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Musical Flights of Fantasy to Open Pasadena Symphony Season

October 15th, 2009 by Bill Peters

INCA, the Peruvian Ensemble

INCA, the Peruvian Ensemble

A new season starts for the Pasadena Symphony on Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Several changes have been made for the 2009-2010 season. First, a starting time for the symphony, 8:00 p.m., is new this year. Also, no formal dinner has been planned as the Symphony and its wealthy supporters are downsizing. But that doesn’t mean the evening will be without its celebrations.

Maybe the black-ties will muted, but a special reception for the symphony’s conductor, Jorge Mester will celebrate the beginning of his 25th year; a Peruvian ensemble will colorfully fill the plaza as concert-goers arrive; an all-star arts/science duo will give pre-concert information; and a jazz combo will entertain at a post-concert event following the opening concert. The music to be performed by the Pasadena Symphony is first-rate and this fine professional orchestra is worth hearing. For the first time, all opening night concert events are open to the public and free except the special reception for Mester, and even that is a nominal charge.

Before the music gets under way, a special champagne toast-reception to honor Jorge Mester will take place at the Pasadena Convention Center at 6 p.m. You don’t have to know someone to get in—just purchase a $30 ticket—and that will allow you to raise a fluted glass of champagne in honor of Pasadena Symphony conductor Mester’s 25th season.

The Symphony Association apparently has planned these events so that you can have some pre-concert fun, get off to dinner and return in time to enjoy the pre-concert talk on the music at 7:00 p.m., or arrive in time to enjoy the symphony’s Music on the Plaza Series with INCA, a Peruvian Ensemble, and then take your seats to enjoy what is likely to be one of the liveliest concerts openings of classical literature in some years. A post-concert reception is open to the public in the Gold Room at the Civic Auditorium where the Pasadena Student Jazz Combo will perform.

Pasadena Symphony conductor Jorge Mester announces the 2009-2010 season at a press conference in August. - Photo by Bill Peters

Pasadena Symphony conductor Jorge Mester announces the 2009-2010 season at a press conference in August. – Photo by Bill Peters

Jorge Mester will conduct Claude Debussy’s “Nocturnes” and Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”. Debussy’s “Nocturnes” include three orchestral studies, “Nuages”, “Fêtes” and “Sirènes”. Debussy described each suite in ethereal terms, but today his chimera is heralded for its lush instrumentation. Written in 1897-1899, these pieces are forward-thinking in that they move musical composition out of the Romantic era and into a 20th-century impressionistic style that formed the basis of music composition for that century and is still basic to even today’s contemporary composers.

Holst’s “The Planets”, written in 1914-1916, moves the musical composition world forward again with a programmatic style music that is forceful, and dramatically pictorial. Using the planets, but not earth, to bear as astrology rather than planetary, Holst’s series of mood-pictures, as he called them, brings a unique look at styles just burgeoning during the time he was writing this work. He seemed to be influenced by Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, among others, but adds his unique solid melodies within a more modern structure.

The Pasadena Master Chorale will join with the Pasadena Symphony to perform these works. This opening concert is a part of the Arts & Ideas Festival, presented bi-annually by a consortium of Pasadena-area arts, science and cultural institutions. The theme of the 2009 Arts & Ideas Festival, which begins Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 8, is ORIGINS. In honor of the Symphony’s performance of “The Planets”, the 7:00 p.m. pre-concert talk will bring Dr. Byron Adams, Professor of Composition and Musicology at UC Riverside to talk about Debussy and Holst’s music and Dr. Kevin Baines, Principal Scientist at JPL, will discuss the various programs now underway by NASA at the La Cañada Flintridge facility, presumably the solar systems’ planets and not astrology.

Subscription tickets are available for 3, 4 or 5 concerts at various rates. Single ticket prices range from $25 to $75. The Family-Pak program allows children under age 14 to secure a ticket for $10 when one full-priced adult ticket is purchased. The Student Sound Check Card, $30 allows attendance to all Pasadena Symphony concerts, but student ID is required. Parking is available at the Pasadena Center for $7 and at Paseo Colorado for $6. Valet parking is also available. The special opening night reception for Jorge Mester is $30.

The Pasadena Symphony opening night concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium is at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 with special events beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is at 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. Information: (626) 793-7172, ext. 16.

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