Compliments of donor Charlie Zhang, the hard working tour staff (and guests) enjoys a duck dinner in Beijing. Pinchas Zukerman was in particularly fine form.
Off last night (Tuesday) in a van, weaving through the streets into an older part of Shanghai, for a fan/media event. Violinist Pinchas Zukerman (our soloist on tour) and conductor Carl St.Clair chatted about the world of classical music and their previous experiences in China along the way, and then we arrived at the venue, what we would call a small independent book store with a gathering place for events in the back.
As the crowd gathered, St.Clair and Zukerman were interviewed by media in another room, and a video showcasing Pacific Symphony’s activities was shown to the audience, which eventually filled the room and numbered around 100.
An hour long interview in front of the audience ensued, hosted by the very lively Zhang Ming (left), who also translated all of the answers made by Zukerman, St.Clair and Symphony president John Forsyte in great and extensive detail. As us English speakers sat quietly listening to the translation, not understanding a thing, we would be occasionally startled by an English phrase — “bank account,” “Bernard Haitink” — popping out in the middle of it.
Some of the questions were odd. Zukerman, for instance, who appears to be something of a, perhaps, sex symbol here — I observed one woman snapping one photo after another of him in close up — had to field this question: “What is the best quality that the Chinese woman has?” Laughing and saying he was married, Zukerman remained on his toes and quickly came up with “fashion.”
All questions, odd or not, were answered amiably and well by our trio, however, and Forsyte made an explicit pitch for all those present to visit us sometime in Orange County. This truly was a cross-cultural event and the audience seemed passionate about Western classical music. They mobbed Zukerman and St.Clair at the end of the interview, asking for autographs and photos with them. Forsyte was also asked for his signature and photo. One fellow even requested a pose with yours truly.
Wednesday morning addendum: Up early, walked to the second tallest building in the world, Shanghai Tower, went to the 119th floor and snapped this photo for your viewing pleasure.
This afternoon: Rehearsal. Tonight: First tour concert at Shanghai Poly Grand Theatre.
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
Here’s a warm, full-bodied and irresistibly singing recording of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. David Oistrakh is the violinist and conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Hear Pinchas Zukerman perform this same work with Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony on March 15-18.
Here’s my colleague Alexey Bonca, master of public relations and social media, talking about upcoming concerts at the Symphony in this month’s video log.
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