Tchaikovsky Spectacular! cover

Tchaikovsky Spectacular!

By


End the summer with a bang!
You’ll enjoy this famous romantic composer’s greatest hits along with Rachmaninoff’s lush Second Piano Concerto performed by the freshly minted Gold Medalist of this year’s Van Cliburn Competition, Korean pianist Yekwon Sunwoo. And to cap off the evening, thrill to the electrifying “1812 Overture” — complete with thundering cannons and brilliant fireworks.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.
Pacific Symphony


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars on 1 review

"Wow - sounds like it would have been a great evening! Wish I could have gone." 5 stars by




NoteStream NoteStream

NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!

The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.

For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.




Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!

Save to App


Tchaikovsky Spectacular!

Tchaikovsky Spectacular

The concert begins at 8 p.m.

CARL ST.CLAIR • CONDUCTOR

YEKWON SUNWOO • PIANO

HUNTINGTON BEACH CONCERT BAND

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)

“Galop” from Moscow, Cheryomushki

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)

Concerto No. 2 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 18

Moderato

Adagio sostenuto

Allegro scherzando

Yekwon Sunwoo

I N T E R M I S S I O N

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)

March in B-flat, Op. 99

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

Overture Fantasy from Romeo and Juliet

1812 Overture Op. 49, TH 49

“Galop” from Moscow, Cheryomushki

“Galop” from Moscow, Cheryomushki

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion; strings

Performance time: 2 minutes

Background

In a 1936 edition of Pravda, an article under Stalin’s byline attacked Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, an opera by the young Dmitri Shostakovich that had already won international acclaim. From then on, Shostakovich would live in fear for his life and his family’s safety. Though the critique focused on Shostakovich’s musical style, it’s also significant that the opera satirizes living conditions under both communism and capitalism.

About 30 years later Shostakovich treated a related subject with humor in Moscow, Cheryomushki, an operetta about life in a Soviet apartment complex. The wonder is not that he waited 30 years, but that he risked tackling the theme at all. Then again, the long history of Russian satires mocking bureaucratic ineptness—think of Gogol and Turgenev—provided some cover.

What to Listen For

Shostakovich’s rendering of life in Moscow, Cheryomushki (roughly “Cherry Tree Park, Moscow”) is raucous and farcical, not unlike a Hollywood frat-house movie.

While much of Shostakovich’s music is grimly sardonic, he also excelled at this kind of mirth, as in his popular Festive Overture. Both have the frantic energy of a mad chase. This excerpt depicts dancing at a housewarming in the apartment complex, and it sounds like quite a party.

---'Galop' from "Moscow, Cheryomushki" by Dmitri Shostakovich Arranged by Donald Hunsberger The Los Angeles Pierce Symphonic Winds, Stephen Piazza, director

Video: 2 minutes 28 seconds

Video

Concerto No. 2 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 18

Rachmaninoff in 1921, photographed by Kubey Rembrandt, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Divisions

Concerto No. 2 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 18

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion; strings

Performance time: 33 minutes

Background

Listening to the prodigious technical demands of the infamously difficult “Rocky 2,” it’s easy to imagine what made Sergei Rachmaninoff one of the greatest pianists of all time: large long-fingered hands with a huge digit span, an equally large dynamic range encompassing minutely subtle shadings, and a gift for the surging, sculptural contours of late romantic melodies.

His second piano concerto is perhaps the ultimate showcase for this particular combination of assets. It requires power and speed in abundance, blinding dexterity, the ability to delineate multiple voices, and the control to express broad, shifting gradations in tempo and dynamics. Of his three concertos, Concerto No. 2 is both the most popular and the most critically admired.

The concerto’s success was hard-won. Composed between the autumn of 1900 and the spring of 1901, it followed by three years the dismal reception of Rachmaninoff’s first symphony, which proved a setback to his musical ambitions.

Always subject to clinical depression, the well-born Rachmaninoff benefited from both assiduous medical care and rededication to piano composition in working to free himself from a creative stasis. In fact, the concerto was dedicated to his physician, Nikolai Dahl.

What to Listen For

One can hear the brooding depressive as well as the ardent romantic throughout the concerto. In the first movement, marked moderato and written in C minor, an opening of intense foreboding builds through a series of powerful chiming chords in the piano. When a rolling theme emerges, its march tempo gives it the quality of an inexorable machine, with only the solo piano to challenge it.

Slow chords in the strings open the second movement, an adagio that moves from C minor into E major. While the piano delineates a theme through fleet, poetic arpeggios, the overall mood remains melancholy, with a short exchange between orchestra and piano developing the movement’s motifs. Yet this tinge of sadness does not overwhelm— perhaps because of the sense of romance and melodic richness that pervades the whole concerto.

The concerto’s famous adagio movement is built around a melody that is like the distilled essence of romance, and that forms the basis of the song “Full Moon and Empty Arms.”

It can also be said to have saved Rachmaninoff ‘s life—a breath of inspiration that secured his more optimistic outlook on his composing prospects. The concerto ends in an allegro movement that brings a flourish of virtuosity and optimism, moving from C minor to C major with ever-increasing tension and energy. The final thematic statements and coda are resolved in C major, in a loud and ecstatic finale.

---Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2 op.18 - Anna Fedorova

Video 37 minutes 48 seconds

Video

March in B-flat, Op. 99

Sergei Prokofiev in New York, 1918. Image via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

March in B-flat, Op. 99

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion; strings

Performance time: 20 minutes

Background

Though born 15 years before Shostakovich, Prokofiev is sometimes viewed as his alter ego. They were the two great early 20th-century masters of composition who remained in Soviet Russia to contend with the cultural bureaucracy there, while Stravinsky left, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.

For some reason—perhaps because Prokofiev traveled widely in Europe and was cosmopolitan in manner—the Kremlin allowed him more leeway than Shostakovich. Though it does not sound particularly martial— and that may indeed be the point—he composed this raucous march for a military band in 1943, during World War II. It was premiered in a radio broadcast in April 1944.

What to Listen For

How is it that wordless, abstract music can sometimes make us laugh out loud? Prokofiev excelled at defying our musical expectations in ways that are simply funny, as in his Symphony No. 1 and this energetic march, which sounds more suited to the circus than to an army.

The tempo is conductor’s choice, and many maestros choose to play it much faster than Prokofiev originally specified (quarter = 134). But even at that pace, the thought of soldiers actually trying to march in time to this frenetic two-step rhythm is kind of hilarious, and its slithering chromaticism is more suggestive of chaos than military precision.

The SCM Wind Symphony conducted by Dr. John Lynch perform Prokofiev's March in B Flat Major, Op. 99 (1944).

Video 3 minutes 1 second

Video

Overture Fantasy from Romeo and Juliet

Overture Fantasy from Romeo and Juliet

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky(1840–1893)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion, harp; strings

Performance time: 19 minutes

Background

Composer Mily Balakirev demonstrated keen understanding of his friend Tchaikovsky when he suggested Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to him as a musical subject. Tchaikovsky not only loved Shakespeare, but also had a natural sympathy for stories of doomed romance. In the land of the Bard, homosexuality was the love that dared not speak its name, but in Tchaikovsky’s Russia it was an idea that could not even be whispered.

In 1869, when he began composing this lushly romantic tone-poem, he was in love with a 15-year-old boy named Eduard Zak, the cousin of one of his students—a dilemma he disclosed in his diary nearly 20 years later, but could not have uttered even to Balakirev. Eduard committed suicide at age 19. An aching heart could account for the artful mixture of rapture and despair we hear in this overture, which some analysts consider the first composition to fulfill the promise of Tchaikovsky’s genius.

What to Listen For

Shakespeare’s drama of star-crossed young lovers is one of the most popular of all subjects for musical adaptation. Scholars have documented some two thousand of them, and the love theme in Tchaikovsky’s version is probably the single best-known artifact in the lot. It wondrously combines the ecstasy and ache of romance, but it is just one of three principal musical elements that Tchaikovsky blends in his sweeping overview of the story.

The love theme is juxtaposed against thundering evocations of the deadly antagonism between the Montagues and the Capulets. The third element is the haunting minor chord that Tchaikovsky builds with a slow, ascending arpeggio and then leaves hanging. Many listeners hear this chord as an agonized longing that is left tragically unresolved, while others hear, in the overture’s closing bars, the consolation of lovers united in death.

Great presentation of Russian Maestro Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra, playing Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juliet at BBC Proms 2007.

Video: 20 minutes, 27 seconds

Video

1812 Overture Op. 49, TH 49

Portrait of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by Nikolai Kuznetsov

1812 Overture Op. 49, TH 49

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 2 cornets, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; timpani, percussion; strings

Performance time: 13 minutes

Background

America’s relationship with Russia is the subject of controversy these days. Not so in the case of the “1812” Overture, which America has adopted as its own—a musical spectacle that made for outdoor performance accompanied by fireworks on a late-summer evening.

From the popularly accepted title, many listeners wrongly assume that this dramatic overture commemorates something about the War of 1812. Instead, the year in the title actually references Napoleon’s catastrophic march toward Moscow and Russia’s successful defense at the Battle of Borodino. Half a century later, when Tchaikovsky wrote music to celebrate the preservation of Russian autonomy in the face of Napoleon’s army, this history was still burning in the Russian soul. This commemoration wasn’t one of Tchaikovsky’s favorite compositions, but it is certainly one of ours.

What to Listen For

As musical storytelling, the “1812” Overture is so vivid that we can smell the gunpowder. As it opens, a plaintive choir of cellos and violas represents the people of Russia in their homes and churches as the invasion and their suffering escalate.

One critical element is the brass-borne strains of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” which has the characteristic sound of the cavalry riding to the rescue. But remember, France represents the Napoleonic menace; they’re the bad guys. Victory comes when they are countered by louder strains of the Russian anthem “God Save the Czar.” And, of course, by the Imperial Army and its cannons—sixteen shots in all.

---NHK Symphony Orchestra

After the battling and the cannon fire, the initial hymn tune returns to the whole orchestra and triumphant church bells ring out. They remind us that it is not the army or the czar but the Russian people who are the hero of the “1812” Overture—a democratic ideal that may be the closest link between America’s national culture and the overture’s origins.

Video 15 minutes 22 seconds

Video

Meet the Guest Artists

Meet the Guest Artists

Yekwon Sunwoo

Born in Anyang, South Korea, 28-year-old pianist Yekwon Sunwoo began learning piano at the age of 8. He gave his recital and orchestra debuts in 2004, both in Seoul, before moving to the United States in 2005 to study with Seymour Lipkin at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. Sunwoo received his master’s degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Robert McDonald. He also received training from Richard Goode at the Mannes School of Music.

Sunwoo currently studies under Bernd Goetzke in Hanover, Germany. In 2017, Sunwoo won the gold medal at the coveted Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. In addition to this honor, Sunwoo has won first prizes at the 2015 International German Piano Award in Frankfurt, the 2014 Vendome Prize held at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the 2013 Sendai International Music Competition in Japan, and the 2012 William Kapell International Piano Competition in the U.S.

He has performed with The Juilliard Orchestra under Itzhak Perlman at Avery Fisher Hall, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop, Houston Symphony Orchestra, National Orchestra of Belgium, Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra and others. He has given recitals at Carnegie Hall, Hamarikyu Asahi Hall in Tokyo, Wigmore Hall in London, Radio France and Salle Cortot in Paris, and Kumho Art Hall in Seoul.

Sunwoo has been featured on WQXR’s McGraw-Hill Young Artists Showcase and has performed chamber music for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with Ida Kavafian and Peter Wiley as part of “Curtis on Tour,” and with Roberto Diaz on the Bay Chamber Concerts. Sunwoo appears by arrangement with the Cliburn.

Huntington Beach Concert Band

The Huntington Beach Concert Band has been performing for Southern California audiences for more than 40 years. Founded by John Mason in 1973, this non-profit volunteer community concert band is conducted by Thomas Ridley and provides concerts to the greater Orange County area throughout the year.

The band’s purpose is to provide a creative opportunity for all musicians age 18 or older to share musical talents and bring enjoyment to others through public performance. They are formally organized as a California non-profit corporation.

The band plays 12-15 concerts a year throughout Orange County. This includes two concerts as part of the annual Sunday Summer Concert Series. The band is proud to have organized and sponsored this series for many years, increasing the number of concerts from a low of four in 2004 to 11 since 2006.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, please click here.