Los Angeles Music Preview: PASADENA SYMPHONY (Beethoven’s Fifth, Bruch Violin Concerto: Andrew Grams, conductor / Simone Porter, violin)

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by Tony Frankel on March 24, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Come for the most famous four notes in classical music history, stay for the Pasadena Symphony and POPS (the Symphony has incorporated the Pasadena POPS into its Association under this new name). This estimable organization has been doing splendid work this year, especially with Beethoven’s Ninth last February, so guest conductor Andrew Grams will no doubt reinforce why Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 is one of the most innovative symphonies ever written. Yet the PS&P will also continue its showcasing of young, gifted soloists by presenting 17-year-old violinist Simone Porter, who will join the orchestra for a performance of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

He may be a lesser-known composer in history, but Bruch is famous for his Violin Concerto No. 1, in G minor, which has become a standard in the violin repertoire. This was Bruch’s premiere all-encompassing work for orchestra, and its victory obscured all else he did, even in his own lifetime. It took about nine years to complete (he began it as a student in 1857), but even after its completion in 1866, he had concerns about the orchestrations and consulted one of the most famous violinists of the age, Joseph Joachim. Following Joachim’s premiere of the piece two years later, it became an instant hit.

Violinist Simone Porter

This Saturday, March 29, at Ambassador Auditorium is the best time to catch the Concerto with L.A.’s own Simone Porter, a violinist currently studying at the Colburn School where she recently collaborated with violinist James Ehnes at a benefit concert. Ms. Porter will soon be in great demand. On April 27, she will play Beethoven’s Romances 1 & 2 with the Pacific Symphony; in June it’s the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Thomas Søndergård and the Aspen Chamber Symphony; and the Paganini Violin Concerto with the Nashville Symphony follows on the heels of her Sep. 4 Hollywood Bowl debut as soloist in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with the LA Phil.

Here is Ms. Porter performing Pablo de Sarasate’s Zapateado in Nov. 2012:

Conductor Andrew GramsAlso on the program is a short and very fun work. Inspired by the stock characters of Commedia dell’arte, William Bolcom wrote Commedia for (an almost) 18th-century orchestra in 1971. In terms of instrumental composition, it was written for an 18th-century classical orchestra, but the sound is modern. This rarely heard piece is, according to Joseph and Elizabeth Kahn, an entertaining pastiche, a hodge-podge of take-offs, quotations and clichés, imitating all kinds of styles. There’s an exuberant youthfulness to the piece, which makes it a great fit for the newly appointed Music Director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra of Illinois and one of America’s most promising and talented young conductors: Andrew Grams, who has already appeared with many of the great orchestras of the world. A protégé of Franz Welser-Möst, he served as Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra from 2004 to 2007. He has since led several concert programs with the Cleveland Orchestra and will return to conduct that orchestra in the summer of 2014 at the Blossom Music Festival.

Pasadena Symphony
Andrew Grams, Conductor
Simone Porter, Violin
: Commedia for (Almost) 18th Century Orchestra
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
Saturday March 29, 2014 at 2:00 and 8:00 pm
Ambassador Auditorium
131 South St. John Avenue in Pasadena
for tickets, call (626) 793-7172 or visit www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

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