Pacific Symphony, Costa Mesa, CA

Pacific Symphony Has Thrilling New Shows 

By C. MacDonald

The Pacific Symphony's 2011-2012 Season will inaugurate a three-year opera and vocal initiative, "Symphonic Voices," with productions of "La Boheme" and a family series presentation of "Hansel and Gretel." But one of the season's most fascinating endeavors is "The Three Nines," exploring the final epic works of three classical icons, Mahler's Ninth, Schubert's Ninth and Beethoven's Ninth.

"Towards the end of their lives, these composers each left us some very special symphonies," said Carl St. Clair, Music Director of the Pacific Symphony, at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County. "Each of these men had very different and intriguing ways of composing their final thoughts."

Their music may have been inspired by the shadow of death. St. Clair and the symphony will explore whether these composers' understood that their lives were near an end and how their state of mind shaped the revolutionary nature of each piece. Mahler's last completed symphony was written soon after the composer received the diagnosis that he had fatal heart disease. He didn't live to hear it but the moving work shows his sadness, torment and finally, a dignified, quiet affirmation of life.

St. Clair and his musicians will probe deeply into Schubert's composition, written in his final days.  Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, includes the famous last movement, "Ode to Joy," which is perhaps the most epic choral work ever composed and still thrills audiences. When it premiered in 1824, Beethoven conducted it himself, even though he could not hear a note because of deafness. Nor did he hear the five standing ovations he received.

Bravo! The sensational symphony, founded in 1979, also is restoring Opera to Orange County with a performance of Puccini's most popular and heartbreaking opera, "La Boheme" in a semi-staged production. Carefree Bohemians and star-struck lovers will fill the concert hall with their astonishing voices as this fascinating tale unfolds.

Classical music is inspired by life. "Think of Respighi gazing over his beloved Rome and writing about the pines and fountains before him," St. Clair said. "Also Mahler incorporating folk dances from his native Germany in his symphonies and Tchaikovsky, recovering from depression, reflecting the sparkle of Switzerland's Lake Geneva in his violin concerto."

"Music and life are inseparable," explained the maestro. "It's impossible to think of a great work that has not been colored by the life experiences of its creator."

St. Clair should know. He'll be celebrating his 22nd season with Pacific Symphony and has led orchestras around the world, including one of the oldest in Europe and one of the newest in America. The Pacific Symphony is the largest orchestra formed in the U.S. in the last 40 years.

So much more is happening with the symphony, including the American Composers' Festival, which will be celebrating the Persian New Year, that you really must check out its schedule plus a whole lot more on pacificsymphony.org

(A special "Thanks" to Henry Segerstrom, the Pacific Symphony, Carl St. Clair and everyone else who has cared and contributed over the years to make Orange County an internationally appreciated mecca for the arts. Bravo!)

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