Classical cover: ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’

From 1972.

Here’s how the opening of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra sounds in its original form, as famously used to launch Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Strauss conducts Strauss

Richard Strauss conducts his own “Till Eulenspiegel.” This is a clip from the documentary “The Art of Conducting: Great Conductors of the Past.” The first voice you hear speaking is Yehudi Menuhin’s.

Carl St.Clair conducts Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben” this week, doubtless with more enthusiasm.

 

Pacific Symphony: June concerts

This month we wind up the season with classical concerts and pops concerts. Here’s a quick guide to all of our events in June, with links to tickets.

Anne Akiko Meyers

A pair of young musicians who are already established in international careers visit the orchestra May 31-June 2. British conductor Ben Gernon, born in 1989, principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, makes his Pacific Symphony debut with a program that includes Prokofiev’s “Russian Overture” and Stravinsky’s vibrant ballet “Petrushka.” In between, Israel pianist Boris Giltburg, born in 1984, winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2013, takes on Rachmaninoff’s ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2. Tickets here

Pops conductor Richard Kaufman is on hand for the series finale (June 8-9), when Stayin’ Alive, a Bee Gees tribute band, arrives to re-create the hits of the kings of falsetto. On the first half of the program, Kaufman leads light classics by Johann Strauss Jr., Otto Nicolai, John Williams and others. Tickets here

Richard Strauss’ rambunctious tone poem “Ein Heldenleben” is featured in concerts June 14-16. With its extended violin solos, the work serves to introduce local audiences to the orchestra’s new concertmaster, Dennis Kim. Star violinist Anne Akiko Meyers also appears in a trio of short solo works, Ravel’s “Tzigane,” Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” and Bernstein’s “Somewhere.” Carl St.Clair conducts, opening the program with Glinka’s Overture to “Ruslan and Ludmilla.” Tickets here

A slightly truncated version of this concert (Lauridsen, Ravel, Strauss) is offered as a matinee on June 17. Tickets here

Also this month, at the Balboa Bay Resort, Pacific Symphony presents the 11th annual Pacific Coast Wine Festival, featuring  a wine auction and wine-paired dinner, and wine tasting of exceptional wines from the premier wine producing regions of the world. Tickets here

Pacific Symphony names new concertmaster

After more than a yearlong search, Pacific Symphony music director Carl St.Clair named violinist Dennis Kim as the orchestra’s new concertmaster today. He replaces concertmaster Raymond Kobler, who retired in the summer of 2016 after 17 years in the position.

“In Dennis Kim, I welcome a brilliant violinist, consummate musician and a dedicated musical partner,” St.Clair said. “As one who has been concertmaster of leading international orchestras, he is just the right artist to lead Pacific Symphony and its wonderful musicians toward all our musical aspirations.”

“I am excited and honored to take this important position with Pacific Symphony,” Kim said. “When Carl and I first worked together, there was an instant spark and both of us knew there was a special chemistry in our music making.”

Kim, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music, will assume the Eleanor and Michael Gordon Concertmaster Chair in September, at the beginning of Pacific Symphony’s 40th anniversary. He has already been playing with the orchestra, however, appearing as concertmaster in its three performances at Soka Performing Arts Center this season. 

In concerts June 14-17, Kim will perform as concertmaster-designate in a program that features Richard Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben,” a work with extensive violin solos.

Born in 1975 in Korea, Kim is currently concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic under music director JoAnn Falletta. He has also served as concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Seoul Philharmonic and the Tampere Philharmonic (in Finland). Additionally, Kim has performed as a guest concertmaster with a number of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Helsinki Philharmonic among others.

“Dennis is such a great match for Carl’s passionate approach to music making,” Pacific Symphony president John Forsyte said. “He possesses experience with such a wide range of orchestral, solo and chamber repertoire. We welcome him and his family to Orange County and wish him a long and artistically rewarding tenure.”

Kim’s teachers have included Jaime Laredo, Aaron Rosand and Peter Oundjian. He plays a violin with a distinguished pedigree, the 1701 “ex-Dushkin” Stradivarius, once owned by the violinist and Stravinsky collaborator Samuel Dushkin.

The quixotic quest of Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss’ “Don Quixote,” which the Pacific Symphony will play May 18-20, is one of the odder pieces in the orchestral repertory, or let us say on the fringes of the orchestral repertory, so seldom does it turn up in performance.

For one thing, it is one of the rare symphonic works that can be genuinely called comedic, symphonic music in general not known for the laughing it causes. For another, it is almost unique in being a piece in which the soloists play characters, in this case Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza (the qualifying “almost” used only because Berlioz’s “Harold in Italy” comes to mind as another).

Thirdly, there aren’t many pieces with a flock of bleating sheep roaming through it, though sheep indeed do make a brief appearance in a later Strauss work, “An Alpine Symphony.”

“Don Quixote,” of course, is what’s known as a symphonic poem or tone poem, a type of instrumental work that tells a story or paints a picture. Strauss excelled at writing them and became famous doing so. Written in 1897 and given its premiere in 1898, the work is inspired by the Cervantes novel and depicts characters and relates episodes described in the book. The subtitle on the title page of the score reads: “Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character.”

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