By Ted AYALA
Independence Day may still be over a week away, but that won’t stop the panoply of fireworks and music from lighting up and resounding throughout the San Gabriel Valley this Saturday. That is because the California Philharmonic Orchestra will be opening its 2014 season at Santa Anita Park on July 28 beginning at 8 p.m.
The concert is the start of not only the 18th season, but also of the third year at the Arcadia racing complex.
Victor Vener, the orchestra’s music director, commented that the venue has been a perfect fit for both orchestra and audiences.
“They absolutely love it,” he said. “You have the San Gabriel Mountains looming over you. Because the audience is sat below ground level, their focus is allowed to be trained straight onto the stage. It’s like sitting in a big, grass-covered room. It’s one of the many advantages of the place.”
The orchestra’s program on Saturday- consisting of John Williams film scores, interspersed with music by Brahms and Orff, and culminating with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” is the typical fare California Philharmonic audiences have come to expect and love.
“Throughout the ages, people lived in these little boxes they called ‘tradition,’” Vener opined. “For a long time, your typical concert consisted of music by long ago dead men. No women, of course. And nothing from the stage or screen. It was very elitist. Today all that is slowly crumbling.”
Music from the stage and screen is close to Vener’s heart, who cited a comment made by former Hollywood Bowl Orchestra principal conductor, John Mauceri, about how Broadway saved classical music.
“It’s absolutely true,” Vener stated with enthusiasm. “What I’ve tried to envision with the orchestra has been the idea of moving on from a 20th century concert to a 21st century one. We need to look around, we need to listen and be in tune with what people are living with today. Show tunes are a big part of it.”
Saturday’s concert will include a violin and cello duo with orchestra of arrangement of excerpts from John Williams’ score to “Schindler’s List.” The concept of the arrangement came from Vener, who suggested the idea in order to showcase a father and son duo working in the ranks of the ensemble – the orchestra’s principal cellist, Dennis Karmazyn and his son, violinist Max Karmazyn.
Max’s duo arrangement of excerpts will be performed alongside Brahms’ autumnal “Double Concerto” for the same instrumentation.
“He added a counter voice to the violin original,” Vener said. “It adds another dimension to the piece and, really, just seems like the next logical step.”
The music of John Williams, which forms the program’s centerpiece, has become so widely loved by audiences, that his soundtracks are among the few that crop up with any regularity in symphony concerts. At the California Philharmonic, his music has been no stranger, which appears on its programs each season.
“He has his own style,” Vener said of the composer. “But he’s able to shift it constantly. He knows how to fit it to the mood of the film he’s working on. And that’s the key, I think, to his success. He just has an incredible knack for painting mood, atmosphere. It’s a talent for characterization that is on par with Mozart’s.”
The California Philharmonic will be performing the opening concert of the 2014 season on Saturday, July 28 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia at 8 p.m. The program will be repeated the next day, Sunday, July 29 at Disney Hall in Downtown Los Angeles at 2 p.m. To obtain tickets and for more information, visit http://www.calphil.com/concerts-and-tickets, or call (626) 304-0333.