. Interchanging Idioms: Piano Luminary Andrew Von Oeyen Join Pacific Symphony for Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1

Friday, April 20, 2012

Piano Luminary Andrew Von Oeyen Join Pacific Symphony for Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1

The orchestra also Tackles Schubert's Last Symphony --His Ninth, "the Great."

Young genius takes the spotlight for “Schubert’s Ninth,” as Pacific Symphony’s Music Director Carl St.Clair leads this concert featuring great accomplishments in music both written and performed by prodigies. Franz Schubert wrote nine symphonies by the time of his death at the age of 31. His final Symphony No. 9, “The Great C Major,” is claimed by experts to be the first towering masterpiece to follow Beethoven’s Ninth, proving that great symphonies could still be written. Straddling both the Classical and Romantic eras, Schubert’s Ninth has the driving power and profundity of Beethoven with the poetic imagination and emotional ardor of the new age, providing a memorable finale to the concert. Also on the program, the lyrical melodies and rapid passagework of Mendelssohn’s scintillating Piano Concerto No. 1, which he wrote at age 20, are performed by California native, virtuoso Andrew von Oeyen. Claimed to play “with a blend of crystalline fire and heartfelt poetry” by the Chicago Sun Times, von Oeyen reached stardom shortly after his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen at age 16.

Opening the concert is a work by talented young composer Narong Prangcharoen called Sattha for Strings, Piano and Percussion. The piece was commissioned by Pacific Symphony when he won the American Composers Competition by audience vote in 2004. Written as a musical meditation on the tsunami that devastated his home country of Thailand that same year, it combines Eastern and Western musical traditions to offer a refuge of hope with driving energy and eclectic, slithering harmonies.

Schubert, despite his short life, was a prolific composer—writing some 600 lieder, liturgical music, operas, some incental music and a large body of chamber and solo piano music, in addition to his nine symphonies. Schubert’s final work, his Ninth Symphony, is described as being a “heavenly length” by fellow composer Robert Schumann, who also noted his innovative and colorful use of the brass: “There is in it a passage where a horn, as though calling from afar, seems to come from another world. The instruments stop to listen, a heavenly spirit is passing through the orchestra.”

The title piece on this concert is part of a theme that runs through the Symphony’s 2011-12 season called “The Three Nines,” which examines the ninth and final symphonies by Mahler, Schubert and Beethoven (May 31-June 3) that were written during each composer’s final years. St.Clair and the Symphony explore whether these composers understood their lives were nearing an end and how their state of mind informs the revolutionary nature of each piece. For Schubert, it was long believed that he wrote his Ninth Symphony during his last year (1828), but new documents have found that he began composing it a few years before in 1825-1826, when he was composing some of his finest songs including “Die junge Nonne,” “Nacht und Träume” and “Ave Maria.”

Mendelssohn, one of the first composers of the Romantic age, was the equivalent of a modern day “rock star” during his lifetime when he premiered his Piano Concerto No. 1, and this concert’s pianist, Andrew von Oeyen, has already established himself as one of the most captivating pianists of his generation. Commanding an extensive and diverse repertoire, von Oeyen has performed the major concertos of the keyboard literature—Bartok, Barber, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Gershwin, Grieg, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schumann, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky—with major ensembles worldwide. Von Oeyen won the prestigious Gilmore Young Artist Award in 1999 and also took first prize in the Leni Fe Bland Foundation National Piano Competition in 2001.

Although the composer Prangcharoen is still in his early 30s, his compositions are frequently programmed throughout the world and he has received many international prizes. These include the Alexander Zemlinsky International Composition Prize and the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award, which honors Takemitsu’s principles of prayer, hope and peace through music. Like Takemitsu, Prangcharoen is a composer known for creatively combining Asian and Western musical traditions. In 2011, Prangcharoen received the Annual Underwood Commission by the American Composers Orchestra.

The concert takes place Thursday through Saturday, May 10-12, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; a preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$110; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

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