STORY AND LINK: Pasadena Symphony announces 2012-2013 season

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

As the Pasadena Symphony heads into its third season
following the 25-year-tenure of former Music Director Jorge Mester, the
orchestra continues to find a new rhythm as evidenced by its 85th
season that was announced yesterday.

 

Although there still seems to be no successor to Mester on
the horizon, three of the six guest conductors for the 2012-2013 season will
have led the PSO during the past and current seasons. James DePreist continues
in his role as music advisor but is not on next season’s maestro list after
leading a concert last season and conducting the final programs on this year’s
schedule. Russian repertoire will be very much in evidence throughout next
season, and newly named Composer-in-Residence Peter Boyer will have not one but
three of his works performed during the season.

 

As has been the case during the past couple of years, the
upcoming season will have five classical concerts with two performances each at
Ambassador Auditorium (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.). Next year will also see a reprise on
Dec. 1 of last year’s sold-out holiday candlelight concert at All Saints
Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper will again conduct and soprano Lisa Vroman will
return as soloist.

 

The classical season will open on Oct. 6 when Mei-Ann Chen, who was a dynamo leading
the PSO in this season’s opening concerts, returns to open next season, as
well. Now music director of the Chicago Sinfionetta and the Memphis Symphony,
Chen’s PSO program will be Beethoven’s Egmont
Overture,
Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto
No. 2, with 16-ytear-old George Li, recipient of the 2012 Gilmore Young Artist
Award, as soloist.

 

Other programs on the schedule are:

 

Nov. 3 — Edwin
Outwater, conductor; Rueibin Chin, piano

A native of Santa Monica, Outwater has been music director
of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Ontario, Canada for five years. Now 41,
Outwater was resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony for four years
and recently made his professional opera debut conducting Verdi’s La Traviata at San Francisco Opera.

 

His PSO program will include Huang Li’s Spring Festival Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and
Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,
with Chin as soloist.

 

Jan. 12 — Tito
Muoz, conductor; Carolyn Goulding, violin

Muoz — music director of the Opra National de Lorraine and
the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy in France — made an impressive
PSO debut last season. He returns to lead Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Sibelius’
Violin Concerto, with Carolyn Goulding as soloist. The program will open with
Boyer’s “Apollo” from Three Olympians.

 

Feb. 9 — Nicholas
McGegan, conductor; Yulia Van Doren, soprano; Donald Foster, clarinet

McGegan is known primarily as a Baroque music specialist but
his program next month concludes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) and his concerts next season
will finish with Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. For contrast, the PSO’s principal
clarinet, Donald Foster, will step out from the ranks as soloist in Mozart’s
Clarinet Concerto.

 

April 27, 2013 –
Jose Luis Gomez, conductor; Peter Boyer, conductor; Chee-Yun, violin

Gomez is another of the young conductors to come out of
Venezuela’s “El Sistema” music program, following in the footsteps of Los
Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. In 2010, Gomez won the
fifth International Georg Solti Conductor’s Competition in Frankfurt by
unanimous decision of the jury. Gomez will conclude the PSO season by leading
Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia and
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Meanwhile, Boyer’s composition Festivities is on the agenda and the
composer will conduct the inaugural performance of his Symphony No. 1 to
conclude the season.

 

Read the complete media release HERE.

_______________________

 

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

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SAME-DAY REVIEW: Mei-Ann Chen conducts Pasadena Symphony

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Symphony.
Mei-Ann, conductor; James Ehnes, violin

Huang: Saibei Dance
(from Sabei Dance Suite No. 2);
Korngold: Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

Saturday, October 29, 2011 Ambassador Auditorium

______________________

 

Mei-Ann Chen, a 38-year-old Taiwan-born conductor, is
diminutive in stature but she packs a wallop on the podium; in fact, she’s a
human dynamo who makes Gustavo Dudamel seem sedate by comparison. She’s also
one of the fast-rising stars in the conducting firmament with positions at the
Memphis Symphony and the Chicago Sinfionietta (the “Windy City’s” equivalent to
the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra).

 

This afternoon she helped open the Pasadena Symphony’s 83rd
season before a disappointingly small crowd. Too bad; they missed an exciting
concert with some top-notch music making. (the program repeated this evening to
a larger audience).

 

Chen’s exuberance was on display from the Star Spangled Banner – she had the snare
drum rattling as she walked briskly on stage. After that unfortunately
predictable opening, Chen introduced to local audiences Saibei Dance, a four-minute dance/fanfare by Chinese composer
An-Lun Huang whose flashy rhythms were perfect for Chen’s arm-whirling,
gyrating conducting style and the performance benefitted from spiffy solos from
Donald Foster, clarinet, Gary Woodward, flute, and James Thatcher, horn.

 

Violinist James Ehnes then joined Chen and the orchestra for
Korngold’s Violin Concerto, a 1945 work that melds tunes drawn from Korngold’s
motion picture scores from the 1930s overlaid by a wicked violin solo line that
Jascha Heifetz asked the composer to make more difficult than he had originally
written.

 

Ehnes — who towers over Chen — has become a champion of this
neglected work; his recording of the Korngold, Barber and Walton violin
concertos with Bramwell Tovey and Vancouver Symphony won Grammy and Juno Awards
in 2008. Ehnes’ sweet tone was very much in evidence in the first and second
movements and he handled the final movement’s pyrotechnic difficulties with seeming
ease. Chen and the orchestra accompanied sensitively.

 

After intermission, Chen concluded with has become her
signature work: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, the piece she conducted in the
finals when she became the first woman ever to win Denmark’s Malko Conducting
Competition, in 2005.

 

This was a reading full of pulsating energy from first note
to last. Chen shaped each phrase with flair and the orchestra responded in
first-rate fashion. The strings were lushly resonant, the wind principals
(especially Foster, Laura Wickes, oboe, Rose Corrigan, bassoon and Woodward)
were at the top of their games, and the brass rang out with gleaming vigor.
Even when compared with many performances of this familiar work this fall, this
one measured up well.

 

The PSO seems content to continue with a series of guest
conductrs and Music Advisor James DePreist, but Mei-Ann Chen is someone
definitely to keep very much on the radar screen.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

On a note of irony at afternoon when the PSO and Ehnes
were playing the Korngold Violin Concerto, Turner Classic Movies was showing
the 1938 motion picture, The Legend of
Robin Hood.
Korngold won an Oscar for his score for that film.

The next PSO concert is a holiday program on Dec. 3 at All
Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper, music director of the West Virginia
Symphony, will lead the orchestra, Donald Brinegar Singers, Los Angeles
Children’s Chorus and vocalist Lisa Vroman.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on October 27, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events that peak my
interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum,
inexpensive tickets). This week it was hard to get down to five. Here’s today’s
grouping:

______________________

 

Tomorrow and
Saturday at 8:30 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m. at REDCAT (Walt Disney Concert Hall)

Southwest Chamber
Music: Ten Freedom Summers

To open a season celebrating its 25th anniversary, Pasadena-based
Southwest Chamber Music joins forces with the Golden Quartet to present the
world premiere of Ten Freedom Summers
by composer and jazz trumpeter Wadada Lee Smith.

 

The composition — which was inspired by the Civil Rights
movement from 1954-1964 and August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, in which each play
chronicles a decade of African-American life in the 20th century — also uses
archival news footage from the era and other cinematic effects. The piece will
take three evenings to perform; you’re encouraged to attend all three nights to
get the full effect but SCM tells me that each evening stands on its own musically.

 

Get more
information on the composition HERE and by downloading the media  release.

PressReleaseTenFreedomSummers.pdf

A link to an article by Greg Burk in the Los
Angeles Times
is HERE.

 

General admission tickets are $38 for each program. Concert information: www.redcat.org

 

Tomorrow and
Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gustavo Dudamel and Richard Goode

Conductors love micro-macro programs and Gustavo Dudamel is
no exception. Tomorrow night’s Los Angeles Philharmonic “Casual Friday” program
begins with Goode as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466, and
concludes with Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also
Sprach Zarathustra.
The latter is an
eight-movement work that many people know only because of the opening section, Sunrise, which was the theme music for
Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1968 motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey. That dramatic opening sounds particularly impressive
in Disney Hall because the hall’s pipe organ adds grandiose weight to the
climactic measures, but there’s a lot more to come in the succeeding 30 or so
minutes.

 

The Saturday and Sunday programs add Gyrgy Kurtg‘s
Grabstein fr Stephan as the opening
work. These concerts mark Dudame’s final appearances locally until “The Mahler
Project” begins next January. Info: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 2 and 8
p.m. Ambassador Auditorium

Pasadena Symphony;
Mei-Ann Chen, conductor; James Ehnes, violin

Chen, one of the fastest-rising conducting stars today,
leads the Pasadena Symphony in its season-opening concerts, which will
conclude with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Ehnes will be the soloist in
Korngold’s Violin Concerto (his recording of the Korngold, Walton and Barber
violin concertos, with Bramwell Tovey conducting the Vancouver Symphony, won
the 2008 Grammy and Juno awards). For my Pasadena
Scene
profile on Chen, click HERE. Concert
info:
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Saturday at 4 p.m.
at Downey Theater

Chorale Bel Canto and
Opera a la Carte

The Whittier-based chorus Chorale Bel Canto opens its 30th
season by joining with Opera a la Carte in an unusual program (for CBC, that
is): Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates
of Penzance
. Richard Sheldon, who founded Opera a la Carte in 1970, stars
as the Modern Major General. Info:
www.choralebelcanto.org

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

Sunday at 3 at Vic
Lopez Auditorium (Whittier High School)

Rio Hondo Symphony;
Kimo Furumoto, conductor

The Rio Hondo Symphony focuses on small pieces Sunday with a
program entitled “Good Things: Small Packages.” The program will begin with Mozart’s
dramatic Overture to Don Giovanni and
will also include Bartok’s Romanian Folk
Dances Suite
, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella
Suite
and Dvorak’s Czech Suite. Info: www.riohondosymphony.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

 

 

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PREVIEW AND LINK: A second look at conductor Mei-Ann Chen

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

My Pasadena Scene profile
on conductor Mei-Ann Chen — who is leading the Pasadena Symphony’s opening
concerts on Saturday at Ambassador Auditorium — was posted a couple of weeks
ago. If you missed it, here’s a LINK. She’s a fast-rising star in conductor
circles and it’s quite a coup for the PSO to have her, so I believe it’s
worthwhile to publish the link again.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Classical music schedule — overload or overjoy?

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of this
article will be published tomorrow in the above papers.

______________________

 

In every classical-music season there are one or two weeks
where the operating word is “overload.” The upcoming fortnight counts as one of
those blocks, especially as it comes on the heels of an extremely busy weekend.
Chronologically, here are some of the major upcoming events (check my Blog for
additions, updates, more details and reviews):

 

Tonight (Saturday)
at 8 p.m. at the Alex Theater, Glendale; tomorrow (Sunday) at 7 p.m. at Royce
Hall, UCLA

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads his ensemble in
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).
Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin will be the soloist in Britten’s Les illuminations and Now sleeps the crimson petal. Info: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

 

Tomorrow (Sunday)
at 7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

Los Angeles Master
Chorale

Music Director Grant Gershon leads the Chorale in the
opening concert of its 48th season with the U.S. premiere of Music for a big church; for tranquility
by Swedish composer Thomas Jennefelt and Morton Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, one of the most popular
compositions of the last quarter century. Paul Meier accompanies on the Disney
Hall organ. Info: 213/972-7282; www.lamc.org

 

Tuesday at 8 p.m.
at Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge

Mariinsky Theater
Orchestra

Valery Gergiev leads this famed Russian orchestra (formerly
known as the Kirov) in a program of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Alexander
Toradze will be the soloist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Info: 818) 677-3000; www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

 

Thursday and Friday
at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic

Music Director Gustavo Dudamel conducts music by John Adams
and Prokofiev. Johannes Moser will be the soloist in the world premiere of Magnetar, concerto for electric cello by
Mexican composer/guitarist Enrico Chapela. “What,” you ask, “is an electric
cello?” Read all about it and the piece in the words of the composer HERE. Info: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Cappella Gloriana

This San Diego professional chorale opens the church’s Friends of Music series of nine free
concerts performing music by its founder and director, Stephen Sturk, with
organist Martin Green and the San Diego Harmony Ringers Handbell Choir. Info: 626/793-2191; www.ppc.net

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Ambassador Auditorium

The Colburn Orchestra

Music Director Yehuda Gilad leads his excellent ensemble in
Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and Shostakovich’s Festive
Overture
and Cello Concerto No. 1. Colburn student Estelle Choi will be the
soloist in the concerto. The concert is free but tickets must be downloaded
through the school’s Web site. Info: www.colburnschool.edu

 

October 23 at 6
p.m. at Royce Hall (UCLA)

American Youth
Symphony

Music Director Alexander Treger leads another of the
region’s top-notch training orchestras in Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Tchaikovsky’s
Symphony No. 5. Rod Gilfry will be the soloist in selections from CarouselWest Side StorySweeney Todd and The Most Happy Fella. The concert is free (although a
$10 donation is suggested); make reservations through the orchestra’s Web site.
Info: aysmphony.org

 

October 28 and 29
at 8:30 p.m. and 30 at 7 p.m. at REDCAT (Walt Disney Concert Hall)

Southwest Chamber
Music

The Golden Quartet helps SWCM open its 25th season
with Wadada Lee Smith’s Ten Freedom
Summers,
which takes three evenings to perform and is inspired by the
1954-64 years of the Civil Rights Movement. Get details on the composition HERE.
Concert and ticket info: www.swmusic.org

 

Oct. 29 at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena

Pasadena Symphony

Rising conducting star Mei-Ann Chen leads the PSO in its
opening concerts with a program that concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.
5. James Ehnes will be the soloist in Korngold’s Violin Concerto. My profile of
Chen is HERE. Info: 626/793-7172;
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.
at Downey Civic Theatre

Chorale Bel Canto and
Opera a la Carte

The Whittier-based chorus opens its 30th season
by joining with Opera a la Carte in an unusual program (for CBC, that is):
Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of
Penzance
. Richard Sheldon, who founded Opera a la Carte in 1970, stars as
the Modern Major General. Info:
562/861-8211; www.choralebelcanto.org

_____________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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