Pre-concert talk for Philip Glass concert at Carnegie Hall

(Here’s my pre-concert lecture delivered at 7 p.m. last Saturday in New York. Due to a change in plans, it wasn’t actually given in Carnegie Hall, but across the street in a meeting room at the Park Central Hotel.)

Carnegie talk

Hi everyone,

Welcome to Carnegie Hall. I’m Tim Mangan, Pacific Symphony’s writer-in-residence, and I’m going to give a short talk on the program we’re about to hear, hoping to prepare you for it. But first I’d like to talk a little about Carnegie Hall itself, because it, too, is going to be very much part of the experience.

Carnegie Hall opened on May 5, 1891. The original program had Walter Damrosch conducting the New York Symphony playing “America,” Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3 and the New York premiere of Berlioz’s Te Deum, with the Oratorio Society joining. The special guest of the evening was Tchaikovsky. Damrosch had wanted him to compose a new march for the occasion, but instead he just used his Coronation March that he wrote for the coronation of Tsar Alexander III, giving it a different title, Marche solennelle, hoping that no one would notice that it was an earlier piece. Tchaikovsky conducted it himself that night. The story goes that the march was recognized as the Coronation March and this pleased the composer, who said that American audiences knew his music better than the Russians did.

(Incidentally, on the same trip to America, Tchaikovsky also visited the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore — the alma mater of tonight’s featured composer Philip Glass, and my alma mater too.) 

The hall was at first called just Music Hall (founded by Andrew Carnegie) but soon, at the start of the 1894-95 season, it was officially changed to Carnegie Hall. But if you go out front and look up, those words — Music Hall founded by Andrew Carnegie — are still there, etched in the building above the entrance. Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest men in the world at the time, an industrialist who spent the latter part of his life as a philanthropist, funding this hall and of course Carnegie libraries around the country.

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Ravi Shankar: Sitar Concerto No. 2

Here’s an excerpt from Ravi Shankar’s Sitar Concerto No. 2, with Anoushka Shankar as soloist and Zubin Mehta conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

Anoushka Shankar plays her father’s Sitar Concerto No. 3 with Carl St.Clair and Pacific Symphony on April 12-14.

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

Audio: Ravi Shankar

People of a certain age, including your scribe, remember when virtuoso sitarist Ravi Shankar became famous in the 1960s, celebrated especially among the young. It seemed to me that most households had, along with the records of Herb Alpert, some Ravi Shankar in their collection.

Here’s Nicolas Slonimsky on Shankar:

“As a consequence of the growing infatuation with Oriental arts in Western countries, he suddenly became popular, and his concerts were greeted with reverential awe by youthful multitudes. This popularity increased a thousandfold when the Beatles went to him to receive the revelation of Eastern musical wisdom, thus placing him on the pedestal usually reserved for untutored guitar strummers.”

The album above was released in 1968. You’ll hear Shankar discussing and demonstrating some of the elements of Indian music and also performing pieces. I have to admit, it remains compelling after all these years.

Pacific Symphony plays music by Shankar and Philip Glass (a disciple), including Shankar’s Sitar Concerto No. 3, April 12-14.

Here’s a short clip of Shankar teaching George Harrison how to play the sitar: