CLASS ACT: More concerts during a very busy November

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

In my biweekly print column, which is now online (LINK), I noted that November is a very busy month for classical music. In addition to the three events I mentioned, here are some others that didn’t make the cut due to space or other reasons.

I’m sorry that due to my ongoing health issues I won’t be able to attend this concert, but you should make every effort to travel to Costa Mesa this weekend. Bruckner’s eighth is one of the pinnacles of the symphonic canon and it has taken Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair more than 30 years before he felt ready to tackle this 90-minute work.

This is also the first PS program I can recall where the orchestra’s Writer-in-Residence, Timothy Mangan, has written so extensively about a program — this one is entitled “Cathedrals of Sound” — on the orchestra’s Blog.

In an interview (LINK) St.Clair notes that “I’ve wanted to conduct this piece for many years, but it’s like Mahler 9, it’s like all the pinnacle works, you have to build up to them. Not only does he, as a conductor, need to build up to Bruckner’s Eighth, but so do the musicians and the audience, he says. Accordingly, St.Clair has added an extra rehearsal for the orchestra. He’s also devised a prelude to the performance of the Eighth that he hopes will prepare the audience to hear the work.

“You can’t white knuckle it down the 5 or the 405 and every time you come to a stop you look at your phone, you text somebody, you send an Instagram, you answer the phone. You valet park, you run in, you slosh down a glass of white wine and you rush to your seat and then you hear the music of Anton Bruckner — it’s impossible,” he says.

Instead, writes Mangan, audience members will enter the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall before the performance as Gregorian chant is sung from the stage by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael Abbey. Organist Christoph Bull will play organ music by Bach and Bruckner. Video artists Nick and Clemens Prokop will project visuals on three screens that evoke the interiors of the majestic St. Florian Monastery in Linz, where Bruckner served as organist and is buried. The lighting will be low.

All of this is to create a more cathedral-like atmosphere of calm and contemplation, “so that the audience can have an opportunity to receive the music appropriately,” St.Clair says.

In addition to this extensive interview, Mangan has a nice video feature (LINK) on the Wagner tuba, that odd-shaped instrument that Bruckner — a Wagnerian of the first order — used in his Symphony No. 8.Mangan uses cute clips from the Berlin Philharmonic’s horn section to illustrate.

Information: Also, make sure you read the music notes ahead of time — LINK.

Considering that he is now age 81, one can’t be sure how many more times we’ll have to see this Swiss-born conductor and he comes with a program of music by Maurice Ravel, one of the composers with which Dutoit made his international reputation at, among other places, the Montreal Symphony.

The program includes Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, the Piano Concerto in G Major, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist, and rarely heard one-act opera, L’heure espagnole.

Incidentally, Dutoit and Thibaudet and London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra journey to Segerstrom Concert Hall on Jan. 25 for a program that includes Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian). Information:

BTW: Ravel’s G-Major concerto also shows up on this weekend’s all-French programs at the San Diego Symphony. Louis Lortie is the soloist and Johannes Debus will be the evening’s guest conductor. On Nov. 10 and 11 at Copley Symphony Hall. Information:

The orchestra’s new music director, Eckart Preu, picked an obvious date for this concert, which features a winning mixture of familiar and less-well-known pieces.

The former include Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

The latter category is headlined by Symphony No. 2, Songs of New Race, by African-American composer William Grant Still.

Somewhere in the middle is a work that was once so well known as to be considered a war horse but now appears rarely on symphonic programs: Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite.



(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Long Beach Symphony names Eckart Preu as next music director

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Preu-2016After a two-year-long search, East German native Eckart Preu has been named the eighth Music Director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. He replaces Enrique Arturo Diemiecke, who resigned at the end of the 2013-2014 season.

Preu (whose name rhymes with “joy” — a singularly good omen for a conductor) signed a three-year contract effective with the 2017-2018 season when he will program and conduct all six classical series concerts, all youth concerts and one Pops concert annually. He will be Music Director Designate for the upcoming season and will lead the Feb. 4, 2017 in Long Beach’s Terrace Theatre, which will include performances of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Saint-Säens’ Danse Macbre, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. INFO

Preu, who turns 47 on Thursday, has been Music Director of the Spokane (WA) Symphony since 2004 and of the Stamford (CT) Symphony since 2005. He will relinquish the latter role when he assumes the LBSO Music Director position in 2017.

Read Richard Guzman’s article in the Long Beach Press-Telegram HERE

The full LBSO media release follows:


LONG BEACH, CA, August 19, 2016 – Following a 2-year search that brought 9 guest conductors to the stage of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Long Beach Symphony proudly announces today that it has selected Eckart Preu (rhymes with “joy”) to take the helm under a 3-year contract beginning with its 2017-18 season.

Commenting on the decision, Symphony Board President, Irv Miller, said, “Eckart Preu’s execution of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4 at our June 4 Finale not only elevated the overall concert experience for our audience that night, but also excited our orchestra players. Maestro Preu’s genuine spirit of collaboration, partnership, and adventure makes us confident that we have identified a Music Director who can take our Symphony to the next phase of its development.”

Maestro Preu says he decided to accept the position with Long Beach Symphony “because of its pure excellence – an excellence that extends not only to the amazing quality of its musicians, but also to the excellence in how its staff and volunteers run the organization. He looks forward to getting to know the wider Long Beach community, including its inspired arts leaders, musicians, and supporters and relishes the opportunities that a community as large and impressive as Long Beach can bring.

When asked for comment on the appointment, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia expressed his approval saying, “The Symphony and the arts play a crucial role in our thriving community. The City of Long Beach wants to be among the first to welcome our talented new Maestro!

Maestro Preu will serve as Long Beach Symphony’s Music Director Designate during the 2016-2017 season, returning to Long Beach to conduct the Symphony Concerts for Young People on February 1 and 2, 2017 for over 12,000 Long Beach Unified 4th and 5th graders. Within that same week, he will conduct Berlioz’s magnificent Symphonie fantastique and Saint-Saens’ Danse macabre as well as Dukas’ classic, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at the February 4, 2017 Classical concert at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Terrace Theater. Tickets will be released on sale on September 10, 2016. Maestro Preu will continue to serve as Music Director of the Spokane Symphony (WA), but will step down from his current position with the Stamford Symphony (CT) next year.

Commencing in the 2017-2018 season, he will take on his full time Music Director position, and will program and conduct all six Classical series concerts, all Youth Concerts and one POPS! concert annually.

Maestro Preu’s philosophy on classical music complements the demographic make-up and cultural vibrancy of the Long Beach community. Paralleling the Symphony’s current efforts to reach out to diverse segments of the City with its Sounds and Spaces program, Maestro Preu believes that classical music can be accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Long Beach Symphony Executive Director, Kelly Ruggirello remarked that “in Eckart Preu, I have found a partner who shares a vision for a future that will deepen our programming, provide greater access to more residents, and further our artistic excellence.”

When he first began his tenure as Music Director of the Spokane Symphony, Maestro Preu led a night of cultural sharing through a Spokane Symphony performance with Spokane Tribal members. More recently, in March 2016, Maestro Preu collaborated with a local Washington state hip-hop collective, electro-pop duo, and singer-songwriters to mix their own original works with the Spokane Symphony’s performance of Peter and the Wolf. “The idea was to do something unpredictable, and to mesh things that, at first glance, don’t go together,” Preu said. “It’s getting down to the roots of music – we all play with the same notes, just in different ways and with different approaches. … It’s bringing all these genres together that usually don’t play in the same sandbox, and we basically just provide the sandbox.”

Eckart Preu was born in Erfurt, a town that was, at that time, part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). He and his older brother grew up with a musically-inclined father who started them on music lessons early in life. At age 10, they were enrolled in the Dresdner Kreuzchor (Dresden Boys’ Choir), one of the world’s oldest and most famous boys’ choirs and boarding schools. Preu studied there for 8 years, eventually becoming a soloist, rehearsal pianist and assistant conductor. Subsequently, he earned a master’s degree in conducting from the Hochschule fuer Musik in Weimar and then went to Paris for two years to study at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique, where he also served as Music Director of the Orchestre International de Paris from 1993-95.

Then in 1996, Preu won the National Conducting Competition of the German Academic Exchange Service, which afforded him the opportunity to come to the United States for graduate studies at the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut. Upon completion of his studies there, Preu became Assistant Conductor for the American Symphony Orchestra, a position he held from 1997-2004. During these years, he also held posts as principal conductor of the New Amsterdam (NY) Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony, among others.

In 2004, Preu decided to make a fresh start by moving to the state of Washington to accept the position of music director with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. To welcome him to the area, the Symphony put up billboards around town bearing Preu’s image. As the story goes, a young woman who drove by took one look at his fetching visage and instantly decided that was the man she was going to marry. The rest, as they say, is history. Eckart and that same woman, his wife, Neeley, currently reside in Spokane with their two daughters, ages 8 and 5.

Though his rigorous schedule, community involvement and young family do not leave much time for R&R, when he does manage to carve out some time for himself, Preu seeks quiet. “I am around music all day, so at the end of the day, I relish quiet. It is sacred to me.” It is partly for this reason that he has recently taken up golf. He enjoys the peacefulness of the golf course and the opportunity to commune with nature. And, in seemingly diametric opposition to that, Preu also loves action movies!

• The LBSO has also rounded out its conducting roster for the upcoming season. Mei-Ann Chen, who has appeared with the Pasadena Symphony and Pacific Symphony locally, will conduct a program of Glink, Rachmaninoff and Respighi on Nov. 19, while Paul Polivnick will lead an evening of Beethoven, Lebrun and Dvorak on March 8. Full-season INFO.

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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