California Symphony Season Finale Includes Brahms, Sibelius, and A World Premiere

California Symphony Season Finale Includes Brahms, Sibelius, and A World Premiere California Symphony presents season finale SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek on Sunday May 6th at 4pm. The concert sees Music Director Donato Cabrera reunite with internationally acclaimed and award-winning pianist Haochen Zhang, who performs the grand and virtuosic Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2. Also on the program is Sibelius' Symphony No. 3, plus the debut of Composer-in-Residence Katherine Balch's first commission for the California Symphony, like a broken clock. This is the final concert in the Symphony's 2017-18 Larger Than Life season, which has seen the California Symphony continue to buck industry trends, expanding audiences by 16% and increasing subscription sales by 14% over last year.

Starting the season finale program is the world premiere of California Symphony composer-in-residence Katherine Balch's like a broken clock - the first of three scheduled commissions for the California Symphony during her three-year tenure, 2017-20.

Balch was invited to workshop the piece with the orchestra in January. In this respect, the California Symphony's Young American Composer-in-Residence program is quite different from other residencies where composers are expected simply to deliver the finished piece, and where opportunities for interaction and feedback are limited.

"Katie's approach to composition is full of inventiveness and whimsy. I think our audience will not only hear the implications that the title of the piece implies, but will also be surprised by how she goes about creating these sounds."-Music Director Donato Cabrera

The title of the work is taken from a Joanna Newsom song, In California. Balch explains: "She sings in one line 'like a little clock / that trembles on the edge of the hour / only ever calling out Cuckoo Cuckoo.'" The text piqued her interest in "off-kilter, delicate tapping/clicking rhythms" and inspired her to create a set of digitized wave forms of the sound of the chiming of a grandfather clock, which she manipulated for like a broken clock. Balch says her music is "often influenced by extra-musical arts, philosophy, and literature," and she describes like a broken clock as "sputtering, ticking, clanging, summoning the minutes and seconds that jitter and dance."

Katherine Balch, 26, is the California Symphony's current Young American Composer-in-Residence (2017-2020). Often influenced by the extra-musical arts, literature, and philosophy, she pursues a heterogeneous yet formally cohesive aesthetic characterized by gestural lyricism. Her music has been commissioned and performed by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Alea III, Antico Moderno, FLUX Quartet, New York Virtuoso Singers, Yale Philharmonia, American Modern Ensemble, wildUp, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and others in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus and the Suntory Hall in Tokyo. A 2017 Charles Ives Scholarship winner from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has been recognized by fellowships from IRCAM Manifeste, Fontainebleau, Aspen and Norfolk music festivals, several ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, New England Conservatory's Donald Martino Prize, Fontainebleau's Prix du Composition, the Grand Prize in the International Society of Bassists Composition Competition, Yale's Alumni Association Prize, and the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize.

Katherine completed her B.A./B.M. in the Tufts University/ New England Conservatory joint-degree program, where she double majored in history and political science at Tufts and studied composition at NEC. During her M.M. at Yale School of Music, she studied with Aaron Kernis, Christopher Theofanidis (a former California Symphony Young American Composer-in-Residence), and David Lang. She recently began her D.M.A. at Columbia University, studying with Georg Haas. Passionate about education at all levels, she is a faculty member of Bard College-Conservatory's preparatory division and the Walden School, a renowned summer program for young composers in Dublin, NH.

Brahms waited 22 years after his first piano concerto to debut his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, in 1881. One of only four concertos that Brahms wrote during his lifetime, his Piano Concerto No. 2 is an expansive four-movement concerto in the tradition of grand, sweeping Romantic composers, blending moments of drama and tenderness and culminating in thrilling finale. It is also fiendishly difficult to play: pianist Alfred Brendel famously referenced its "unsurpassable pianistic perversions."

Taking on the challenge of performing the piece is Van Cliburn competition winner Haochen Zhang. Music Director Donato Cabrera said: "I've been waiting for the right opportunity to bring back Haochen since we first worked together in 2013 on Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. I could tell through his approach to the Beethoven that he'd bring the same wonderful singing qualities to the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2."

Since his gold medal win at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009, 27-year-old Chinese pianist Zhang has captivated audiences in the United States, Europe, and Asia with a unique combination of deep musical sensitivity, fearless imagination and spectacular virtuosity. In 2017, he received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, which recognizes the potential for a major career in music.

Zhang has already appeared with many of the world's leading festivals and concert series including the BBC Proms with Yu Long and the China Philharmonic. He is a popular guest soloist for many orchestras in his native China, and has played with the Munich Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony, the NDR Hamburg and the Mariinsky Orchestra. In past seasons, Zhang has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, LA Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, London Symphony, Japan Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, and Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestras.

In February 2017, Zhang's latest recital CD was released by BIS, including works by Schumann, Brahms, Janá?ek, and Liszt. Zhang's performances at the Cliburn Competition were released to critical acclaim by Harmonia Mundi in 2009. He is also featured in Peter Rosen's award-winning documentary chronicling the 2009 Cliburn Competition, A Surprise in Texas.

Zhang is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied under Gary Graffman. He previously trained at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Shenzhen Arts School, where he was admitted in 2001 at the age of 11 to study with Professor Dan Zhaoyi.

Also on the program is Sibelius' Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 52 (1907), which stands in contrast to the expansive Brahms piece. His third symphony is the first of Sibelius' seven symphonies where the composer switched from his previous neo-Tchaikovskian expansiveness to a more stark, anti-Romantic style, that favored economy and brevity. Even the number of movements is reduced from the usual four to just three.

"Since the Brahms is such a massive piece, it really does deserve to be on the second half of the program. Therefore, I needed a symphonic piece on the first of the program that was in contrast to the Brahms, yet could hold its own in terms of sound and meaning. All of Sibelius' glorious symphonies can do this, but the Third Symphony is particularly appropriate because of its sound world and length," said Music Director Donato Cabrera.

Donato Cabrera is Music Director of the California Symphony and the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and served as the Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2009-2016 season.

Since Cabrera's appointment as Music Director of the California Symphony, the organization has been reinvigorated, with its expanded concerts, dramatically increased ticket sales, and innovative programming, the California Symphony and Cabrera are redefining what it means to be an orchestra in the 21st Century. Under Cabrera's leadership, The Las Vegas Philharmonic has also enjoyed a dramatic increase in ticket sales and an engagement with the community never before seen in Southern Nevada.

Over the last couple of seasons, Cabrera has made impressive debuts with the National Symphony's KC Jukebox at the Kennedy Center, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Louisville Orchestra, Hartford Symphony, New West Symphony, Sinfonica de Oaxaca, and the Orquestra Filarmonica de Boca del Rio. In 2016, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in performances with Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs. Cabrera co-founded the New York-based American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), and recently led performances of Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson's Drone Mass with ACME and Theatre of Voices at Duke Performances and the Big Ears Festival.

Awards and fellowships include a Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship at the Salzburg Festival and conducting the Nashville Symphony in the League of American Orchestra's prestigious Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. Donato Cabrera was recognized by the Consulate-General of Mexico in San Francisco as a Luminary of the Friends of Mexico Honorary Committee, for his contributions to promoting and developing the presence of the Mexican community in the Bay Area.

The California Symphony, now in its fifth season under the leadership of Music Director Donato Cabrera, is a world-class, professional orchestra based in Walnut Creek, in the heart of the San Francisco East Bay since 1990. Our vibrant concert series is renowned for featuring classics alongside American repertoire and works by living composers. The Orchestra is comprised of musicians who have performed with the orchestras of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and others, and many of its musicians have been performing with the California Symphony for nearly all its existence.

Outside of the concert hall, the symphony actively supports music education for social change through its El Sistema-inspired Sound Minds program at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA, which brings intensive music instruction and academic enrichment to Contra Costa County schoolchildren for free, in an area where 94% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program. We also host the highly competitive Young American Composer-in-Residence program, which this season welcomes its first female composer, Katherine Balch. California Symphony has launched the careers of some of today's most-performed soloists and composers, including violinists Sarah Chang and Anne Akiko Meyers, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and composers such as Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, and Kevin Puts. The Orchestra performs at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

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