Classically Trained: Pacific Symphony ramps up for next season

The 34th season of the Pacific Symphony promises to be a memorable one: its busy lineup includes traditional favorites, pops concerts, a new Sunday series at Soka University and the second year of the opera-vocal initiative.

The 2012-13 season begins next week with three nights featuring pianist André Watts.

The repertoire for the 8 p.m. performances Sept. 20 to 22 is Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, Johann Strauss Jr.'s overture from "Die Fledermaus" and Richard Strauss' suite from "Der Rosenkavalier." Carl St.Clair, the symphony's music director since 1990, leads the series.

Watts, who last performed with the symphony in 2010, has known St.Clair since the mid-1980s, when St.Clair was assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony.

"He came regularly as a soloist, so I was able to experience his profound music-making," St.Clair said in a prepared statement, calling Watts a "consummate artist."

"To me, this means he is an artist's artist," he said.

Watts has been known in the music world since he was 16, according to a symphony release, after Leonard Bernstein chose him to play with the New York Philharmonic.

In addition to the night performances, Watts will play the first Classical Connections concert of the season at 3 p.m. Sept 22. The afternoon features commentary from St.Clair and Watts on the Brahms concerto.

Tickets start at $25. All four concerts are in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

For more information, visit or call (714) 755-5799.


Pacific Symphony releases first live recording

The Pacific Symphony has released a recording of Philip Glass' "The Passion of Ramakrishna." The orchestra premiered the 45-minute piece in 2006 at the opening of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

"This marks Pacific Symphony's first live recording, and it's also the first of several that will be coming out in upcoming seasons, which makes it all the more special," St.Clair said in a press release.

The work, which also features the Pacific Chorale and soloists, was co-commissioned by the Pacific and Nashville symphonies.

"A Philip Glass CD release is always an exciting moment in the music world," St.Clair added. "And this is a beautiful oratorio, which has not only all the classic Glass idioms, but marks a new direction — one toward the spiritualism of Anton Bruckner.

"This combination elevates the work into a captivating realm. It is immediately recognizable as Glass, yet completely fresh at the same time. Philip's music is always meaningful and reflects his personal musical spirit and honesty, but the 'The Passion of Ramakrishna' really took it to another level."

According to the release, Glass, who was influenced by India's music and philosophy, mixed Eastern and Western traditions in the work. He gives a "heroic musical homage to the simple Hindu holy man (Ramakrishna) [and paints] an exquisite symphonic and choral picture of India emerging from centuries of foreign domination."

The CD is available on and for download on iTunes.


New assistant conductor named

Alejandro Gutiérrez has been named the new assistant conductor for the 2012-13 season. He will be sharing the assistant duties with Maxim Eshkenazy, who has been the assistant conductor for the last three seasons.

Gutiérrez's duties will include assisting St.Clair, leading the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra and the family concerts.

He will make his conducting debut Jan. 12 for the Family Musical Mornings concert that features Mozart's "The Magic Flute."

Gutiérrez already has an impressive résumé that includes being the associate conductor of National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica since 1998, having music director positions at the University of Costa Rica and University of Texas at Austin, and serving as the assistant conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

According to the Pacific Symphony website, Gutierrez, his wife and two children will be moving to Orange County in December from Texas, where he is finishing his doctorate in orchestral conducting.

"I feel really excited and happy to begin my duties as assistant conductor of Pacific Symphony, not only because it is recognized as being at an outstanding artistic level, but for its warmth, family environment among the musicians, conductors and all the administrative departments," Gutiérrez said in the September edition of soundWAVE, the orchestra's monthly newsletter. "It is the perfect place to really develop a career as a conductor."

BRADLEY ZINT is a classically trained musician and a copy editor for the Daily Pilot. Email him story ideas at or follow him on Twitter @BradleyZint.

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