The French Connection cover

The French Connection


Immerse yourself in the sound and color of 19th-century French Romantic chamber works. Journey through a trio of sonatas as you experience a range of instrumental textures including violin, flute, harp and bassoon. Enjoy coffee, tea and pastries in the intimate coffee-house atmosphere of the Samueli Theater.
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Pacific Symphony
Sunday, October 14, 2018 @ 3:00 PM Segerstrom Center for the Arts Samueli Theater

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The French Connection


Orli Shaham, piano and host

Dennis Kim, violin

Benjamin Smolen, flute

Rose Corrigan, bassoon

Meredith Crawford, viola

Mindy Ball, harp



Allegretto moderato

Allegro scherzando

Molto adagio – Allegro moderato

Rose Corrigan

Orli Shaham



Pastorale: Lento dolce rubato Interlude: Tempo di minuetto

Final: Allegro moderato ma risoluto

Benjamin Smolen

Meredith Crawford

Mindy Ball




Allegretto ben moderato

Allegro molto

Recitativo-Fantasia: Ben moderato

Allegretto poco mosso

Dennis Kim

Orli Shaham

Sunday, October 14, 2018 @ 3:00 PM Segerstrom Center for the Arts Samueli Theater

This concert has been generously sponsored by Sandra Smart-Ashburn and Harry Ashburn.



Born in 1835, when the Romantic era was still young, the spectacularly gifted Saint‑Saëns lived through one of the most turbulent periods in music history. The magisterial music critic Harold Schonberg, who reigned for two decades at The New York Times, described him as the greatest of all music prodigies, outpacing even Mozart and Mendelssohn.

As an adult, Saint-Saëns recalled experiencing the aleatoric sounds of early childhood as music; his description of a 2-year-old’s overheard “symphony of the kettle,” with its slow, eventful crescendo, is vivid. He began composing at age 3, and performed one of Beethoven’s violin sonatas in a Paris salon at age 4; by age 10, in a legendary concert at the Salle Pleyel, he followed his performance of a movement from Beethoven’s C Minor piano concerto with an offer to play any of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas from memory. “This young man knows everything, but he lacks in experience,” noted Berlioz—not a surprising observation, considering the age of the “young man” in question.

Saint-Saëns became a protégé of Franz Liszt, who declared him “the world’s greatest organist,” and he won the ungrudging admiration of Berlioz, who called him “an absolutely shattering master pianist.” His mastery of the composer’s tools was staggering: encyclopedic knowledge of the orchestral instruments, of music history and theory, of harmony and structure.

He was a visionary, co-founding the Société Nationale de Musique for the advancement of French music and appreciating his mentor Liszt as few of his contemporaries did, noting—with remarkable perspicacity—that they celebrated Liszt as the world’s greatest pianist in part because that was easier than appreciating his innovations and importance as a composer.

On his deathbed, another prolific and long-lived composer, Joseph Haydn, is reputed to have said, “What a shame, I was just learning to compose for the woodwinds.” The remark could just as well have been uttered by Saint-Saëns, who undertook a series of woodwind‑and‑piano sonatas in 1921, the last year of his life.

His bassoon sonata, Op. 168, proved to be the last of this group. His projected sonata for cor anglais was never composed, and given the buoyant good humor of his solo bassoon writing, we can only imagine how he might have showcased the mournful, plangent sound of the English horn.

For bassoonists, Saint-Saëns’ Op. 168 is a cornerstone of the repertory, displaying the composer’s antic wit, his understanding of the instrument’s expressive possibilities, and an appreciation of the rapid, nimble tone production possible on the bassoon. But it seems that despite his appreciation of the instrument’s texture and color, Saint‑Saëns’ technical knowledge of it was sketchy.

In composing the sonata he consulted his friend Clément-Léon Letellier, professor of bassoon performance at the Paris Conservatoire and first bassoonist at the Opéra Paris, even asking Letellier to demonstrate the instrument’s range. But Letellier was hardly dealing with an amateur, and Saint‑Saëns’ quick mastery of the instrument’s capabilities delighted him.

The sonata is composed in three movements, its lingering first movement adorned with florid passagework for the bassoon; though Saint-Saëns was a first-rate pianist who performed his own concertos, here the piano is subordinated. While the piano takes the lead in introducing the sonata’s allegretto movement, the bassoon overtakes it with a profusion of 16th‑notes that propels the music along.

The movement seems to divide into two, so that the finale, with its spectacular bassoon writing, has the feeling of a fourth movement. Here the composer’s advice from Letellier pays off, as the bassoon shows off its entire range, from a low B-flat to a high E.

---Video 7:24

Darren Hicks, bassoon player, participated in The Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program at The Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, 2014-2015. Here, he performs Camille Saint-Saëns's Bassoon Sonata, Op. 168, Movements 1 and 2.




With his compatriot Ravel, Claude Debussy is considered the father of Impressionism in music. The dates are certainly right: Debussy was born in 1862, and Impressionism in painting began to take shape in the 1870s. But what does Impressionism in music mean?

In painting we can see how the fleeting impression is captured, how light and air fill the canvas rather than an arrangement of solid objects. For the musical equivalent we need only listen to this sonata’s crystalline textures and dreamlike quality of sound.

Debussy was one of the composers responsible for establishing the uncanny rightness of combining woodwinds, strings and harp. This sonata, composed starting in 1915, is the earliest in the standard repertory to combine the flute, viola and harp into an extraordinarily expressive trio. The textures are especially appropriate for the Impressionist style.

But it is likely that when Debussy composed this work, he was looking further back and further ahead than the 20th century. For one thing, after raging for more than a year, the horrors of World War I were causing artists to question the value of their work and of art itself. For another, symptoms of Debussy’s incipient colon cancer had confronted him with his own mortality.

Like Ravel in his Le Tombeau de Couperin from around the same time, Debussy was inspired here by French music of the Baroque era, which we hear echoed in the crystalline elegance of the sonata’s textures.

It also affirms Debussy’s commitment to the importance of music in the face of a global catastrophe that seemed to call civilization itself into question. Writing to his friend Robert Godet, Debussy described the sonata’s sound as “so terribly melancholy that I can’t say whether one should laugh or cry. Perhaps both at the same time?”

In spite of the darkness that surrounded its composition, listening to the sonata is an unalloyed pleasure—one that echoes with references to the past and the future. Its diaphanous opening is built around brief musical gestures that curl like smoke, then coalesce. This is a sound that is as modern as anything Debussy ever wrote.

Then in the central movement, a minuet, we hear an homage to Baroque style. The finale brings an upsurge of energy and exciting pizzicato passages in the viola, but it resolves in a self‑consciously un‑Baroque gesture: a reminder of the contemplative flute motif that opened the first movement.

---Video 18:33

Chamber recital featuring "Formosa Trio"

Viola - Tze-Ying Wu

Harp - Joy Yeh

Flute- Pei-San Chiu




We can learn a lot about composers by looking at period artifacts, and especially from their portraits. From viewing photos of César Franck and his friend and colleague Camille Saint- Saëns, we would assume that Saint-Saëns, with his long, fatherly visage and full beard, was older than Franck, who had the face of an aging leprechaun and bushy mutton-chop sideburns.

We might also get this impression just by listening: While Saint- Saëns’ compositions remained firmly rooted in early-19th century traditions, Franck’s music, with its misty textures and wandering harmonies, gives hints of change to come in French music. Well, surprise: Franck was actually the older of the two, born 13 years before Saint-Saëns. “Rhapsodic” is an apt word for his ravishing Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major.

From the gentle rocking of its opening movement to its rapturously melodic close, this sonata is expressed with a frankness and spontaneity that seem almost religious— and small wonder.

Like Saint-Saëns, Franck was trained as an organist and might well have expected to make his career entirely in the church. He composed extensively for the organ, and it was natural for him to express spirituality in his music. As lovers of his chamber music attest, it is a sensuous combination of sweet and somber.

Though Franck did not compose this work until 1886, when he was 63, its roots may extend as far back as 1858, when he promised to write a violin sonata for Franz Liszt’s daughter Cosima von Bülow. That sonata never materialized, but any work he might have devoted to it might have been applied to the A major sonata, which he composed as a wedding present for the great Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe.

Its premiere at a museum in Brussels is one of those musical legends: It was the last work in a long program that had begun in the late afternoon, and as the darkness deepened, museum officials refused to allow artificial illumination. Ysaÿe and his pianist continued in darkness.

Listening to this beloved sonata today—it has become one of the most celebrated in the repertory—we can only imagine that the effect was spellbinding. By championing it in the years that followed, Ysaÿe helped bring Franck’s greatness to greater public awareness.

This is a true duo sonata, with the piano and violin on equal footing. Both parts pose virtuosic demands. The gentle, rocking motion of the opening—an effect that Debussy and Ravel also loved, and that critics often call “motility”—opens onto a more energetic second movement of allegro tempo.

---Video 29:01

Throughout the sonata an organically flowing sound prevails. It ends with an extraordinary example of canonic writing. Here Franck’s combination of poetry and extraordinary precision of craft is overwhelming. It can be appreciated by anyone who has ever sung a round such as “row, row, row your boat.”

Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in-chief for The Santa Fe Opera.



We extend our sincere gratitude to Sandy and Harry for their sponsorship of this Café Ludwig performance. Sandy and Harry are enthusiastic supporters of classical music; they are an important part of our Pacific Symphony family. Sandy serves on the Governing Committee of the Board of Counselors. In addition, over the last several years, Sandy has been the volunteer liaison with AT&T, which provides a large contingent of employee volunteers for our Spring Class Act Youth Concerts at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Hall.

We extend our sincere appreciation to Sandy Smart-Ashburn and Harry Ashburn for all they do for Pacific Symphony.


A consummate musician recognized for her grace and vitality, Orli Shaham has established an impressive international reputation as one of today’s most gifted pianists. Hailed by critics on four continents, Shaham is in demand for her prodigious skills and admired for her interpretations of both standard and modern repertoire. The New York Times called her a “brilliant pianist,” the Chicago Tribune recently referred to her as “a first- rate Mozartean” in a performance with the Chicago Symphony and London’s Guardian said Shaham’s playing at the Proms was “perfection.”

Shaham has performed with nearly every major American orchestra, as well as many in Europe, Asia and Australia. A frequent guest at summer festivals, her appearances include Tanglewood, Ravinia, Verbier, Mostly Mozart, La Jolla, Music Academy of the West and Aspen. Shaham’s acclaimed 2015 recording, Brahms Inspired, is a collection of new compositions alongside works by Brahms and his compositional forefathers. Other recordings include John Adams’ Grand Pianola Music with the pianist Marc‑André Hamelin and the San Francisco Symphony, with the composer conducting, American Grace, a CD of piano music by John Adams and Steven Mackey with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, David Robertson conducting, and Nigunim - Hebrew Melodies, recorded with her brother, the violinist Gil Shaham.


Dennis Kim is the concertmaster of Pacific Symphony. A citizen of the world, Kim was born in Korea, raised in Canada and educated in the United States. He has spent more than a decade leading orchestras in the United States, Europe and Asia. Most recently, he was concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in New York. He was first appointed concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra at the age of 22. He then served as the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, before going on to lead the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland.

As guest concertmaster, Kim has performed on four continents, leading the BBC Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and Helsinki Philharmonic orchestras, Orchestre National de Lille, KBS Symphony Orchestra, Montpelier Symphony Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Western Australia Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra of Navarra. He served as guest concertmaster with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra on their 10‑city tour of the United Kingdom and led the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in their BBC Proms debut in 2014.

After making his solo debut at the age of 14 with the Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Kim has gone on to perform as a soloist with many of the most important orchestras in China and Korea. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Yale School of Music, Kim’s teachers include Jaime Laredo, Aaron Rosand, Peter Oundjian, Paul Kantor, Victor Danchenko and Yumi Ninomiya Scott. He plays the 1701 ex-Dushkin Stradivarius, on permanent loan from a generous donor.


Benjamin Smolen was appointed principal flutist of Pacific Symphony in September 2011. Since beginning his studies at the age of 10 in Charlotte, N.C., he has won top prizes at the Haynes International Flute Competition, the James Pappoutsakis Memorial Flute Competition and the New York Flute Club Young Artist Competition. He has also given solo performances with the Princeton University Orchestra, Charlotte Civic and Youth Orchestras, Gardner Webb Symphony Orchestra, and on National Public Radio’s From the Top with pianist Christopher O’Riley. His performances have been featured on NPR, WGBH-Boston, French National Radio, and the Naxos and Mode record labels.

Smolen completed his undergraduate studies in the Music and Slavic departments at Princeton University, during which time he also completed a performance diploma at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. He subsequently earned a master of music degree in flute performance at the New England Conservatory and a performance certificate from the University of Michigan.


Rose Corrigan started playing bassoon to escape from the flute section of her high school band. It was an act of rebellion and perhaps a way to sit closer to boys. After her first lesson she brought the bassoon home, hoping to shock her parents with her act of bravery and independence, only to discover that her mother had played it herself in high school. This undermined her act of rebellion; however, she was already passionate about the instrument, loving its variety of tone color, richness and lyricism. Its tessitura was closer to that of her voice, and she discovered that she was drawn to the supporting role it often plays in the repertoire.

Currently, Corrigan is principal bassoonist of Pacific Symphony, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Pasadena Symphony, and a former member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. Corrigan is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she studied with Michael O’Donovan, a teacher whose pedagogy included exposure to great cinema, literature and restaurants. She returned to the university as an adjunct professor, teaching bassoon from 1993 until 2011.

Corrigan has played bassoon and contrabassoon on the soundtracks of over 500 motion pictures, working with composers such as Michael Giacchino, Patrick Doyle, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Powell, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, James Horner, Michel Legrand, Michael Kamen and William Ross. A few of the films that include her playing are Ice Age, Life of Pi, Bolt, Despicable Me, Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It, Aladdin, The Lion King, Cars, Enchanted, WALL-E and Pirates of the Caribbean. Her bassoon solos are prominent in March of the Penguins, one of the only movies to list a bassoonist in its closing credits. She has also performed on hundreds of records for stars like Paul McCartney, Tony Williams, Barbra Streisand and Natalie Cole.


Violist Meredith Crawford, a Maine native, studied under the tutelage of Professor Peter Slowik at Oberlin College and Conservatory. She graduated in 2009 after completing Oberlin’s double- degree program with both a B.M. in viola performance and a bachelor’s degree in English literature. After being inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda honor society, she received the prestigious prize for musicianship, awarded to students judged to be “the most outstanding of those elected to Pi Kappa Lambda.” Crawford was the first prize winner of the Ohio Viola Society’s annual competition in 2007, the 2009 Skokie Valley Symphony Annual Young Artist Competition and the 2009-10 Oberlin Conservatory Competition—the first win for a violist in over a decade.

At the age of 22—before the completion of her senior year at Oberlin Conservatory— she won her first orchestral audition and a seat with Pacific Symphony. In September 2012, she was awarded the position of assistant principal violist and five years later, she won her current position with the orchestra as principal violist, Catherine and James Emmi Chair. Additionally, she has been performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic since April 2010, and more recently with the Riverside Philharmonic (as principal viola), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Irvine’s Mozart Classical Orchestra. Crawford is also an active chamber musician, performing frequently with the L.A.-based Salastina Music Society, the Historic Portsmouth Chamber Music Series in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the High Desert Chamber Music series in Bend, Ore. Crawford is also on the faculty of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina, where she is assistant principal viola of the faculty orchestra under the baton of Gerard Schwarz. She currently resides in beautiful Belmont Shore (where her neighbors include Pacific Symphony’s principal flutist Benjamin Smolen and principal oboist Jessica Pearlman) with her two cats, Twinkie and Rahula.


Mindy Ball began playing the harp at age 12, studying with Marjorie Call-Salzedo and receiving her degree in harp performance from Chapman University with honors. She also trained with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute Orchestra under distinguished American conductor Leonard Bernstein. Currently celebrating her 39th year as principal harpist with Pacific Symphony, she is also principal harpist with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and has held principal positions with Opera Pacific and Pittsburgh Opera under John Mauceri.

Ball performs regularly for major and international touring ballet companies and has recorded for film and television including PBS specials for Barry Manilow, American Ballet Theater, NBC Movies of the Week, Superman and Batman cartoons, Diablo 3 and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Other performances have included groups such as Aerosmith, Journey, Eagles, Cheryl Crow, B-52’s, Pink Martini, Paul McCartney and Johnny Mathis.

The Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register have described her performances as “expressive,” “vigorous and assertive” and “virtuosic.” Ball has toured to Europe, China and New York with Pacific Symphony, and to Japan and Brazil with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. For 12 years she performed for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach and the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.

In addition, she has played for political dignitaries such as former presidents George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In 1993, Ball founded the Pacific Harp Ensemble and serves as director and current conductor. Along with keeping a busy freelance career, she teaches harp at Biola, Chapman, Cal State Fullerton, Vanguard and Concordia universities, as well as limited private instruction. She is founding and past president of the Orange County chapter of the American Harp Society which was awarded Chapter of the Year in 2008.