The Pacific Symphony Presents TCHAIKOVSKY SPECTACULAR, Today

The Pacific Symphony Presents TCHAIKOVSKY SPECTACULAR, Today

Heart-pounding cannons, dazzling fireworks and rich, expressive music by Russian Romantics combine to create an exhilarating "Tchaikovsky Spectacular," bringing "Mercedes-Benz presents Pacific Symphony's Summer Festival 2014" to a dramatic close. Russia's powerhouse pianist Rachmaninoff-known for composing thundering piano concertos to show off his own virtuosity-lends his "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" to the talents of Jon Nakamatsu, a California native and 10th gold medalist of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Mussorgsky's vivid "Pictures at an Exhibition," a musical evocation of the paintings by his late friend Viktor Hartmann, is performed in Ravel's colorful orchestration with visual cues on the screen. Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, the concert opens with some of Tchaikovsky's incomparable dance music, the Waltz and Polonaise from "Eugene Onegin." The evening concludes in grand tradition with the dramatic finale of fireworks and 16 cannon shots in Tchaikovsky's victorious "1812" Overture, featuring the Huntington Beach Concert Band, which also provides pre-concert entertainment.

This aural and visual spectacle takes place Saturday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. Concert tickets range from $25 (lawn seating) to $105 (orchestra seating); children under 14 are half price in most sections with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit Summer Festival 2014 is also supported by the Orange County Register and media sponsors K-Earth 101, KPCC, KUSC and PBS SoCal.

"Jon Nakamatsu plays with the calm assurance that comes of having both a solid technique and a gentle, introspective, interpretive spirit." -The New York Times.

"I started studying Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini' when I was about 19, and played it for the first time with an orchestra shortly thereafter," says Nakamatsu. "It has been in my repertoire ever since, and I was able to record it back in 2000. I love the juxtaposition of raw energy and virtuosity (from both the pianist and the orchestra) with the most sublime lyricism and melodic innovation. This piece has become so popular that one forgets how sophisticated the writing actually is. Rachmaninoff was truly an amazing composer."

Continuing to draw unanimous praise as a true aristocrat of the keyboard, Nakamatsu's playing combines elegance, clarity and electrifying power-the ideal mixture needed for the inventiveness of "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." Written as 24 variations on Paganini's Capriccio in A Minor, its overall structure is similar to the fast-slow-fast arrangement of a concerto. The most famous is the soft and beautiful singing melody of the 18th variation, an inversion of the original, played in D-flat minor. Nakamatsu came to international attention when he was the top winner in the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He is the only American to have achieved this distinction since 1981.