The breathtaking talent of some of Southern California's most proficient young musicians lures audiences with two concerts of classical favorites to kick off Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles' (PSYE) 2012-13 concert series this November. Led by Music Director Maxim Eshkenazy, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO), named Classics Alive Youth Orchestra of the Year in 2012, captivates listeners with rich European harmonic history, including the Spanish dances of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol," the medieval beauty of Wagner's "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral" and the Norwegian folk tunes of Grieg's "Peer Gynt," as well as an original composition by the Symphony's French horn player, James Taylor. "PSYO Fall Concert" takes place Sunday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m., at Meng Hall at California State University, Fullerton. Tickets are $12 general admission; for more information or to purchase tickets, call the Symphony's box office at (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the door. And-Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings (PSSS) performs a vivacious and fast-paced program of music inspired by the animal kingdom for "PSSS Fall Concert," Saturday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m., at Concordia University in Irvine. Led by Music Director Irene Kroesen, the all-strings ensemble performs Saint-Saëns' boisterous "Carnival of the Animals," Handel's "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale" and other fun pieces by Meyer and Mancini. Admission to this concert is free, no ticket required. "This season, the goal for PSYO is to continue the trajectory of excellence that we have achieved the last four years," says Maestro Eshkenazy, who notes that more than 402 students auditioned for spots in the Youth Ensembles this year-the largest number ever. "They sound better than ever, and we have every spot filled with quality musicians. So the idea is to continue to move forward so the orchestra stays in its position as the top youth orchestra in California. As I promised when I came here five years ago, I wanted to make this orchestra the best and most well-known in the area, and certainly we are now. I'm very proud of that." The Youth Orchestra's concert opens with Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol" followed by Grieg's "Peer Gynt," both of which the ensemble performed side-by-side the Pacific Symphony orchestra at the family "Halloween Spooktacular" concert in October. Following is "Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral," the eloquent and pastoral opening of Act II from Wagner's opera "Lohengrin." "Capriccio Espagnol was the first piece I played with this Youth Orchestra five years ago, and it is also the first piece I played with Maestro Carl St.Clair 14 years ago," says Eshkenazy, who is nearing the end of his tenure at the Symphony. "So I chose it for nostalgia purposes, but also because it has solos for flute, clarinet, trumpet, horn, violin and harp where our wonderful players from the orchestra can shine. Then, we are playing 'Peer Gynt' by Edvard Grieg, a piece with a rousing ending, and a beautiful opening movement called Morning Mood, where the hero is experiencing morning time in the desert with birds singings, composed from the mind of a Northern European imagining what is the desert sunrise. It has two gorgeous middle movements and a funeral march at the end." The concert concludes with an original composition entitled "Spes Prestolatio" (Hopeful Expectations) from one of the Symphony's most respected musicians, Taylor. "The most exciting piece of the concert is the commission, 'Spes Prestolatio' by Pacific Symphony musician James Taylor," continues Eshkenazy. "I am a firm believer that the kids should experience as much new music as possible, and for many years I've been talking to James about doing a commission. At the second concert this season, we have another commission by Jim Self, Pacific Symphony's principal tuba player, which is excellent for the Youth Orchestra. Having two commissions in two consecutive concerts proves the Youth Orchestra's commitment to good new music. "Wagner's 'Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral,' is a very slow wedding march that is one of my favorite pieces… so beautiful," says Eshkenazy. "It is a piece and a composer that kids don't get to play very often in youth orchestras, but Wagner was one of the leading and most influential composers of the 19th century. The same way that the Youth Orchestra should experience new music, they should experience the titans of the 19th century that influenced composers of today." Taking the audience on a musical safari, the Santiago Strings have arranged an afternoon of bold music full of charisma and charm. "The concert selections are engaging, challenging and fun to play," says Maestro Kroesen. "'The Cuckoo and the Nightingale' demonstrates the skillful ability of the soloists while 'Idylls of Pegasus' is an exciting and exhilarating piece for the entire ensemble depicting the adventures of the mythical flying horse, Pegasus. 'Carnival of the Animals' by Camille Saint-Saëns has 12 movements representing 12 different animals, from lions to turtles to the beautiful swan. 'Fables' is a story-telling of three Aesop fables, 'The Tortoise and the Hare,' 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' and 'The Country Mouse and City Mouse.' "These talented sixth through ninth grade musicians are meeting and surpassing the challenges and difficulties of the music," continues Kroesen. "During the season I hope to increase their knowledge and level of performance by introducing them to the remarkable literature of the string orchestra, such as Tchaikovsky's beautiful 'Serenade for Strings,' which we are performing in April." Together, PSYO, PSSS and Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (PSYWE) comprise PSYE. The mission of PSYE is to provide young musicians with an ensemble experience marked by educational excellence through a unique relationship with Pacific Symphony. Currently, all three of the ensembles benefit from the vision of the Symphony's Music Director Carl St.Clair, who serves as the artistic advisor for all activities and performances, which take place in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, as well as at other sites around Southern California. Students also enjoy a variety of interactions with Pacific Symphony musicians including sectionals, master classes and side-by-side performances.
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