PSYO to Present Spring 2013 Concert as Conductor Maxim Eshkenazy's Farewell, 3/10

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It's a fond farewell for Pacific Symphony's beloved Assistant Conductor Maxim Eshkenazy, as he leads Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO) in their 2012-13 "Spring Concert." During his five-year tenure as music director of PSYO, Eshkenazy has enhanced the ensemble's creativity through unique collaborations, performances of contemporary music, interdisciplinary projects and its first international tour to his native country, Bulgaria. In 2012, the ensemble was named Youth Orchestra of the Year by Classics Alive, and a record-breaking 402 people auditioned for the current season. In the spirit of these accomplishments, the Pacific Chorale Honor Choir (PCHC), led by Robert Istad, joins PSYO (for the fourth time) in a performance of masterpieces and music that holds a personal connection to the maestro.

The "Spring Concert" takes place Sunday, March 10, at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $12, general admission. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

The Youth Orchestra opens the performance with the premiere of a new work by Pacific Symphony's principal tuba player Jim Self, "El Guapo, Latin Dance for Orchestra," commissioned in honor of Eshkenazy's departure, and finishes with the fourth movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

"When I started thinking about this particular concert, I knew it was going to be my last with PSYO, so I wanted it to be significant-my way of saying goodbye," says Eshkenazy. "I've chosen to conclude the concert with the fourth movement of Mahler's First Symphony, which is one of the first symphonies that I conducted with this orchestra.

"Jim Self is one of the foremost tuba players on the planet, and he is also a spectacular composer," continues Eshkenazy. "He wrote a piece called 'El Guapo,' which means 'the handsome one.' It's a Latin dance for orchestra; it has a beat that the orchestra really enjoys playing."

PCHC joins the orchestra for a Bulgarian piece by Georgi Andreev, "Kate, Katerino," Frank Ticheli's "There Will Be Rest," Beethoven's oratorio "Hallelujah" from "Christ on the Mount of Olives" and Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow" from his comic operetta "Candide," a positive take on Voltaire's satirical novel.

"For our fourth collaboration with Pacific Chorale Honor Choir and Robert Istad, we chose four pieces to be played with the orchestra and the choir-one beloved Bernstein piece, 'Make Our Garden Grow' from 'Candide'; Beethoven's 'Hallelujah'; and two pieces that are very special to me. One is by a Bulgarian composer named Georgi Andreev, who is a very good friend of mine. I've premiered many pieces of his in Bulgaria at Fortissimo Fest, so I called and asked him if he had something for orchestra and choir-and he came up with a very beautiful rendition of a Bulgarian folk song, 'Kate, Katerino'...how beautiful you are. The second is Frank Ticheli's 'There Will Be Rest,' which struck me with its depth and power; I loved it the very first time I heard it."

Notable projects during Eshkenazy's reign have included PSYO's first tour to the concert halls of Plovdiv, Sophia and Varna, Bulgaria, playing to standing-room-only audiences; two performances with the Steve Miller Rock Symphony; a cross-multidisciplinary exploration called "Dvorák and America," funded by the National Endowment of Humanities; and collaborations with the Dmitri Kulev Ballet Academy for "Swan Lake"; as well as the four performances with PCHC.

"The last five years have been a very, very special time of my life because of the bond that was created between me and the orchestra," says Eshkenazy. "I've fallen in love with this orchestra, and it's with a very heavy heart that I am saying goodbye. But I know the future will be bright for the orchestra and for me. And I'm looking forward to one day coming back and doing something with them again."

Founded in 1993, PSYO has emerged as Orange County's premier training orchestra. Under the artistic direction and guidance of Pacific Symphony's renowned Music Director Carl St.Clair, PSYO is quickly being recognized as one of the most outstanding youth orchestras in our country. Representing 36 schools in and beyond Orange County this season, PSYO offers performance opportunities to instrumentalists in grades 9 through 12 and is one of three Youth Ensembles programs offered by Pacific Symphony. PSYO provides members with a high-quality and innovative artistic experience and strives to encourage musical and personal growth through the art of performance. Each season, students enjoy interaction with Maestro St.Clair, as well as with guest artists and professional musicians of Pacific Symphony.

The Symphony's new Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez, who made his debut leading the Family concert "The Magic Flute" in January, returns to the podium for PSYO's "Season Finale," featuring a solo from the 2012-13 Concerto Competition winner Justin Koga performing Elgar's cello concerto in E Minor, Chabrier's "España" and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4-on Sunday, May 12, at 3 p.m.