It’s been a 31-year tradition for the Pacific Symphony to close its outdoor summer season with the Tchaikovsky Spectacular, and this year is no exception.
But the 32nd edition, to take place at the Pacific Amphitheatre on the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on Sept. 8, should really be called the “Russian Spectacular,” as Peter Tchaikovsky shares the bill with the likes of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Dmitri Shostakovich and Aleksandr Borodin.
“It’s an incredible virtuosic display of spectacular Russian music,” said John Forsyte, president of the Pacific Symphony, which will present its Russian — er, Tchaikovsky — Spectacular under the baton of its music director, Carl St.Clair. “This rich array of music is inspired by the Russians’ wonderful folk tradition. You can hear that in every work on the program, which features among the best examples of the Russian orchestral literature.”
After opening the concert with Shostakovich’s 1954 evergreen “Festive Overture in A Major, Op. 96,” the orchestra will be joined by Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko in the “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23,” not only one of the most iconic of Tchaikovsky’s works, but one of the two most popular piano concertos of all time — the other being Rachmaninoff’s 2nd.
The only musician in his family, Kholodenko, who turns 32 on Sept. 4, was the 2013 Gold Medal winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, where he lives. Having first performed in the U.S. in 2000 at the age of 13, Kholodenko will make his Pacific Symphony debut.
After intermission, the orchestra resumes with two crowd-pleasers by Rimsky-Korsakov: “Procession of the Nobles” (in the Russian original: “Procession of the Princes”), a.k.a. “Cortege,” from his 1889-90 opera “Mlada”; and his 1887-1888 “Russian Easter Festival Overture,” Op. 36 (known simply as “Russian Easter”), the last of his trio of brilliantly-scored orchestral showpieces (following “Capriccio Espagnol” and “Scheherazade”).
Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” (early 1870s), which practically bookend Act II of his unfinished epic opera, “Prince Igor,” follow next, and in turn will be followed by a return to the concert’s namesake and piece de resistance: “The Year 1812: Solemn Overture in E-flat Major,” Op. 49 — known simply as “The 1812.”
And yes, fireworks will be set off in the final minutes of the piece (and beyond). With that, this year’s edition of the Pacific Symphony's SummerFest will come to an end.
“We’ve had an excellent second year at the Pacific Amphitheatre,” Forsyte said of a season that began July 4 with a tribute to the music of Chicago and continued Aug. 18 with a screening of “E. T.” and the orchestra playing the music live underneath the giant screen. “The audiences seemed to love the way we’ve adapted to the amphitheater, which is smaller and more intimate than the Irvine Meadows venue (where the orchestra performed for 30 summers).
“So we’ve been selling better. And the OC Fair team have been unbelievably great patrons and wonderful partners in helping us as we made the change. It’s just been a great summer.”
The summer season is concluding but there won’t be a break for the orchestra, which heads into its busy fall schedule.
“We didn’t catch any breath before starting up our summer season, and we’re not taking any breath now as we prepare to head into the new season that begins Sept. 27 at Segerstrom Concert Hall,” Forsyte said. “We’ve been running the whole time and we’re continuing to run.
“An orchestra is a community organization and we try to respond to the community in whatever way we can. We see ourselves as the cultural ambassadors for Orange County. So yes, we must continue to run.”
If You Go
What: The Pacific Symphony presents the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, with fireworks; Carl St.Clair, conductor; Vadym Kholodenko, piano soloist; Huntington Beach Concert Band joins in the “1812” Overture
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 8 (gates open at 6 p.m. for picnics)
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, OC Fair & Event Center, 100 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
Cost: Tickets start at $33.
Information: (714) 755-5799, pacificsymphony.org