PREVIEW: Pasadena Symphony to conclude 2011-2012 season tomorrow

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily



Pasadena Symphony;
Michael Stern, conductor

Wagner: Dawn and
Siegfried’s Rhine Journey
from Gtterdmerung

Richard Strauss: Four
Last Songs
(Christine Brewer, soprano)

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8

Tomorrow (Sat., April 28) at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Ambassador

Tickets: $35-$100 (student and senior rush tickets





When the Pasadena Symphony announced its 2011-2012 season,
the centerpiece of the final concerts (which takes place tomorrow) was soprano
Christine Brewer, internationally renowned particularly for her work in Wagner
and Strauss. Brewer will, indeed, be performing Richard Strauss’ achingly
beautiful Four Last Songs at the 2
p.m. and 8 p.m. concerts, but the day’s intrigue will be conductor Michael
Stern (pictured right), who is
replacing PSO Music Advisor James DePreist, who is recovering from recent, unexpected
heart surgery.


Stern — who was born in 1959 and is the son of legendary
violinist Isaac Stern — is now in his seventh season as music director of the
Kansas City Symphony and founded the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tenn. He’s
also building an impressive conducting resume in Europe. Locally, he made his
professional conducting debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra 2010 to
critical acclaim.


He’s also the 10th guest conductor to lead the
Pasadena Symphony since Jorge Mester’s 25-year tenure as PSO music director
ended in 2010.  It’s a tribute to
the quality of the PSO’s musicians that each of the 10 visiting maestros (or
maestra, in the case of Mei-Ann Chen) has been able to lead interesting, well-played
programs, even with limited rehearsal time. There are things an orchestra
misses without a music director (e.g., continuity, a galvanizing community
presence) but, at least judging by the PSO, performance quality isn’t one of


Tomorrow’s concerts are, as is often the case with the PSO,
centered on mainstream, 19th century Romantic music (even the
Strauss songs, which were written in 1948, a year before the composer died at
age 85, hearken back to Romantic era). Like works of many composers (e.g.,
Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand), the
title, Four Last Songs, didn’t come
from the composer; it was appended by Ernst Roth, chief editor of Boosey &
Hawkes, who combined Im Abendrot (a
poem by Joseph von Eichendorff) with three poems by Herman Hesse (Frhling, September, and Beim
to create the set.



(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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