Segerstrom Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, CA
Friday, June 4 & Saturday, June 5, 2004
The Pacific Symphony Orchestra
Carl St.Clair, conductor – JOHN WILLIAMS, conductor
Raymond Kobler, violin – Timothy Landauer, cello – James Kanter, clarinet – James Self, tuba
Pacific Chorale – Pacific Chorale Children’s Chorus
25th Anniversary Finale with John Williams
Concert review from the Orange County Register
Party Snacks at Pacific
A rambling sampler program, with John Williams as guest, marks the orchestra’s 25th anniversary season finale.
By TIMOTHY MANGAN
The Orange County Register
For the grand finale of its 25th anniversary season, Friday night in Segerstrom Hall, the Pacific Symphony piled the plate high.
It invited a few of its friends ? including composer John Williams, who encouraged the orchestra to hire music director Carl St.Clair 14 seasons ago; and the Pacific Chorale, frequent collaborators over the years ? to help mark the occasion. As a tribute to its own musicians, instead of glittery stars it featured several principal players in brief and not so brief solo assignments.
It packed the program with a large sampling of musical snacks, including six (count ’em) pieces by Williams himself. It decorated the stage with banners and balloons, offered judicious speeches and unveiled for the first time before the public a virtual reality tour, shown on a giant screen, of the orchestra’s future home, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, scheduled to open across the street in the fall of 2006.
If this rambling agenda failed to muster much momentum, if it lacked a center of gravity and went on for 30 minutes too long, it did manage to entertain reasonably enough as well as touch on some of the orchestra’s strong points after a quarter century of existence.
Chief among them, of course, are its musicians. Made up from a talented pool of local freelancers and Hollywood studio players, the Pacific Symphony is a versatile, confident and technically proficient ensemble. A quibbler would have enjoyed hearing a few more of the musicians in the limelight (André Previn’s nifty “Principals,” with its multiple solos for first desk players, might have killed two birds), and a work that celebrated the orchestra itself (Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide”?), but we digress.
As it was, the players that did step forward impressed. Cellist Timothy Landauer gave a tender, articulate account of Tchaikovsky’s Variations on Rococo Theme, with St.Clair and company in dainty support. Clarinetist James Kanter sang nobly and creamily as if from greater and greater distances in the second movement of Mozart’s concerto for his instrument. Concertmaster Raymond Kobler provided silken-toned readings of Three Pieces from Schindler’s List, without undue schmaltz.
Tubist James Self ? the man responsible for shattering windows in Close Encounters of the Third Kind ? seemed hampered by his assignment, though. The final movement of Williams’ Tuba Concerto set him to burbling and whirring to no great effect. He made up for it in an encore ? a furiously agile account of the “Clarinet Polka,” played alone.
The Pacific Symphony’s percussion section smartly dispatched Christopher Rouse’s Ogoun Badagris, a rumble in the jungle for five players and just about anything you can hit with a stick.
Williams’ works proved a mixed bag on this occasion. The concert opened with two of his short ceremonial works ? Sound the Bells, written for a Japanese royal wedding, and Call of the Champions, the official theme of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Both in his brilliant, tintinnabulary mode (the second featuring epic choir), they together became more than enough, like starting a meal with two ice cream cones. Nevertheless, the musicians cavorted with athletic sizzle.
Williams’ Tributes!, composed for Seiji Ozawa’s 25th anniversary with the Boston Symphony, which began the second half, is cut from a different cloth, with long, chromatically linear lines, acerbic textures and learned convolutions. It’s engaging moment by moment, though one couldn’t quite discern the logic of its narrative or length. So, too, with the more familiarly Williamsesque Exultate justi, for children’s and adult choruses and orchestra, a rather Christmasy anthem that goes round and round and round. It did make a joyful noise, though, with the aid of the red-jacketed All-American Boys Chorus and the Pacific Chorale.
All that remained was for a sextet of herald trumpets to solemnly take to stage right and left and for St.Clair, the orchestra and chorale to lay into the Triumphal March and Chorus “Gloria al l’Egitto” from Act Two of Verdi’s Aida, an opus that at first seemed stylistically out of nowhere but which eventually provided the proper hum-along pomp required for the occasion.
A run-through of Happy Birthday served as a quasi-encore.
Concert review by Hector J. Guzman
The Orange County’s Pacific Symphony celebrated its 25th anniversary, founded in 1978 with mostly studio musicians from the Los Angeles area, many of them feature in film score recordings. Carl St.Clair, for the ocassion wanted to celebrate with the man that introduced him to the orchestra, John Williams had guest conducted with the Pacific Symphony in 1989, shortly after this came the Boston Pops season in May of that year, St.Clair was assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony and Williams told him of this orchestra and that it was looking for a music director, the following year St.Clair was named conductor of this orchestra. So now you know one more deed by the man who is reveered in this community.
For me this has been the most exciting concert I’ve ever attended, for the first time I get to see a big chorus live. I’ve seen choruses of 20 or 30 people, but this one was 130 strong. When the orchestra had tuned, members of the chorus took their place behind the orchestra. Mr. St.Clair entered to applause and not wasting any time got to the first selection, Sound the Bells! it sounded much better than the recording available. Mr. St.Clair introduced John Williams as he came out the left side of the stage to applause and also got to the podium and quickly started with Call of the Champions, the 2002 Winter Olympics theme. It sounded marvelous, this opening pieces have something that you never think of when listening on CD, there’s some timpani parts that the percussionist playing it seems to be dancing.
Maestro Carl St.Clair returned to conduct Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme with principal cellist Timothy Landauer, this one has a nice tune, which of course has seven variations or so, some parts require virtuoso playing, it was very enjoyable piece. For the following selection, the whole orchestra left because they didn’t need to be there, Ogoun Badagris by composer Christopher Rouse ust calls for five percussionists. Inspired by Haitian drumming patterns from Voodoo rituals, it was one of the most exciting parts of the whole concert, a highlight, no less. Next came principal clarinetist James Kanter as soloist on the Adagio from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major. This movement was featured in the 1985 film Out of Africa. Mr. Kanter has been featured as soloist in many soundtracks including many by John Williams.
Full orchestra returned of the final piece before intermission, and again from the left side of the stage Mr. James Self with his tuba and John Williams after him to play the third movement of his own Tuba Concerto. Mr. Self, also a performer with the studio orchestras has been featured in film score recordings including the famous conversation scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he played the mothership dialogue in the original soundtrack recording. The performance of the Tuba Concerto was wonderful, you notice a lot of stuff you never think about when playing it on CD like the part after the brassy flourish with the whole orchestra playing, then only the brass stay to put the rhythmic tempo when the tuba enters for the fast paced finale, also some percussion that I didn’t notice in the old Boston Pops recording. Mr. Williams left very quickly to Mr. Self got all the applause, and then he played an encore called “Clarinet Boogie” I think. It recieved a great cheer by the audience.
After intermission they showed us video of the future of the Pacific Symphony, and construction of the new hall for the orchestra, the video was something that even if you’re not from there, made you feel part of their community. Mr. St.Clair came and conducted Williams’ Tributes!. This piece was originally titled “For Seiji!”, it’s always great to hear it. I got the chance to hear it for the first time in February 2002 when Williams conducted his 70th Birthday concert in Los Angeles, like Kathy Allen said in another review, a tour-de-force for the entire orchestra. Next Mr. Williams returned with the orchestra’s concertmaster Raymond Kobler for “Three Pieces from Schindler’s List“, this time Mr. Williams conducted them in reverse order starting with “Remembrances”, followed by “Jewish Town” and the theme. Beautiful music. After the applause Mr. Kobler returned to his seat as concertmaster and as he tuned the orchestra from both sides of the stage came the red jacketed boys choir, the All-American Boys Chorus, then Mr. Williams came and conducted them in his “Exsultate justi” from the film Empire of the Sun, this one was a treat for me, I never thought I’d get to hear it live with Mr. Williams since he doesn’t program chorus in his Hollywood Bowl concerts, he siezed the opportunity this time, I guess.
For the conclusion of the concert, Mr. St.Clair returned to conduct Verdi’s spectacular “Triumphal March and Chorus” from Aïda, fantastic music, and with that the concert ended, but not the night. Mr. St.Clair invited us outside to have cake and champagne for all 3000 guests with live jazz music, the entire audience for the celebration of the orchestra’s 25th season, he thanked Mr. Williams and balloons came out from the ceiling while the orchestra played “Happy Birthday”. And with that the concert ended, on a happy note.
This is the program:
ORANGE COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Friday & Saturday, June 4 & 5, 2004, at 8:00 PM
ORANGE COUNTY’S PACIFIC SYMPHONY
Carl St.Clair, Music Director
2003-2004 Hall and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Classics Series
25TH ANNIVERSARY FINALE
Carl St.Clair & John Williams, conductor
Raymond Kobler. violin – Timothy Landauer, cello
James Kanter, clarinet – James Self, tuba
Pacific Chorale, John Alexander, artistic director
The All-American Boys Chorus, Wesley Martin, director
WILLIAMS………………….. Sound the Bells!
WILLIAMS………………….. Call of the Champions
………………………………………… Pacific Chorale
TCHAIKOVSKY………….. Variations on a Rococo Theme
………………………………………… Mr. Landauer
ROUSE………………………… Ogoun Badagris
………………………………………… Pacific Symphony’s Percussion Section
MOZART……………………… Adagio from Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in A major, K. 622
………………………………………… Mr. Kanter
WILLIAMS…………………… Allegro Molto from Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra
………………………………………… Mr. Self
WILLIAMS…………………… Three Pieces from Schindler’s List
…………………………………………. Mr. Kobler
WILLIAMS…………………… Exultate justi for Children’s Chorus and Orchestra
…………………………………………. The All-American Boys Chorus
VERDI………………………….. Triumphal March and Chorus Gloria al l’Egitto from Act II from Aïda
…………………………………………. Pacific Chorale
From the Orange County Register:
Beyond the silver screen
Film composer John Williams leads the Pacific Symphony in an invigorating evening that didn’t need movie images.
By TIMOTHY MANGAN
The Orange County Register
Film music doesn’t always work in the concert hall. Divorced of the images that inspired and shaped it, that gave it form, it can wander hither and yon without rhyme or reason, at best serving as a mere mnemonic device for the listener to recall the absent imagery.
But John Williams, who conducted the Pacific Symphony in an evening of his film music, Friday in Segerstrom Hall, put it another way. He said that the concert offered the opportunity to hear the music “without the distraction of the film,” thereby implying a certain independence at least for his own creations.
On this occasion, the film music selected from Williams’ vast back catalog did quite well, thank you, sans celluloid. The audience certainly gobbled it up enthusiastically and at least one critic enjoyed himself beyond expectations. The agenda featured many of the usual suspects, sure, during which the listener’s mind provided missing images, but even the less familiar music turned out concert-worthy here.
John Williams’ film music is extremely well made. It has a technical finish and learned accomplishment that most film music cannot boast of. The orchestrations (he does all his own) are superbly becoming to an orchestra, rich and resonant in the lower registers, pinging and brilliant in the brass and percussion, lush and meaty in the strings. Indeed, Friday’s concert seemed something of an object lesson in writing for the strings, so consistently pleasing was their sound.
There were short excerpts to be heard ? the Tribute to the Film Composer, which dovetails familiar snippets from dozens of movie scores, only some by Williams; or the robust theme music to NBC’s Nightly News ? but also extended pieces which worked as extended pieces, long dramatic arcs created from shorter film cues. one such was his Selections from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a terrific concert piece that Williams also led at Disney Hall’s opening. Beginning with lugubrious dissonance that recalls early Penderecki, it journeys through lush Romanticism, triumphant statement of sculpted main theme, and quiet reminiscence ? it’s got real sweep.
His “Suite from JFK” ? with movements titled “Theme,” “Motorcade” and “Arlington” ? proves a fitting, somber remembrance, the assassination insinuated disturbingly rather than pictured graphically, and sentimentality kept at bay.
Williams’ music is an irony-free zone, and he does nobility better than most living composers. The evening reminded us how well he can write ceremonial music. A listener’s heart rate picks up despite itself with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme. In its granitic fanfares and pulsing military rhythms underpinning soaring theme, one recognizes certain Williams formulas, but he usually makes them work anyhow. The content outweighs the conventions.
The second half provided evidence of the composer’s mimicking abilities, with the Irish folk music-flavored score to Far and Away and the cool ’60s jazz of Catch Me If You Can(here arranged into a kind of concerto for alto sax called “Escapades from ‘Catch Me If You Can.’ “)
Williams served as gracious host, offering quips and anecdotes. For instance, after Steven Spielberg first screened a music-less Schindler’s List for him, a shaken Williams told the director that he needed a better composer to write the score. “I know,” replied Spielberg, “but they’re all dead.” Still, Williams’ answer to the challenge was the “Theme to ‘Schindler’s List’ ” (played here without tears by Raymond Kobler), which is poignant simplicity itself.
Several of the pieces had abrupt endings, mere major chord tags that added a period or an exclamation point for the concert hall. Oh well, Wagner had the same problem.
As a conductor, Williams reminded one more of Richard Strauss, who used to look at his watch while leading an orchestra. Williams wiped his brow with a handkerchief during one piece, and generally led calmly, clearly and straightforwardly. He’d been here and done that. But the method worked: The music spoke for itself, neither overly sweet nor bombastic.
The Pacificers (many of them studio players) sounded like a million bucks. The style was second nature to them and the playing was enthusiastic yet poised. The little light show projected on the back wall seemed unnecessary ? like that sand in a Hula Hoop ? but not distracting enough to be offensive. Williams is back in three weeks, by the way, to share a program with Carl St. Clair. Among the works on offer will be his non-cinematic Tuba Concerto.