The Pacific Symphony Presents BRAHMS, BARTÓK AND BEYOND, 5/11

The Pacific Symphony Presents BRAHMS, BARTÓK AND BEYOND, 5/11

Eastern European melodies inspire an evolution of music that ranges from the expansive Gypsy lines of Brahms to the intimate, cosmos-searching details of Ligeti in "Brahms, Bartók and Beyond," the stirring final concert of Pacific Symphony's 2013-14 Café Ludwig series. Steeped with the charm of traditional folk music, compositions by Bartók and Brahms-two masters of the genre-round out Ligeti's innovative and probing "Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet," which explores the very foundations of music theory. Piano sensation Orli Shaham returns in her seventh season to host Symphony principal musicians including Benjamin Smolen on flute, Jessica Pearlman on oboe, Benjamin Lulich on clarinet, Rose Corrigan on bassoon, Keith Popejoy on horn, Raymond Kobler on violin, Robert Becker on viola and Timothy Landauer on cello, in the Samueli Theater on Sunday, May 11 (Mother's Day), at 3 p.m.

Audiences sip coffee or tea and sample sweet treats in the coffeehouse-style setting, while exploring the aural journey that also includes Bartók's "Three Folksongs from Csik," "Three Rondos on Slovak Folk Tunes" and "Romanian Folk Dances for Clarinet and Piano"; and "Piano Quartet No. 1." Tickets are $65 and $79; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit

"One of the enduring truths about music is that composers, no matter how ingenious and innovative, don't work in a vacuum," says Shaham. "Their work is always influenced by that of others around them, and in turn, influences others as well. I see a direct line from Brahms to Bartok to Ligeti."

Known to audiences for his compositions featured in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Shining," Ligeti "has infiltrated popular consciousness," notes classical music commentator Tom Service in a 2012 edition of The Guardian. The intimate details and existentialist musing so well-known in his modern works begin to take form in "Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet," an early composition strongly influenced by his countryman, Bartók.

"Ligeti's Bagatelles are some of my favorite pieces in the world," says Shaham. "The music is delicate, impassioned, soulful, spirited and deeply moving. I think many people are afraid to approach his music, but these Bagatelles are the perfect way to realize what an enjoyable voice Ligeti had as a composer. They are an excellent entree into his language."

Ligeti originally composed the Bagatelles in 1953 as a series of 11 piano pieces that explore the nature of the scale, then later expanded it to include a quintet of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn-the deceptively challenging arrangement that Symphony musicians perform for the first piece of the afternoon.

Like Ligeti, Bartók similarly focused on exploring the nature of music, and is often credited as one of the founders of modern ethnomusicology for his work in intertwining folk melodies with classical music. In his early fieldwork, Bartók transcribed traditional village folk songs for the recorder and piano, inspiring the composition "Three Folksongs from Csik." The piece features piano and oboe and succeeds in capturing the rustic charm of its origins.


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