Pacific Overtures

Here’s our new monthly newsletter, Pacific Overtures. It is written and curated by yours truly. Much of this month’s content has appeared on this blog, but every month will be a little different in that regard. Click on the link below.

Pacific Overtures. October, 2017.

Top six posts on Pacific Symphony Blog

Catch up on the ones you missed or enjoy the thrill of reading them again.

Concert etiquette for beginners. June 13, 2017.

A swan song and a ‘Resurrection’: John Alexander takes the next step in a long career. June 5, 2017.

Pacific Symphony assistant conductor wins Solti award. June 1, 2017.

Thoughts While Attending the First Symphony in the Series My Wife Want to Buy. July 19, 2017.

Video: Yuja Wang plays ‘Tritsch-Tratsch Polka.’ August 1.

Van Cliburn gold medalist brings Rachmaninoff for his debut with Pacific Symphony. September 2.

Pacific Symphony 2017-18 classical season: A brief overview

Conductor Carl St.Clair

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

One of the more interesting discussions going on in the world of symphony orchestras these days, well into the second decade of the 21st century, concerns the matter of programming. What, exactly, can an American symphony orchestra do to reach and serve a contemporary audience, not necessarily well versed in classical music, and remain relevant in our entertainment-saturated culture? It’s a question that every orchestra struggles with and that each orchestra will answer differently.

Pacific Symphony’s answer, in its 2017-18 classical subscription season, beginning in September, is a balanced one, offering careful doses of innovation and newness while honoring a responsibility to the canonic standards. Rarely heard masterpieces get an airing. Star soloists arrive and young talent is introduced. A rich and befitting vein of American music runs through the schedule, too. But it’s all of a piece, designed for an Orange County audience right now.

The biggest news of the season, though, is that the orchestra will make its debut in that Mecca of classical music, Carnegie Hall, a huge moment in any orchestra’s life. Conductor Carl St.Clair and the ensemble have been invited to perform there by the composer Philip Glass, who celebrates his 80th birthday year as a resident composer at the venue in 2017-18.

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Classical cover: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2

In 1945, a theme from the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (played Saturday) was turned into a popular song called “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” which over the years has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Eddie Fisher, Robert Goulet and Freddie Hubbard, among others. The theme was also featured in the film “Brief Encounter” that same year.

Here’s how it sounds in its original form (I have the video cued up to the spot). Then below is Bob Dylan’s cover of the pop song based on same.

 

Van Cliburn gold medalist brings Rachmaninoff for his debut with Pacific Symphony

June 7, 2017. Yekwon Sunwoo  performs with the Brentano String Quartet in the final round of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Ralph Lauer)

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Yekwon Sunwoo showed up on Skype at the appointed time recently, or rather his voice did. He initially preferred not to appear on screen — 24 hours of travel from Poland to Aspen the day before had left him disheveled, he implied — but soon enough he came on camera, his thick black hair slightly tousled perhaps, but otherwise looking fresh and fit in a pair of Clark Kent glasses and a light cardigan sweater.

Sunwoo is otherwise a superman. In June, he became the first Korean to win the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, doing it with a series of knucklebusters that included Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata and Prokofiev’s Sixth, Ravel’s “La Valse” and, in the finals, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (all of which can be seen and heard online at the competition’s website.) Since then, life has been a whirlwind for the 28-year-old musician.

“It’s been hectic,” Sunwoo says. “Like right after winning, for about a week I had some meetings, and a photo session which went about four hours straight. Everything was happening kind of quickly and they already had concerts lined up. I had to decide everything pretty much all at once, in a short time.

“The concert tour started in the middle of July, I went to Steamboat Springs (Colorado), the Grand Teton Music Festival, which was wonderful, and the Spencer Theater in Roswell, New Mexico. Then I was in Italy for concerts, Germany, Poland. I’m really enjoying it. I’ve kind of been waiting for this moment and I love performing for the audiences. It’s just a great thing. So it’s been busy but I’m very happy about it.”

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The state of music criticism

Music critic G.B. Shaw

Three recent articles on the state of arts journalism in general and music criticism in particular. These are perceptive pieces, one and all, and not quick reads. The first article takes off from my appointment here at Pacific Symphony to consider a broader perspective.