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Pacific Symphony to Present Saint-Saëns' ORGAN SYMPHONY, 5/2-4

Related: Pacific Symphony, French Romantics, Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony

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The mighty forces of the William J. Gillespie concert organ pair with fleeting violin passages and an orchestral rhapsody during Pacific Symphony's next classical concert, "Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony," featuring music by the French Romantics.

Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs-called a "brilliant young organist and evangelist for the instrument" by The New York Times-returns for a reprise of Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3, "Organ." (Jacobs played the same piece in 2008 to inaugurate the $3.1-million organ.) Led by 24-year-old guest conductor and rising star Aziz Shokhakimov, the concert also features the Symphony debut of violin soloist Tianwa Yang-"an unquestioned master of the violin" (American Record Guide)-who performs Édouard Lalo's electrifying "Symphonie espagnole." Although the piece is referred to as a "symphony," it is widely considered a concerto and is also said to have inspired Tchaikovsky to write his own wildly popular Violin Concerto in D Major.

The program opens with Emmanuel Chabrier's "España," the composer's most famous orchestral composition, inspired by Spanish music and dances. Taking place Thursday through Saturday, May 2-4 at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the concert includes a preview talk with Alan Chapman at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$112; for more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

"This program features our wonderful William J. Gillespie C.B. Fisk Opus 130 Organ," says Music Director Carl St.Clair. "We're really happy that we can from time to time allow our audiences to hear this magnificent organ. It's also wonderful to have a friend such as Paul, who knows the instrument so well and can allow us to experience its greatness."

The Organ Symphony's haunting opening does little to reveal the grandiosity of what's to come and instead begins with a rising four-note figure that evolves into a much quicker Allegro development. The tension dwindles into a slower, melodic section that finally introduces the organ in an unexpected way: tranquil. It isn't until the fourth movement when the true power and might of the organ shines through. Audiences may recognize this climactic moment from the family film, "Babe"; a melody that Saint-Saëns called "the defeat of the restless, diabolical element," which leads to "the blue of a clear sky."

While France is the birth-place of all the composers featured in this concert, Spain is what inspires the first half of the program. The foot-stamping rhythms and flamenco-inspired beats of Chabrier's "España" set the tone, followed by Lalo's violin showcase "Symphonie Espagnole." After its premiere in 1875 by violin virtuoso Pablo Sarasate, Tchaikovsky wrote that "the work has given me great enjoyment. It is so fresh and light, and contains piquant rhythms and melodies which are beautifully harmonized.... Lalo is careful to avoid all that is routinier, seeks new forms without trying to be profound, and is more concerned with musical beauty than with traditions." Neither Spanish nor a symphony, the music offers plenty of fiery spice and a young violin talent in Yang is here to tame it with authority.

"For me, Lalo's 'Symphonie espagnole' is quite a special piece," says violinist Yang. "It leaves the form of a traditional violin concerto, and it is not in a traditional sense a symphony. It is more of a suite of Spanish folklore melodies and dance music, written in the most accomplished violinistic way. I have a strong affinity to Spain and its music ever since my first Sarasate recording. This piece by Lalo combines so many elements that are important to me: the brilliancy of the violin playing, the interaction between solo violin and orchestra and my beloved Spanish folklore elements."

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