Classically Trained: Notes for the new year

The Pacific Symphony has some crowd-pleasing music set to bring in the New Year.

The series at 8 p.m. each night from Jan. 10 to 12 will feature Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade."

Grammy-winning Canadian violinist James Ehnes is the guest star for the Beethoven performances.

"It is pretty much a perfect piece of music," Ehnes said of Beethoven's concerto in a prepared statement. "The melodic and rhythmic material is among the most memorable and moving in the entire repertoire, and the piece has perfect proportions. Not a note seems out of place."

Garry Walker will guest-conduct the symphony for the series in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

Walker is also permanent guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The four-movement "Scheherazade" musically depicts stories of Arabian knights and is a real potpourri of orchestral colors and styles. Though a war horse among orchestral repertoire, it's been that way for good reason. I find it an enjoyable listen every time.

Tickets to this series start at $25.

Earlier in the day on Jan. 12, the Pacific Symphony's Family Musical Mornings series continues with Mozart's "The Magic Flute." This concert is also part of the symphony's three opera-vocal initiative, "Symphonic Voices," which began last season with the semi-staged performance of "La Bohème."

The two kid-friendly, 45-minute concerts are at 10 and 11:30 a.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. They will feature costumed characters and projected scenic elements.

The production is directed and written by Peter Atherton of Opera Chapman. Two Chapman University alumni have leading roles: Ben Bliss as Tamino and Steve Pence as Sarastro. Other Chapman students and recent alumni are in supporting roles.

There is also the musical carnival at 9 a.m. for the early concert and at 12:15 p.m. for the later one.

Alejandro Gutiérrez, the newly appointed Pacific Symphony guest conductor, will make his first appearance and lead both performances.

Gutiérrez called "The Magic Flute's" plot "quite fantastic."

"It is a story mixed with drama, action and comedic relief — especially from Papageno," he said in a news release. "Through the beautiful themes, melodies and some of the most amazing singing arias composed by Mozart, this inspirational story of good triumphing evil brought to life by the live orchestra and singers will be a show the audience is sure to enjoy."

Tickets start at $19.

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

BRADLEY ZINT is a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at

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