Classically Trained: For first time in decades, Chicago Symphony coming to O.C.

Next week's classical lineup features music in a much-lauded concert hall and music played by America's (arguably) greatest orchestra.

A chamber group comprised of musicians from the Pacific Symphony will be performing at Soka University's wonderful Performing Arts Center on Feb. 16. The 7:30 p.m. concert promises to be a real bargain as well, with tickets in the Aliso Viejo venue of about 1,000 seats starting at only $21.

The Costa Mesa-based orchestra's music director, Carl St.Clair, will be conducting the evening.

The announced program is Mozart's overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" opera, Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals" and Beethoven's Symphony No. 1.

I first heard the hall's acoustics while attending a concert there in October. Based on that experience, I can surmise that the skills of the Pacific Symphony's woodwind players, thanks to the hall's cherry wood walls and Alaskan white cedar floor, will shine more marvelously than in the conditions the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall provides.

It is a venue not to be missed.

Also not to be missed is the appearance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — its first in Orange County in about 25 years — on Feb. 17. This much-anticipated evening, under the baton of Riccardo Muti, in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall begins at 8 p.m.

A pre-concert lecture by Christopher Russell is at 7 p.m.

The program consists of César Franck's Symphony in D minor, Arthur Honegger's "Pacific 231" and Mason Bates' "Alternative Energy."

Tickets for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County concert start at $50 and are available at or by calling (949) 553-2422.

A 2008 story by a panel of critics writing for Gramophone, a leading British publication on the world's classical scene, ranked Chicago as the greatest of the American orchestras — a distinction that, like all art, is up for debate. What's less up for debate, however, is validity of Chicago having its famed pull-you-back-in-your-seat brass section.

And if you can't get enough of that brass, at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 the Laguna Concert Band is playing host to Chicago's principal tuba, Gene Pokorny, in a program titled "America the Tubaful" at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Tickets for what is sure to be a fun concert are only $10.

For more information, visit


Last week, the Pacific Symphony announced its 2012-13 classical season lineup that promises some of the old and the new.

Highlights include some guest pianists — namely Lang Lang and Conrad Tao, now 17 but who at 16 wowed his Pacific Symphony audience in June while serving as a last-minute substitute — and other guests of the violinist and conductor varieties.

The season also will be the second year for the symphony's "semi-staged" opera productions that hope to fill the void left by the closing of the Opera Pacific in 2008. Puccini's "Tosca" and Kurt Weill's "Seven Deadly Sins" are the two scheduled.

The "Music Unwound" series, which will be in its fourth year, is also set to continue. Those concerts aim to try new formats for concerts and help give deeper meaning to the music.

The annual American Composers Festival will feature the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

For more on the season lineup and a complete listing, visit

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

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