COSTA MESA — As good as Brahms is for many people, he just can't seem to top the timeless passion evoked from the notes of a famously disgruntled Russian. That's surely why four standing ovations kept the crowd on their feet at the end of the Tchaikovsky concerto, and then for two more after the short, quiet encore.
And all that was just before the intermission.
That's not to say Thursday's lopsided season-opener concert of the Costa Mesa-based Pacific Symphony, however, was not enjoyable. It was, and very much so.
But when playing Brahms' Symphony No. 2 after Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, the maestro magicians don't save the best tricks for last. Still, good music is still beautiful music, whenever it's played.
Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker, the soloist for the series, gave a pre-concert talk that was as engaging as his performance. He recalled playing for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun's 80th birthday party, giving recitals in the Canadian Arctic and performing for Queen Elizabeth II — an experience "as regal as you think it might be," he said.
Regal, precise and stunning describe Parker's performance of the concerto and his well-selected encore piece, "Solace," by American ragtime composer Scott Joplin.
Six ovations given and earned indeed.
The night also heralded conductor Carl St. Clair's 21st season with the symphony — a lasting tenure and achievement he and Orange County can be proud of.
For Beethoven fans
Costa Mesa is crazy about Beethoven this year. Just down the street from the Orange County Performing Arts Center is Orange Coast College, whose music department is performing the German composer's Symphony No. 6 at 8 p.m. Oct. 2 at the campus' Robert B. Moore Theatre.
The junior college orchestra is led by the baton of department Chairman Ricardo Soto, an O.C. native, Cal State Fullerton alumnus and teacher at OCC for 10 years. This is his fifth year with the orchestra.
Taking a note from the history books, the Sixth is being performed alongside "Choral Fantasy." Both Beethoven compositions were premiered on the same night in December of 1808, the latter featuring chorus, piano and orchestra. OCC staff piano accompanist Janelle Tag also makes her debut with the orchestra that evening.
Soto and choral director Eliza Rubenstein — an OCC teacher of three years, and Oberlin and UC Irvine grad — are understandably excited about the concert: It also showcases some 90 singers, including returning OCC alumni, and is the first collaboration of its kind at the school for a season-opener.
An opportunity to hear 90 singers — whose natural instruments are as pure as can be — will be worth the $10 admission alone to this OCC event. Fans of Beethoven should not miss it.
BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times