Pacific Symphony: April concerts

For Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony, April is the coolest month. It’s all about Carnegie Hall. As in the conductor and orchestra will make their debut there. Yes, it’s a big deal.

The 80th birthday tribute to Philip Glass presented this season by Carnegie is the occasion for the visit from our local musicians. They’ll give the New York premiere of Glass’ oratorio “The Passion of Ramakrishna” as a climax to that tribute, on April 21. The program delves deeply into the influence of Indian music on Glass and also includes “Meetings Along the Edge,” a collaboration with Ravi Shankar, and Shankar’s Sitar Concerto No. 3, with Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar as soloist.

Luckily, if you can’t make it to Carnegie Hall for the performance, the program is performed here in Orange County three times, April 12-14. Tickets here

The month opens with the return of Cirque de la Symphonie, the popular acrobatic troupe.   Fliers, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, strongmen, gymnasts and what have you perform amazing feats accompanied by live symphony orchestra. Roger Kalia conducts the orchestra in this new show with music by John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Randy Newman and others. April 6-7. Tickets here

A slightly shorter version of the same, called “Cirque for Kids!,” is performed as part of the Family Musical Mornings series on April 7. Tickets here

If you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to visit the acoustically vibrant Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, April 15 might be the perfect time to do so. St.Clair conducts the Symphony, the USC Thornton Choral Artists and soloists in a single work, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral.” Tickets here

Silent movie musical scholar and organist Dennis James is back to climb aboard the Gillespie pipe organ on April 29, this time to accompany the classic German Expressionist film “Nosferatu,” a still creepy 1922 re-telling of the Dracula tale. Tickets here

Also on April 29, the Cafe Ludwig chamber music series closes its season with a mostly French program that includes Francis Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata and Gabriel Faure’s glorious Piano Quintet No. 1. Pianist Orli Shaham with Symphony principals. Tickets here

That time Philip Glass was in a whisky ad

“In the Spring of 1984, I had just finished writing Akhnaten and I was getting ready for a double opening at the Houston Grand Opera and at the Stuttgart Opera. I had already used up all the commission money to pay for the preparation of the conductor’s score and the piano reduction used by the singer’s for rehearsals. In addition, I had to pay for copying the parts from which the musicians in the orchestra would play, and for that I needed about fifteen thousand dollars. Before computers, this work, an intense amount of labor, had to be done by hand, requiring three or four copyists. Out of the blue I got an offer to do a print ad for Cutty Sark, and, miraculously, they offered me fifteen thousand dollars. I was overjoyed and didn’t hesitate. A photograph was taken of me holding a glass of Scotch whisky with musical notes floating in it. I took the money and had the parts done for the opera.” — from “Words Without Music” by Philip Glass

St.Clair and Pacific Symphony bound for Carnegie Hall in salute to Philip Glass

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

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.

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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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