The standard music season (Fall through Spring) is wrapping up, with many groups presenting their final concerts for the season, featuring some established favorites, but also a number of brand new works connected to the history of communities in the CapRadio listening area.
In this week’s Sound Advice segment, longtime CapRadio contributor Jeff Hudson looks at interesting upcoming concerts, some featuring new works for orchestra, chorus and chamber ensembles that are being performed in our area for the first time.
As an opener, this concert will feature a bit of music from the Richard Strauss opera “Intermezzo,” composed in Germany in the 1920s. The concert will close with a famous choral work, the Mozart Requiem.
But for me, the most interesting part of this concert will be the world premiere of a new piece by Chinese-born composer Zhao Tian, titled “Transcend," which marks the 150th anniversary of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, which came through Reno, and over Donner Pass, and on to Sacramento, and was completed in May 2019. This is a brand new piece, about 21 minutes long, that was co-commissioned by the Reno Philharmonic, the Sacramento Philharmonic (which I assume will be performing the piece in the near future), the Utah Symphony – all of which are on the route of the first Transcontinental Railroad – as well as ten other orchestras around the country. Over about 12 months, the composer visited much of the territory that the original Transcontinental Railroad traversed.
“Transcend” features three movements. The first movement evokes the expansive desert landscapes of Utah and Nevada. The second movement features folksy Chinese melodies, honoring the contributions of Chinese laborers who did much of the most dangerous work blasting through granite as the railroad was built across the crest of the Sierra. Many Chinese laborers died in the process. And the final movement is titled “D-O-N-E,” which is based on the rhythm of the letters “D O N E” in Morse code, reflecting the telegraph message that was dispatched nationwide when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869.
The Stockton Symphony, conducted by Peter Jaffe, will join with the combined choruses of the Stockton Choral, San Joaquin Delta College and the University of the Pacific for this tribute to the many countries from which today’s residents of Stockton have come.
Stockton has sister cities in China, Mexico, Italy, Cambodia, Nigeria, Japan and the Philippines. These sister cities reflect the rich cultural heritage of Stockton, whose residents can trace their ancestry to those parts of the world.
The Stockton Symphony is honoring this heritage with a concert that features music reflecting these traditions of these different homelands, as well as a few “Stockton Gems” that were created in this country. Before the concert, there will be performances by dance groups in the Mexican folklorico tradition and the Cambodian Khmer tradition, as well as Chinese-style dragon dancing.
Here’s a small sample of some music Latin American music on the program by composer Arturo Marquez, who was born in Mexico, studied music in Paris and Los Angeles, and now lives in Mexico City. The piece is called “Conga del Fuego Nuevo.”
Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra
For its final program of the season, this large choral ensemble, led by Don Kendrick, will be giving the West Coast Premiere of a recent piece by composer Dan Forrest that premiered in 2017, and was performed several dozen times this year in cities around the world. The piece is titled “Lux: The Dawn from on High” and it has five movements, with texts that are drawn from sources as diverse as ancient liturgical chant to modern secular love poetry, and was inspired by the composer’s impressions of light streaming into the interior of cathedrals in France and Ireland.
Fauré Requiem – two different groups performing the piece
There will be two performances of the Fauré Requiem — composed in the late 1800s — in the next few weeks. The Modesto Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Modesto Symphony Chorus with Sacramento’s favorite soprano Carrie Hennessey among the soloists, will be performing the piece under the baton of maestro David Lockington, who has been the conductor in Modesto since 2007. They will be performing the piece on May 10 and 11 at the Gallo Center in Modesto. The program will also feature Igor Stravinsky’s landmark ballet score, “The Rite of Spring,” from 1913, which is now over a century old but still sounds like a daring, cutting-edge exploration of new sound worlds.
The Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra, under their new conductor Alison Skinner, will also be performing the Fauré, along with other works, in Grass Valley, up in the Sierra Foothillls, on May 19 and May 21.
We should also mention that conductor Alison Skinner will be leading the Davis Chorale in that group’s a 40th anniversary concert on Saturday May 11 at the Brunnelle Theater at Davis High School. That concert will feature a variety of shorter works, and not the Fauré Requiem, but 40 years is a track record worth mentioning.
Cellist Eunghee Cho
Cellist Eunghee Cho graduated from Davis High School a bit less than a decade ago, and he was featured as a youthful soloist with the Sacramento Philharmonic in those days. Cho has subsequently won awards at various international competitions, and he’s presently working on his doctorate in cello performance. He’s been an Insight guest on several occasions.
Cho will be one of the two soloists with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, May 4, the other soloist being violinist Stephani Zyzak, in a performance of the Brahms Double Concerto. Incidentally, Cho did not study at UC Davis. Conductor Christian Baldini of UC Davis selected Cho as a soloist after hearing him at Cho’s Mellon Music Festival performing chamber music.
Cho’s Mellon Music Festival, which has emerged as a really lovely and very affordable concert series, will be back on May 24-26, performing at three different venues in Davis. The focus of this year’s festival is music composed featuring dance rhythms. But in a broader sense, the festival will be featuring a number of chamber music classics, performed by Cho and some of his musical friends, who are studying at various well-known music conservatories around the country.
Alexander String Quartet with pianist Joyce Yang
Sunday June 2, Mondavi Center
The Alexander String Quartet and pianist Joyce Yang have been performing together on occasion for a number of years, and they’ve made a number of recordings together. This concert will feature the premiere of a brand new commissioned work by young composer Samuel Adams, whose music has been heard at Mondavi on a number of occasions. Samuel Adams, who is now 33, also happens to be the son of noted Bay Area composer John Adams.
He grew up in the Bay Area and studied at Stanford, and sometimes vacations at the family cabin near Truckee, but he lives in New York – more specifically Brooklyn — these days. He’s currently a composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony, and this new piece is something I’ve been looking forward to hearing for months.
Alas, because Sam Adams has been revising his piece in recent months, and this will be the very first formal public performance, there’s no recording available at the present time. But the June 2 program also includes two established favorites: the Mozart Piano Quartet No. 2, and the Brahms Quintet for Piano and Strings No. 2. Here’s a little bit of a recording of the Brahms by the Alexander String Quartet and pianist Joyce Yang from a CD released in 2014.