Is there a conductor alive whose art exudes more charm, more elegance than that of Nicholas McGegan? If his guest conductor spots with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Pasadena Symphony are any indication, the answer is a clear, resounding “no.”
And local music lovers are especially fortunate – the British conductor returns to Pasadena this Saturday for a pair of concerts.
McGegan, who is the Pasadena Symphony’s principal guest conductor, has in a few years left an indelible impression on the orchestra’s audiences; foremost among these being an utterly magical, boisterous reading of Mahler’s “Symphony No. 4” a couple of seasons ago.
This weekend McGegan and the Pasadena Symphony will be presenting works by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Mozart and Beethoven.
Rameau’s suite from his opera “Naïs,” which will open Saturday’s program, is a work that, like much of the composer’s music, rarely appears on the programs of symphony orchestras. Part of the reason, McGegan explained, is because so little of Rameau’s music is published.
McGegan first conducted “Naïs” in London and Versailles in the early 1980s, eventually making a complete recording of the work. He also set down a recording of the suite from the opera with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in the early 1990s.
“Rameau’s musical style is very ornate and elegant,” the conductor said, “the sound equivalent of the paintings of Watteau or Boucher. His dances are especially fine and that is what we will be performing in these concerts. He was a master of orchestral color.”
He added that he found Rameau’s music to be “the ultimate in Baroque refinement,” likening its dance rhythms to jazz.
Turning to Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 3,” which will be performed by violinist Geneva Lewis, and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6,” McGegan pointed out how quickly music developed during the intervening decades.
“One thing that is amazing it that all the music in this program was composed within a 60-year span [the late 1740s to the first decade of the 19th century, with the Mozart more or less in the middle],” he said. “The difference of style is really noticeable. The final part of [Beethoven’s “Pastoral”] is certainly ground-breaking. Beethoven often thinks of original ways of ending his symphonies, especially when he wants to avoid the traditional, jolly, Haydnesque rondo form.”
Nicholas McGegan will be conducting the Pasadena Symphony at the Ambassador Auditorium (131 S. St. John Ave., Pasadena) this Saturday, March 21 for a pair of concerts. The afternoon matinee concert begins at 2 p.m., the evening concert begins at 8 p.m.
To obtain tickets and more information, go online to www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org or call the orchestra at (626) 793-7172.