By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
The Pasadena Symphony will move to Ambassador Auditorium for its 2010-11 season, leaving its longtime home at nearby Pasadena Civic Auditorium for the smaller and more acoustically friendly concert hall. In addition, the orchestra will add Saturday matinee concerts beginning next season and will be led by a guest conductor for just the second time since Jorge Mester became the orchestra’s music director 25 years ago.
That news and the 2010-11 seasons for the PSO and Pasadena Pops Orchestra were unveiled officially tonight at a party for symphony patrons and donors, ironically on the steps of the Civic, which has been home to the PSO since 1931 (it plays a concert of Berlioz and Mozart there Saturday night and has two more concerts scheduled at the Civic to conclude this season).
Other news included the formal announcement that Music Director Rachael Worby will lead the Pasadena Pops on June 19 in its first concert at what is now being called the “Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl” with a program featuring Cirque de la Symphonie and fireworks. The Pops has performed at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada for more than a decade.
PASADENA SYMPHONY TO SHIFT TO AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM NEXT SEASON
Each of the five Pasadena Symphony concerts at Ambassador, beginning October 23, will offer programs at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. “I’ve heard from people who have said they can no longer get out at night to go to concerts,” says Chief Executive Officer Paul Jan Zdunek. “In addition, we’ve seen the success of afternoon programs by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Disney Hall. So we hope adding matinee performances will open up, or perhaps reopen, a new audience for us beginning next season.”
The move to Ambassador was artistically driven, says Zdunek, and it came together quickly (the season had already been planned for the Civic). “Actually, the Ambassador folks contacted us,” he said (the auditorium is home to the Harvest Rock Church). “We weren’t even aware that Ambassador would entertain hosting more orchestra concerts than in its current schedule. Performing in a superior acoustic hall and having the chance to branch out to afternoon concerts was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
From the time it opened in 1974, Ambassador Auditorium has been considered a superb acoustic setting for recitals and orchestra concerts, often dubbed the “Carnegie Hall of the West.” During the 20 years it presented world-class concerts, Ambassador hosted many renowned orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony. The Philadelphia Orchestra liked the hall so much it made recordings there. Among the legendary soloists that appeared were pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Artur Rubinstein.
"It's a very intimate space,” said Zdunek to Pasadena Star-News reporter Janette Williams. “[Sitting in the auditorium] is almost like being inside the orchestra. There's no bad seat in the hall, even all the way back in the balcony, next to the wall ... physically and orally it's quite astounding."
Mester will conduct four of the five concerts during the upcoming season; the final one, on May 7, 2011, will be led by Chilean-born conductor Maximiano Valdés, who has spent much of his professional life in Spain although he was music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic for 10 years.
Valdés appearance came about because Mester was unavailable on May 7. “Our original schedule for the Civic had a different May date,” explained Mester, “but when we shifted to Ambassador and had to play on May 7 I was already booked.” Valdés was one of the potential replacements that Mester recommended.
The only other time someone other than Mester conducted a complete Pasadena Symphony concert was when Mester’s wife was expecting the birth of their daughter and he brought in a substitute. As is often the case with babies, the birth didn’t occur for several days.
Having Valdés conduct the PSO and Grant Cooper lead the Pops in a Dec. 4 holiday program is healthy for both ensembles, says Zdunek. “I was astonished when I came here,” said Zdunek, “and found out that the PSO hadn’t had a guest conductor since Jorge came to here 25 years ago or the Pops since Rachael took over as its music director 10 years ago. Guest conductors are necessary for any orchestra. They bring different perspectives both for the orchestra and the audience.”
PASADENA POPS 2010 SUMMER SEASON
In addition to its June 19 opener, the other Pops dates are:
• July 17 — I Love New York
• August 14 — All That Jazz
• September 25 — Hooray for Hollywood!
All concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. with gates opening for picnicking two hours prior to each concert. The holiday concert on Dec. 4 at the Pasadena Civic begins at 7 p.m.
PASADENA SYMPHONY 2010-2011 CONCERTS
The 2010-20111 Pasadena Symphony concerts will emphasize Ambassador’s rich acoustics, beginning with the October 23 opener when Mester will lead Rossini’s La Cenerentola Overture, Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and Barber’s Violin Concerto, with violinist Anne Akkiko Meyer as soloist.
Concerts in 2011 are:
• January 22, with Mester leading Britten’s Soirée Musicales, Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, with Narek Hakhnazaryn as soloist.
• February 19; Mester conducting Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 3, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, and Schuman’s Piano Concerto with Robert Thies as soloist.
• March 12; Mester conducting excerpts from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Khachatur Avetisyan’s Kanun Concerto with Karine Hovhannisyan as soloist. The kanun, according to one Web site, “has a trapeziodal shape. There are an average of 26 different notes (possibly up to 30 notes), and for each note there are two or three (mostly three) strings for a total of from 74 to 81 strings. The total range is up to 3.5 octaves.” The kanun is related to the ancient Biblical “psaltery.”
• May 7; Valdés conducting Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Chinese pianist Chu-Fan Huang as soloist.
AMBASSADOR TOURS, TICKETS AND INFORMATION
Current and potential Pasadena Symphony subscribers can tour Ambassador Auditorium on April 2 and 3 to check out seating possibilities. Guided tours will take place on the hour from 4-7 p.m. on April 2 and 9 a.m. to noon on April 3. Visitors can also visit without taking a tour. Log onto tour.Ambassador.eventbrite.com to sign up.
Season brochures will be given to everyone attending Saturday night’s Pasadena Symphony concert and will be inserted into Sunday’s Pasadena Star-News. To receive a 2010-2011 season brochure, call the Symphony-Pops at 626/793-7172 or log onto www.PasadenaSymphony-Pops.org.
• Read Janette Williams article in the Pasadena Star-News HERE
• (NOTE: this link has been added to the original post.) Read Mike Boehm's story in the Los Angeles Times HERE
(c) Copyright 2010, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.