.World Festivals Here

Santa Cruz Symphony draws from Japan, Russia, Europe

The exciting March program begins with the Matsuri Overture. Named for the Japanese word for festival the Matsuri Overture was composed in 2017 by Spain’s José González Granero. Now based in the Bay Area, Granero has been principal clarinet for the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 2010. The composer recalled that he was inspired by a trip to Kyoto, Japan, during which the Ebisu Festival at New Year’s made a powerful impression on him. During this Festival participants pay their respects and pray for success, using special branches of bamboo grass they hope will bring good luck. Granero’s Overture captures the feel and excitement of both the ancient Japanese festival as well as the modern vibrant pace of Kyoto.

Emotional and eloquent, the Schumann Cello Concerto is a popular piece for solo cello and orchestra. Flowing from meditative depths into a soaring conclusion, this stunning concerto casts a spell. The three movements begin with the main theme performed by the soloist, which then leads to variations and improvisations upon that theme by the orchestral instruments. The slow second movement gives way to a final sonata moving from A minor to a mood-altering A major. This concerto is much-performed and considered one of the greatest Romantic works composed for the cello.

The concert’s final offering, Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka, is another beloved piece of music created for ballet, and was written in 1911 for the famous Ballets Russes company of Sergei Diaghilev. The composer was inspired by folk music to help create music for the crowds gathered to enjoy a traveling festival. Stravinsky wrote new melodies for the central character, the puppet Petrushka, who suddenly comes to life. The ballet was named for a puppet character well-known in Russian carnivals, much like Punch in English “Punch and Judy” puppet shows.

This popular and innovative piece of modern 20th century music contains unexpected orchestration, drumming, and dazzling sound design filled with energy and romantic descriptions of the private emotional life of the puppet. Poor Petrushka falls in love with a ballerina puppet in Stravinsky’s piece, and this ill-fated love is juxtaposed musically with the frenzy of the orchestral crowd scenes. Petrushka’s beloved ballerina prefers another puppet, the two rivals fight a duel, and well, you’ll find out how it ends. With its Paris premier starring the great ballet star Nijinsky, Petrushka’s music, design, and dance made it a very popular production.

 Guest soloist, Gaeun Kim will perform during this wide-ranging concert that brings together in a single performance festival music inspired by Japan, Russia, and one of the masters of the Romantic period of European music. Kim, a 20-year-old cellist based in New York, has won worldwide competitions and prizes since the age of four. This year she appears in Santa Cruz as part of a schedule which includes solo performances in New York, Poland, Switzerland, Korea, and Germany.

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With its upcoming Festivalsconcerts the Santa Cruz Symphony has programmed another musical event the entire family can enjoy. Selections this time include classical music created for dance, a cello concerto to be performed by solo virtuoso Gaeun Kim, and a cross-cultural creation inspired by an ancient Japanese festival. Maestro Daniel Stewart leads the always memorable Symphony through these provocative pieces. Bring the whole family and let your ears be dazzled.

Festivals plays at 7:30 pm March 23 at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium (talk at 6:30pm) and March 24 at 2pm at Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts, Watsonville. Tickets $40-$110. SantaCruzSymphony.org

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