Pacific Symphony season to star Lang Lang and honor Ellington


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Guest pianists Lang Lang and Andre Watts will highlight the Pacific Symphony’s 2012-13 season at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, and the music of another renowned pianist, Duke Ellington, will be in the spotlight as the focus of the orchestra’s annual American Composers Festival.

The season announced Thursday is light on living composers. Saxophonist Daniel Schnyder, who straddles jazz and classical music, will be part of the May 16-18, 2013, American Composers Festival program that also features the Duke Ellington Orchestra and soloists Kenny Drew (piano) and Dave Taylor (trombone). Pieces by contemporary composers from China –- Chinese Canadian An-Lun Huang, and the team of Chen Gang and He Zhanhao -- will be performed along with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (April 4-6, 2013), led by guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the Memphis Symphony.


The Pacific Symphony’s music director, Carl St.Clair, will continue to keep the torch burning for opera in Orange County, with a semi-staged performance of “Tosca” (Feb. 21-26, 2013), with singers to be announced. The current season includes another Puccini work, “La Boheme” (April 19-24), which was programmed partly in reaction to the near-absence of opera in Orange County since the Segerstrom Center’s resident company, Opera Pacific, folded in fall 2008.

Theatrical music will also be at the fore in a performance of Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins” (Nov. 8-10), featuring noted Weill interpreter Ute Lemper and the five-man vocal ensemble Hudson Shad; the program, dubbed “Come to the Cabaret,” also includes George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and songs of Edith Piaf.

Watts will help open the season (Sept. 20-22), playing Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, on a program that also includes St.Clair conducting music by Strauss. (Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier”) and Jr. (Overture to “Der Fledermaus”). Lang Lang arrives the following week, performing a single concert on Sept. 27, with St.Clair conducting repertoire to be announced.

Teenage pianist Conrad Tao will return after a well-received Segerstrom Center debut last year, performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto (Oct. 18-20) on a program that also includes Sibelius’ “Swan of Tuonela” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

St.Clair also will conduct an all-Mozart program (Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2013), including the Requiem (featuring the Pacific Chorale), which continues a recent theme in which the orchestra has explored works created by great composers (Tchaikovsky, Bruckner and Mahler) near the end of their lives. Other programs led by St.Clair will be Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with guest pianist Dejan Lazic (March 21-23, 2013), Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” (June 6-8, 2013).

Alexander Shelley, principal conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, will lead a program of Handel, Debussy and Dvorak, with guest cellist Alisa Weilerstein (Dec. 6-8). Garry Walker, principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, will lead Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” with violinist James Ehnes (Jan. 10-12, 2013). Aziz Shokhakimov will conduct Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, featuring organist Paul Jacobs (May 2-4, 2013); Tianwa Yang is guest violinist for the program, which includes works by Emmanuel Chabrier and Edouard Lalo.

The season also includes Handel’s “Messiah” (Dec. 9), led by John Alexander, artistic director of the Pacific Chorale. ALSO:

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-- Mike Boehm