Classically Trained: Russian orchestra visits concert hall

Indeed, the Russians are coming.

The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra of St. Petersburg will play an all-Tchaikovsky program at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on Oct. 13 and 17.

Four of the six finished symphonies by the popular Russian composer are planned: Symphony No. 2 (nicknamed the "Little Russian") and Symphony No. 5 for Oct. 13; and Symphony No. 3 (aka the "Polish") and Symphony No. 4 for Oct. 17.

Both concerts, led by Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, begin at 8 p.m., with a 7 p.m. pre-concert lecture.

The two concerts in the Costa Mesa venue begin the impressive 2011-12 season lineup of visiting orchestras — many regarded as among the world's best — that's presented by the nonprofit Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

In 2008, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra was voted by a panel of critics writing for Gramophone, a leading British publication on the world's classical scene, as the greatest orchestra in Russia and in the world's top 20.

But whatever one thinks of that influential yet highly debatable/controversial top 20 (and the Mariinsky's No. 14 ranking on it), music lovers are likely to enjoy the soul of Tchaikovsky unleashed from this historic ensemble that dates back to the 18th century and is one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia.

The great jubilation, reflection and tragedy found in these magnificent works of musical art rank on my personal list of favorite compositions. There's something about those minor keys and the unbridled romanticism through Tchaikovsky's Russian perspective that's always so striking.

Gergiev, who also serves as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has the distinction among his many accolades of being known to conduct with a toothpick.

But no matter his choice of baton, he's credited with bringing the Mariinsky into its second "golden age," which seems to have also kept the ensemble on an incredibly busy touring schedule recently.

In the October days before its O.C. showing, the Mariinsky will have done five Carnegie Hall concerts and two in China (not to mention its tours last month in France, Romania, the Netherlands and Switzerland). Wedged in between its two concerts here are three others in Berkeley.

It's my hope that the Mariinsky's action-packed, back-to-back concert schedule — with 23 performances this month alone — doesn't affect the quality of its playing.

Tickets for either concert start at $30 and are available by visiting or calling (949) 553-2422.

In other local music happenings, the musicians of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa this Saturday will be playing American music at the campus.

In a program titled "American Rhapsody," Music Department chairman Ricardo Soto and choral director Eliza Rubenstein will co-conduct the performances, which begin at 8 p.m. in the Robert B. Moore Theatre, 2701 Fairview Road.

The program includes soprano soloist Marlissa Hudson singing selections from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" and Bernstein's "Candide." Pianist Janelle Tag will take the center stage for Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

Tickets are $10 and are available by calling (714) 432-5880, visiting or at the door.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at

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