Classically Trained: Symphony to take on Tchaikovsky, Chopin

A trip through any of Tchaikovsky's later symphonies is a trip indeed. The Russian composer goes from the tragic to the triumphant, from the reverent to the dejected and doleful. Listening to them is an exercise of the mind into the glories of a past artistic age.

The Pacific Symphony will be taking listeners back to that age in its performances Jan. 12 to 14 of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and other works. Led by music director Carl St.Clair, the 8 p.m. performances will be in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. A pre-concert lecture by Alan Chapman will be at 7 p.m. each evening as well.

St.Clair, the Pacific Symphony's director for more than 20 years, says Tchaikovsky's Fifth has special meaning to him. He first heard it led by his future teacher, the renowned Leonard Bernstein.

"I was watching it on a 1948 black Westinghouse television set that my dad bought when he got back from World War II," St.Clair says in a release. "And even on this black-and-white TV, the symphony made quite an impression on me. I now consider Tchaikovsky a great teacher, and when I conduct this piece, I hope to rediscover the depth of interpretation that I felt that evening."

Also on the program is Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 and "Sidereus," a new work by Osvaldo Golijov.

Golijov was born and raised in Argentina, where his Jewish family of Eastern European origin moved to. "Sidereus" was commissioned by a consortium of 36 American orchestras after the 2008 retirement of Henry Fogel, who served as president and chief executive of the League of American Orchestras. The 8-minute piece for a relatively small ensemble is on a "premiere tour" through various cities until June.

Golijov says he was inspired by Galileo's "Sidereus Nunicus," a treatise published in 1610 that contains the famed astronomer's observations of the moon and the moons of Jupiter.

Michael Clive in the concert's program notes describes "Sidereus" as building on "simple, accessible melodies and harmonies that unfold to yield hidden beauty and complexity."

The Chopin concerto will feature pianist Dejan Lazić, who last performed with the Pacific Symphony in May 2010.

Lazić, born in Croatia but raised in Austria, now lives in Amsterdam. St.Clair says he met Lazić while performing with him in Germany. He instantly took a liking to his style.

"[Lazić] is one of the most fantastically imaginative, creative, technically flawless pianists I've ever worked with, and I have such a musical connection with him," St.Clair says in a release.

Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 premiered in 1830 in his native Poland. He began the work at only 19 years old.

The result of his efforts have since become standard Romantic-era repertoire worldwide, a work that showcases the virtuosic, elegiac and stirring.

Clive describes Chopin's unique qualities nicely: "Where Beethoven's profundity or Liszt's grandeur may leave you in awe, Chopin is more likely to make you feel that your own innermost feelings have been illuminated in a private communion shared between you, the composer, the pianist and nobody else."

For those who can't get enough Tchaikovsky, St.Clair and the symphony will be hosting a "Classical Connections" concert at 3 p.m. Jan. 15, also in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The afternoon promises a deeper exploration of the Fifth Symphony, after which time St.Clair will be in the hall's Box Circle lobby for coffee and conversation.

Tickets to the series start at $25. For more information, visit or call (714) 755-5799.

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

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