese pentatonic melody that Ravel incorporated in his gorgeous “Mother Goose” Suite.
Part Two, is a wild dance — based on ethnic and popular tunes from America and Japan, echoing the rhythmic patterns and pop (“big band”) orchestrations of the Big Band era. I incorporate the Japanese folk melody “Tonko Bushi” (so familiar to those who attend the Bon Odori Matsuri (the Japanese summer dance festival in Little Tokyo everywhere.
Part Three brings the composition to a rowdy conclusion, with percussion and the opening brass choral returning in splendor and joy!
This new version of “Wild Wood” (being premiered during these concerts) includes a large string section in the orchestration, and a somewhat less extravagant brass and wind ensemble. Its form is also expanded now to be a three part structure:
Slow, Fast, Grand. The strings are not simply sweetening the previous music of brass, winds and percussion. They have new melodies and textures, giving the entire work an Impressionistic grandeur. –Paul Chihara
Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, home of Pacific Symphony
Did you know that if you are a student you can attend most Pacific Symphony concerts for less than the price of a movie? These are not Rush tickets. You’ll have them before you arrive.
Join the orchestra’s Student Rewards program and get access to $10 tickets. Non-student friends and family can come along for just $20.
Sign up for the email newsletter and 4-6 days before each concert for which Student Rewards tickets are available (usually, every Classical, Casual Connections and Organ series concert; others based on availability), you’ll receive instructions on how to buy $10 tickets for the event. Go here to sign up for the newsletter.
There’s also a discounted subscription program for students who would like to go a little more often. Call (714) 755-5799 for more details on that.
Here’s your quick, mobile-friendly guide to Pacific Symphony concerts in January, with links to tickets. There are five concerts in all during the month.
The elegant and dashing violin virtuoso Ray Chen arrives Jan. 11-13 to play the greatest violin concerto of them all, i.e. Beethoven’s. On the second half of the program, guest conductor Michael Francis, making his debut with the orchestra, leads a rare performance of Elgar’s richly tapestried Symphony No. 1. Tickets here
The Grammy-nominated Russian-American violinist Philippe Quint then comes (Jan. 21) to lead the orchestra in a one-off performance of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” at the acoustically resplendent Soka Performing Arts Center. Tickets here
Later the same day, back at Segerstrom Concert Hall, organist Paul Jacobs, a national figure and local favorite, mans the Gillespie Concert Organ to perform a program of Bach and Liszt, including the Toccata and Fugue in D minor of the former and the mammoth Fantasia and Fugue on “Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Unjam” of the latter. Tickets here
Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 — massive, glowering, spiritual — is on the schedule this month for the first time in the history of Pacific Symphony. The performances, on Nov. 9-11, will also be the first anywhere for Music Director Carl St.Clair, who seems determined not to waste the opportunity.
“I’ve wanted to conduct this piece for many years, but it’s like Mahler 9, it’s like all the pinnacle works, you have to build up to them,” St.Clair said recently in an interview at the orchestra’s Irvine offices. Not only does he, as a conductor, need to build up to Bruckner’s Eighth, but so do the musicians and the audience, he says. Accordingly, St.Clair has added an extra rehearsal for the orchestra. He’s also devised a prelude to the performance of the Eighth that he hopes will prepare the audience to hear the work.
“You can’t white knuckle it down the 5 or the 405 and every time you come to a stop you look at your phone, you text somebody, you send an Instagram, you answer the phone. You valet park, you run in, you slosh down a glass of white wine and you rush to your seat and then you hear the music of Anton Bruckner — it’s impossible,” he says.
Instead, audience members will enter the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall before the performance as Gregorian chant is sung from the stage by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael Abbey. Organist Christoph Bull will play organ music by Bach and Bruckner. Video artists Nick and Clemens Prokop will project visuals on three screens that evoke the interiors of the majestic St. Florian Monastery in Linz, where Bruckner served as organist and is buried. The lighting will be low.