Pacific Symphony Makes Carnegie Hall Debut In Philip Glass Program
Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, makes its Carnegie Hall debut in the concluding program of the venue's season-long celebration of the music of Philip Glass. The program explores the influence of Ravi Shankar and Indian aesthetics on Mr. Glass and features the New York premiere of his The Passion of Ramakrishna, a Pacific Symphony co-commission for chorus, soloists, and orchestra that was given its world premiere by Pacific Symphony in 2006. The Pacific Chorale, which sang in the world premiere, will join Pacific Symphony for the performance at Carnegie Hall. The program also includes "Meetings Along the Edge" from Glass/Shankar collaboration Passages and Shankar's Third Sitar Concerto, featuring the composer's daughter Anoushka Shankar as soloist. Philip Glass is Carnegie Hall's 2017-2018 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair.
The performance takes place at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium on Saturday, April 21, at 8:00 p.m. Tickets priced $33 to $95 are available from Carnegie Hall by phone at (212) 247-7800, online at carnegiehall.org, or in person at the box office.
Pacific Symphony was invited to perform by Mr. Glass and Carnegie Hall after decades of championing the composer's music in Orange County under Mr. St.Clair. The orchestra's most significant collaboration with Mr. Glass has been The Passion of Ramakrishna, co-commissioned with the Nashville Symphony. The 2006 world premiere of the work by Pacific Symphony and the Pacific Chorale under Mr. St.Clair was part of the opening ceremonies for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, where Pacific Symphony is the resident orchestra. The work was revived and recorded live during Pacific Symphony's 2011 American Composers Festival, which was dedicated to Mr. Glass and-like the Carnegie Hall program-explored the influence of India's music and philosophy on his style and artistic thought.
The Passion of Ramakrishna is an oratorio-style composition whose namesake, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-86), was a revered Bengali mystic and yogi who played a key role in shaping the modern Indian consciousness. As Mr. Glass states in his liner notes for Pacific Symphony's recording:
It would be hard to overestimate the impact that the life, presence and teaching of Sri Ramakrishna had on the formation of the modern India we know today. It was as if the sleeping giant of Indian culture and spirituality-certainly one of the foremost cultures of the ancient world-had been re-awakened and empowered to take its rightful place in modern times. ... It is hard to imagine the emergence of India on the world stage without the spark that was provided by Ramakrishna's brilliance. Perhaps, some may doubt that India-the most populous democracy of our time, brimming with vitality and creativity-could owe so much to one saintly man, long gone, who lived a life of such utter simplicity. Yet I believe that is exactly the case.
It has been said that when a great man dies, it is as if all of humanity-and the whole world, for that matter-were witnessing a beautiful, timeless sunset. At that moment "the great matter of life and death" is revealed, if not explained and understood. By bearing witness to that event, perhaps we understand a little better our own mortality, its limits and possibilities. The Passion of Ramakrishna is meant to recount, in this highly abbreviated work, his suffering, death and transfiguration as they took place during the last few months of his life.
The work's text is drawn from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the principal source for Ramakrishna's teachings translated into English. To hear Pacific Symphony's recording on Spotify, click here.
The first half of the Carnegie Hall program relates directly to Mr. Glass's artistic relationship with sitarist Ravi Shankar (1920-2012). The evening opens with "Meetings Along the Edge" from Passages, a 1990 Glass/Shankar collaboration in which each artist wrote arrangements around themes by the other. "Meetings Along the Edge," the fifth of the six pieces in Passages, features a mixture of themes by both composers. Passages originally appeared on a Glass/Shankar recording for Atlantic Records, and Pacific Symphony has recorded "Meetings Along the Edge," available as an iTunes bonus track to The Passion of Ramakrishna album.
Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka Shankar, a celebrated sitarist in her own right, joins Mr. St.Clair and Pacific Symphony in her father's Third Sitar Concerto. Ms. Shankar gave the work's world premiere in 2009, performing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. This concerto is one of four that Ravi Shankar composed for sitar and orchestra, and Ms. Shankar has performed these works around the world, with orchestras including the Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and New York Philharmonics.
About Pacific Symphony
Pacific Symphony, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair since 1990, has been the resident orchestra of Orange County's Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for over a decade. Founded in 1978, the Symphony is the largest orchestra formed in the U.S. in the last 50 years and is not only a fixture of musical life in Southern California, but also is recognized as an outstanding ensemble making strides on both the national and international scenes. In May 2018, Pacific Symphony will embark on its five-city, debut tour to China, joined by violin soloist Pinchas Zukerman. In Orange County, the orchestra presents more than 100 concerts and events each year and a rich array of education and community engagement programs, reaching more than 300,000 residents of all ages.
Under Mr. St.Clair, Pacific Symphony has achieved new heights of musical excellence while also diversifying its programming and expanding its community engagement activities. Through commissions, premieres, and recordings, the orchestra has become a champion of contemporary American music, with a discography devoted almost entirely to 20th- and 21st-century music by American composers, including William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, and Philip Glass. The orchestra has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, Naxos, Koch International Classics, Reference Recordings, and Sony Classical, among other labels.
Pacific Symphony has been recognized with multiple ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming and included among the country's five most innovative orchestras by the League of American Orchestras. The Symphony's education and community engagement activities have also been recognized by the League, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. These initiatives include community and youth concerts and ensembles, interactive events, masterclasses with guest artists, and classroom and summer programs for children.
For more information, visit pacificsymphony.org.
About Music Director Carl St.Clair
Over the course of his nearly three decades as Music Director, Carl St.Clair has transformed Pacific Symphony into a major American orchestra renowned for its superb musicianship, innovative programming, and outreach throughout Orange County. As one of America's longest tenured conductors, he has led the Symphony with a steady vision and unwavering commitment that have been key to the orchestra's rapid artistic development.
Highlights of his tenure include launching the American Composers Festival, which explores a different aspect of American music at each festival, and the annual Symphonic Voices performance of an opera in concert. He has also emphasized the regular commissioning and recording of new works, particularly by American composers, and has been a strong advocate for music education, spearheading such programs as the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles and Class Act partnerships with Orange County elementary schools.
Mentored by Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, Mr. St.Clair became a close colleague of the conductor/composer in his later years and led the premiere of Arias and Barcarolles at Bernstein's last concert. In addition to leading the Pacific Symphony and serving as an assistant conductor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (under both Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa), he has conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Montreal, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver Symphonies, among others.
He conducts internationally for several months each year and has served as General Music Director for the Komische Oper in Berlin, General Music Director and Chief Conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle in Weimar, Music Director of Costa Rica's National Symphony Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart.
About Anoushka Shankar
Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is a singular figure in the Indian classical and progressive world music scenes. Her dynamic and spiritual musicality has garnered prestigious accolades, including six Grammy Award nominations, recognition as the youngest-and first female-recipient of a British House of Commons Shield, credit as an Asian Hero by TIME Magazine, and a Songlines Best Artist Award. Most recently, she became one of the first five female composers to have been added to the UK A-level music syllabus.
Deeply rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition, she studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. By age 20, she made three classical recordings for EMI/Angel and received her first Grammy nomination, becoming the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category. In 2005, she released her self-produced breakthrough album Rise, which earned her a second Grammy nomination, and she became the first Indian artist to perform at the Grammy Awards.
In 2011, she signed with Deutsche Grammophon and received three further consecutive Grammy nominations. Her most recent album, Land of Gold, was written in response to the humanitarian trauma of displaced people fleeing conflict and poverty. Her compositional work includes cross-cultural collaborations with artists including Sting, M.I.A, Herbie Hancock, Pepe Habichuela, Karsh Kale, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Joshua Bell, demonstrating the versatility of the sitar across musical genres.
Her 2017-18 season includes premieres with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and at the Barbican, followed by a tour of India. Performances of Land of Gold bring her to Paris' Philharmonie, LG Arts Centre Seoul, Macao Cultural Centre, WOMADelaide, WOMAD New Zealand and the Sydney Opera House.
For more information, visit anoushkashankar.com.
About the Pacific Chorale
Now celebrating its 50th season, the Pacific Chorale is internationally recognized for exceptional artistic expression, stimulating American-focused programming, and influential education programs. The Chorale presents a performance season at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, and is sought regularly to perform with the nation's leading symphonies. The Chorale has infused an Old World art form with California's hallmark innovation and cultural independence, developing innovative new concepts in programming, and expanding the traditional concepts of choral repertoire and performance.
The Chorale comprises 140 professional and volunteer singers. In addition to its longstanding partnership with Pacific Symphony, the Chorale has performed with the Boston, National, and San Diego Symphonies, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among other American ensembles, and has toured extensively in Europe, South America and Asia.
The Chorale's numerous recordings include six with Carl St.Clair and the Pacific Symphony featuring music by contemporary American composers.
Educational programs include a Choral Academy for elementary school students modeled on the El Sistema movement; a Choral Camp presented with California State University, Fullerton providing high school students with training in music theory and vocal production; and a Choral Festival uniting 400 community members each summer in a free community performance, among other initiatives. The Chorale's many honors include awards from ASCAP and Chorus America.
Robert Istad became Artistic Director in the 2017-18 season after serving as Assistant Conductor since 2004.
For more information, visit pacificchorale.org.