By Ted AYALA
The Pasadena Symphony Orchestra (PSO), which has provided many memorable concerts in the past season and has admirably retained its superior quality despite a recent squabble with their former music director, announced their schedule for the 2011-2012 season. Among the notable musicians in this upcoming PSO season are violinist James Ehnes, cellist Andrew Shulman, period performance conductor Nicholas McGegan, soprano Christin Brewer, and PSO director James de Priest.
The season starts off with a real treat in a program that pairs the Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony with the increasingly popular late Violin Concerto of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Korngold’s Violin Concerto was composed in 1947 for Polish violin virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman, Sadly, Huberman never performed the concerto, but it was championed by Jascha Heifetz, who made a fine recording of it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Alfred Wallenstein. Even more impressive than Heifetz himself is the recording by James Ehnes with Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on CBC Classics. Where Heifetz was polished, but cool, Ehnes brings the requisite old world warmth to this nostalgic concerto. Hearing him in person performing this work that has become a calling card for Ehnes will surely make for an impressive evening. The concert will be conducted by Mei-Ann Chen at the Ambassador Auditorium with two performances on Oct. 29.
The next concert on Jan. 14, 2012 will be conducted by David Lockington in a program of Mendelssohn’s “Scotch” Symphony and the melancholy Cello Concerto of Edward Elgar, featuring cellist Andrew Shulman. Another pair of concerts follows on February 18th with colorful works by Saint-Saens, Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Borodin conducted by Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov. Sharing the stage with Milanov will be Esther Keel who was described by the American Record Guide as “a major talent” and “a potential superstar.” “Pianists don’t come any better,” raved the ARG. Respected period performance conductor Nicholas McGegan comes to Pasadena on March 31, 2012 with a program of early Austro-German works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, and culminating with the mighty “Eroica” Symphony by Beethoven. Guest pianist is Nareh Argamanyan, who will be the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20.
Closing out the season will be the return of the PSO’s Artistic Advisor, James de Priest. Wagner’s “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” from ‘The Twilight of the Gods’, the concluding opera in Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung” tetralogy opens up the concert followed by Richard Strauss’ valedictory “Four Last Songs” for soprano and orchestra. Written while Strauss lived his final days in Swiss exile, the composer’s last major work set to music poetry by Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff. It is a nostalgic reverie for a world and time that was now completely vanished under the ashes and smoke of a defeated post war Germany. For all that, though, the music is free of pathos, The composer seemed to look on death not as something to be feared, but as a blissful release. Soprano Christine Brewer, whose recordings of the solo soprano parts in recordings of William Bolcom’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” and Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” have been critically lauded, will be the soprano soloist. Ending the program will be Franz Schubert’s 9th Symphony, which was praised for its “heavenly length” by another great German composer, Robert Schumann.
Tickets and further information can be had by calling the PSO’s phone number at (626) 793-7172 or by visiting their website at www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org.