Pacific Symphony Serves Up Tchaikovsky's Holiday Hit, The Nutcracker Suite, With A Side Of Jazz

Pacific Symphony Serves Up Tchaikovsky's Holiday Hit, The Nutcracker Suite, With A Side Of Jazz

Pacific Symphony's initial December concert hints at holiday celebrations to come with a program entitled Holiday Classics: Nutcracker Sweet, (Dec. 6, 7 and 8). Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 with Markus Groh as soloist opens the program.

The rest of the program includes Vaughan Williams' majestic work for string orchestra, "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" and selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker alongside arrangements of Tchaikovsky's music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. These concerts include image magnification for audiences to get a closer look at the music making projected onto big screens in the concert hall. Concerts begin at 8 p.m., with a preview talk hosted by Alan Chapman at 7 p.m.

This program, sponsored by Michelle F. Rohé Distinguished Piano Fund, is presented by the Hal & Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, The Westin South Coast Plaza Costa Meza, PBS SoCal and Classical KUSC. Tickets start at $25. For more information or to purchase tickets call the box office at (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

The concert opens with pianist Markus Groh performing the Second Concerto of Brahms, a composer with whom he has a strong affinity. Berliner Morgenpost commented that "Markus Groh plays straight, just as God and Brahms instruct him...Groh now ranks at the top of the German tradition, worthy heir to Backhaus, Edwin Fischer and Wilhelm Kempff." Groh was the first German musician to win the Queen Elisabeth International Competition in 1995 and since then, his remarkable artistry and astonishing technique have confirmed his place among the finest pianists in the world. Sharing the same birthday with Alfred Brendel, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Maurizio Pollini, Groh has proven himself worthy of their company.

The second half of the program opens with the sublimely contemplative "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" by Ralph Vaughan Williams.' The work is inspired by the music of the English Renaissance and resembles an Elizabethan-age fantasy.

Next up, the concert celebrates the festive music of "The Nutcracker." Before the premiere of "The Nucracker" in 1892, Tchaikovsky released an eight-piece collection from the ballet called the "The Nutcracker" Suite, Op. 71 that awed audiences for centuries with classics like "Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy" and "Waltz of the Flowers." In 1960, Duke Ellington's recording company asked him what he wanted to record next. Ellington's colleague Billy Strayhorn, who was a classically trained American composer, suggested he do a jazz arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" Suite. "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" became the swinging "Sugar Rum Cherry" and "The Dance of the Reed Pipes" is transformed into the sassy "Toot Toot Tootie Toot." The beloved "Waltz of the Flowers" is transformed into a jazzy "Dance of the Floreadores." Music Director Carl St.Clair conducts Pacific Symphony in a swinging "Nutcracker" that alternates between Tchaikovsky's original dances and the Ellington/Strayhorn jazz arrangements. This swinging "Nutcracker" will be a Pacific Symphony first and a sweet treat for the holidays.

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