Pacific Symphony Announces 2014-15 Season, Celebrating Carl St. Clair's 25 Years as Director
Pacific Symphony announces what is perhaps its most significant season to date for the 36-year-old orchestra-the 2014-15 Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation Classical Series and special events, celebrating Music Director Carl St. Clair's 25 years at the helm. Filled with giant stars and giants of the repertoire that have moved listeners for centuries, the season is pure St. Clair-embracing and celebrating all that great music can mean to the human heart. This milestone anniversary season has been carefully handcrafted by the maestro, steeped in music with deep meaning for him, as he is surrounded by friends who also happen to be some of the classical music world's biggest luminaries: Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell, to name just three. The biggest season ever-it includes more special guests, stellar 21st-century composers and some of St. Clair's greatest mentors and dearest friends.
While the theme of the season, "celebrating St. Clair's 25 years on a journey of illumination," reflects the maestro's quarter of a century at the helm of the orchestra-bringing light, understanding and appreciation to music throughout his tenure-it also envisions the future.
The season is rich with inventive and forward-thinking projects. Among the many highlights that are undeniably part of St.Clair's legacy-the Symphony, for the fifth year in a row, offers three new innovative Music Unwound programs, designed to contextualize and enhance the musical experience: "Cathedrals of Sound," "For the Love of Bernstein" and "Fire & Water." The highly popular opera and vocal initiative that began three seasons ago-"Symphonic Voices"-continues with Bizet's "Carmen," and special attention is given to the Symphony's relationship with the Pacific Chorale and the Southern California Children's Chorus. Additionally, the critically acclaimed American Composers Festival enters its 14th year by focusing on one of today's most iconic musician-composers: André Previn. Other contemporary composers playing a role in the season include Christopher Rouse, James Newton Howard, Laura Karpman and Narong Prangcharoen.
"I don't need to be celebrated," insists St. Clair. "I want to know that the values I possess and, in turn, the Symphony's core values are being celebrated, and that the orchestra's future is secured. For me, it's a time to pay homage to our community, a chance to say thank you to our patrons.
"The Pacific Symphony musicians and the role they have played in the success of orchestra are the true heroes of our story. It is our partnership that is the real legacy of the past 25 years. I also want to express my gratitude to our board of directors for their unwavering support. The backbone of the Symphony is the subscribers, ticket buyers and donors, who make our work possible. The greatest gift to me on this occasion is for many new patrons to subscribe to the classical season."
"The board of directors is proud to share Carl's vision of musical excellence and innovation," says Pacific Symphony Board Chair Michael Kerr. "We are stepping forward to invest and support his ambitious programming that enriches our community in countless ways."
Pacific Symphony President John Forsyte adds, "It is no surprise that so many illustrious figures in the classical music world are coming to celebrate. This is a nationally significant milestone. Few music directors achieve such longevity with an institution, and Carl can be credited with putting Pacific Symphony on the map. With his bold vision for community education, thematic programs, new commissions, and collaborations, Pacific Symphony has been regularly cited for its contributions to the orchestral landscape. This announcement is just the start. During the coming months other initiatives to expand service to Orange County and the region will be unveiled. Personally, I am proud to have collaborated with such a wonderful man for the last fifteen years."
For more information or to purchase season tickets for 12 classical concerts: $270-$990; for 14 concerts-including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman: $360-$1,340 ($2,350, Box Circle); and for four Sunday Casual Connections, $85-$325; call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. See attached concert calendar at the bottom for specific performance dates.
SOUNDING THE BELL: SEASON'S ON!
The Symphony's 2014-15 season takes off like a rocket, beginning with an opening night that features a true classical superstar-Joshua Bell. Like no other violinist of recent times, Bell has captured the imaginations of both critics and audiences alike. Interview magazine once said Bell's playing "does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live." Performing with the Symphony on Sept. 25-27, St.Clair welcomes back his old friend, who was here in May 2010 to celebrate the maestro's 20th anniversary with a one-night-only concert. The extraordinary violin virtuoso returns to launch St.Clair's 25th anniversary with three performances of Glazunov's emotional and lyrically beautiful Violin Concerto, a true showpiece for the master violinist. As the featured soloist on the movie soundtrack for "The Red Violin" and James Newton Howard's Academy-Award®- and Grammy®-nominated score for "Defiance," Bell received a rave review from the composer John Corigliano (during his acceptance speech upon receiving the Oscar for best film score for "The Red Violin"): "Joshua Bell plays like a god."
The program includes a piece by the legendary film composer John Williams, who has won so many awards he has lost count of the number: "Sound the Bells!," a celebratory fanfare showpiece for the orchestra's percussion section. Williams has long held a close relationship with St.Clair-one that dates back to 1989, when the famous conductor-composer introduced a young assistant conductor at Boston Symphony to an emerging orchestra on the West Coast.
St.Clair says, "I never would have known about Pacific Symphony were it not for John Williams." Fittingly, then, St.Clair's 25th anniversary season launches with the renowned composer's music.
Plus, the evening offers the West Coast premiere of a piece by one of today's leading composers, Christopher Rouse, called "Supplica"; and Ravel's epic Suite No. 2 from "Daphnis and Chloe."
A SEASON OF GIANTS
Maestro St.Clair welcomes two more icons of the classical music world who make appearances during special one-time-only performances. First, the reigning virtuoso of the violin, Itzhak Perlman, who enjoys a superstar status rarely afforded a classical musician, joins the Symphony led by St.Clair for an extraordinary evening in January 2015. The concert exploits the heart-stopping beauty of Beethoven's only Violin Concerto in the hands of a beloved master, plus, the orchestra performs Berlioz' "Roman Carnival Overture"-a short, dashing musical romp, orchestrated in the composer's brightest colors; and Stravinsky's enchanted and compelling "Firebird Suite."
Then, in early May 2015, another of the few true members of classical music royalty, Yo-Yo-Ma, in a one-night-only performance, reminds Orange County why he has garnered such extraordinary and broad popular appeal. Whether performing familiar works from the cello repertoire or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, this stunning soloist strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination and move the heart.
GREAT MUSIC, ENDLESS TALENT, DEAR FRIENDS
This is a season committed to both the great masterworks and the new and the bold-performed by some of today's most-admired artists. St.Clair set out to design a season that worked as a whole, not just a series of single concerts-seeking to balance great traditions in orchestral music with new discoveries-performed by top talent. In addition to Bell, Ma and Perlman, the Symphony welcomes the return of a number of St.Clair's famous friends who rally willingly around the maestro, anxious to be part of the celebration.
"I am honored that so many of my musical friends have chosen to be with us during this season," says St.Clair. "It allows me an opportunity to pay my appreciation to them for all they have meant to me, Pacific Symphony and to our audiences during my tenure as music director.
"Every single work on this year's programming has a special reason for being there," he continues. "Whether it is a work the orchestra and I have had a particularly special relationship with, or a short work of homage to say 'thank you,' or a world premiere, or a beloved standard-they all have meaning and have been especially place during the season."
On the second concert of the season, venerable composers Beethoven and Rachmaninoff get equal time. The program features Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, which concluded St.Clair's very first appearance as the Symphony's music director-25 years ago. The Los Angeles Times called that concert "a bright beginning," saying of Beethoven's work: "They made it a brisk and energetic showpiece. It was never dutiful, never dull."
St.Clair's long-time friend Alain Lefèvre-described by the Toronto Star as having "the 10 most agile fingers to have emerged from Quebec"-who joined St.Clair on his first commercial recording with Pacific Symphony in 1994 and last performed with the orchestra in 2009-10-is back to perform Rachmaninoff's exhilarating Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the world's best-known, most popular and lyrical piano concertos.
The stunning violinist Augustin Hadelich returns to tackle Tchaikovsky's alluring Violin Concerto-a test of skill for any violinist but putty in the hands of this artist. Hadelich is hailed as "one of the most distinctive violinists of his generation" by The New York Times, which said he has "dazzling technique, a gorgeous tone and penetrating, spontaneous musicality."
In 2012-13, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in the hands of the dynamic Canadian violinist and international sensation James Ehnes-hailed as "the Jascha Heifetz" of our day by the United Kingdom's Globe and Mail-was unforgettable. Now, in a world premiere, Ehnes unveils James Newton Howard's Violin Concerto, which is also being recorded for commercial release. The Washington Post has called Ehnes' tone "notably beautiful, with its pitch-perfect attack, roundness and consistent gleam."
"James Ehnes...succeeds impressively in being more than merely thrilling...it's playing of phenomenal control, allied to musicianship of the highest order."-The Times (London). Ehnes has won numerous awards and prizes, including six Junos, a Grammy and a Gramophone Award.
Chinese prodigy Haochen Zhang-of whose playing the Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung has said, "everything superfluous is removed and even the smallest part has light, air and meaning to it"-performs Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 with the Symphony. In June 2009, Zhang became the youngest and the first Chinese competitor to be awarded the prestigious Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
St.Clair's good friend, Benjamin Pasternack, who won the highest prize awarded at the 40th Busoni International Piano Competition in 1988, joins the maestro for a concert that pays tribute to St.Clair's greatest mentor, the legendary Leonard Bernstein. Pasternack, a frequent guest of the Symphony, was also part of St.Clair's 20th anniversary season.
Sensational Irish pianist Barry Douglas, who has established a major international career since winning the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow, joins the orchestra to perform Beethoven's last and, for many, his greatest piano concerto, "Emperor."
"Douglas' timing and flexibility, and his rhythmic élan, not to mention his virtuoso technique, brought the piece to dramatic life."-Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register
The Symphony's principal musicians-Timothy Landauer, cello; Raymond Kobler, violin; Paul Manaster, violin, Jeanne Skrocki, violin and Bridget Dolkas, violin-star in a concert featuring selections from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" suite. For this version of the famous ballet score, with assistance from the Symphony's Artistic Adviser Joseph Horowitz, actors and dancers reinstate Prokofiev's vision for a happy ending, which was banned by Joseph Stalin in favor of Shakespeare's tragic finale. This piece was performed by the Symphony during its 2006 European tour, when German critics praised a "broad string sound that had been polished into brilliance," saying, "It was magnificent, the way the strings were allowed to sob beneath Juliet's balcony."
And it's the full orchestra in the grand spotlight for one of Tchaikovsky's best-loved scores-the Symphony No. 6, "Pathétique," last performed in early 2010 as the core of a concert focused on exploring the turbulent life of Tchaikovsky the man through his music. Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" played an important role in St.Clair's musical life, as it was performed with the orchestra's musicians during the inaugural season in January 1990, almost 25 years ago.
"The incredible musicians of Pacific Symphony, both past and present members of the orchestra, are the real heroes of this 25th Anniversary," says St.Clair. "Without their musical support and collaborative energy, this 25th year could have a completely different resonance. I am the luckiest conductor I know! To have had the opportunity to lead these wonderful musicians for these years is the greatest gift of my musical life. It is a unique relationship. It will not be repeated. I will always be thankful to them for their musical trust."
ENCORE! OPERA GOES SYMPHONIC FOR 4TH TIME
Encouraged by sell-out crowds for the last three seasons and inspired by St.Clair's stellar career as an opera conductor in Europe, the Symphony once again presents concert opera. From the successful debut in 2011-12 of Puccini's heartbreaking "La Bohème," to Puccini's "Tosca" in 2012-13, and Verdi's "La Traviata" in 2013-14-opera continues in 2014-15 with a semi-staged production of Bizet's "Carmen" taking place over three thrilling nights. Bizet's seductive and irresistible rhythms bring the riveting tale of love and lust to life, as the orchestra shares the stage with world-class opera stars, including mezzo-soprano (Orange County's resident diva) Milena Kiti?, as well as the Pacific Chorale and the Southern California Children's Chorus. Together they fill the concert hall with astonishing voices as Bizet's dramatic tale unfolds, while "Carmen's" unforgettable score with its intoxicating melodies and the sultry sounds of Spain are highlighted by some of opera's finest arias and best-loved moments. St.Clair also points out that, "It is also a work where the orchestra plays a central role, and in the concert hall's glorious acoustics the music will be center stage."
St.Clair was the former general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle (GNTS) in Weimar, Germany, where he led Wagner's "Ring Cycle" to great critical acclaim. During his tenure at the Komische Oper Berlin, St.Clair led acclaimed productions of not only "La Traviata," but also the world premiere of Christian Jost's "Hamlet" and the heralded production of "Lear" by Aribert Reimann, one of Germany's most distinguished composers.
AMERICAN COMPOSER FIT FOR A FESTIVAL: André Previn
The Symphony's critically-acclaimed American Composers Festival enters its 14th season with the Symphony's spotlight on the multi-talented André Previn and his accomplished and fascinating career. With a mission to engage and challenge audiences through the creation and presentation of new and under-appreciated works in unique concert formats, accompanied by educational enrichment activities, the ACF in 2015, led by St.Clair, explores the talents of one of the most versatile musicians of the last century, celebrating the illustrious composer's classical scores in an all-Previn program. The concert includes the West Coast premiere of the composer's Double Concerto, while also featuring violinist Jamie Laredo, cellist Sharon Robinson and soprano Elizabeth Futral.
With an international career in classical music, Previn has previously enjoyed success in movies, musicals, popular music and jazz. No stranger to the Southland, he was raised in southern California and served as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1985-89.
THE IMPORTANCE OF 21ST-CENTURY COMPOSERS
"Ah, living composers-they have played such a vital role in helping shape and create Pacific Symphony's artistic character and profile, both nationally and internationally. If I begin to list them all, I would certainly omit someone, so I'll forgo doing that. I only wish that all of them could be with us during this season, but it simply isn't possible. They will, however, be with us in spirit and as important partners throughout the past 25 years."
Under the guidance of St.Clair, the Symphony has long been dedicated to championing today's young and established composers and to expanding the orchestral repertoire. By developing strong relationships-both professional and personal-with many of these leading composers, the Symphony has begun to create a signature canon of work for the orchestra. This season is certainly no exception. In addition to Previn (ACF) and Karpman (Music Unwound), the orchestra welcomes the return of classical and film composer, James Newton Howard, whose world-premiere violin concerto is the second new piece by Howard to debut on the Symphony's stage (following "I Would Plant a Tree" in 2009). On the same program with Howard, is Frank Ticheli's "There Will be Rest," written in memory of Carl St.Clair's son, Cole Carsan St.Clair.
Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen's piece, "Sattha for Strings, Piano and Percussion"-a memorial to the Tsunami tragedy of 2004 in his native country-had its premiere with the Symphony at the end of 2005 and made a second appearance on the Symphony stage during the 2011-12 season. Now the young talent returns for the world premiere of his new work, "Fanfare for Carl St.Clair." Prangcharoen was also recently named as the Symphony's composer-in-residence during the 2014-15 season, and is involved in numerous Symphony projects throughout the season.
In the past, the orchestra has commissioned such leading composers as Paul Chihara, William Bolcom, Daniel Catán, William Kraft, Ana Lara, Tobias Picker, Christopher Theofanidis, Frank Ticheli and Chen Yi, who composed a cello concerto in 2004 for Yo-Yo Ma. The Symphony has also commissioned and recorded "An American Requiem," by one of the Symphony's composers-in-residence, Richard Danielpour, in 2002, and Elliot Goldenthal's "Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio" with Yo-Yo Ma. Other recordings have included collaborations with numerous composers.
NEW RECORDINGS, OLD RELATIONSHIPS
The recent slate of recordings under the Symphony's American Music Recording Project began with two CDs in 2012-13 featuring the orchestra and two of today's leading composers-Philip Glass' "The Passion of Ramakrishna" (August 2012) and Michael Daugherty's "Mount Rushmore" and "Gospel According Sister Aimee" (April 2013), both the result of works commissioned by the Symphony, with three more recordings due to be released over the next few years. These feature the music of Symphony-commissioned works by William Bolcom, "Songs of Lorca" and "Prometheus," followed by James Newton Howard's "I Would Plant a Tree," and Richard Danielpour's "Toward a Season of Peace."