Music Monday: What is the Year of Czech Music? - Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 has been hailed the "Year of Czech Music." But what exactly does this mean?

The Czech Republic initiated the 2014 Year of Czech Music program to celebrate the birth, death and founding anniversaries of its native composers and arts organizations, including Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. The main objective of the program is to promote the music and projects of Czech musicians throughout Europe and the world.

Arts organizations in the United States are joining in the celebration, including The Metropolitan Opera, Baltimore Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and us at the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Our participation in the Year of Czech Music includes presentations of two Czech ensembles: The Smetana Trio chamber ensemble (Sat, Oct. 18) and the Czech Philharmonic (Tues, Nov. 4).

The first concert features The Smetana Trio, whom we presented back in 2011 during their first tour of the United States. Founded in 1934 by legendary Czech pianist Josef Pálenícek, the Smetana Trio became the first Czech ensemble to win the BBC Music Magazine Award in 2007 and is regarded as one of the foremost piano trios in the Czech Republic today. For this performance, the trio will perform an all-Czech program, with pieces from Bedrich Smetana (b. 1824), Bohuslav Martinu (d. 1959), Josef Suk (b. 1874), and the West Coast premiere of Roman Haas' Multicultural Suite.

Our second concert, taking place in November, heralds the return of the Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek, who is Honorary President of the 2014 Year of Czech Music. This program features works by two Czech composers: Leoš Janácek's Taras Bulba and Antonín Dvorák's beloved "New World" Symphony. French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2.

0 Comments | Add Comment

Christopher Hogwood, 1941–2014 - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

British conductor and early music megastar Christopher Hogwood passed away today at his home in Cambridge after a long illness. He was 73.

Hogwood, who started out as a keyboard player with Sir Neville Marriner’s
Academy of St Martin in the Fields in the early 1960s, had studied keyboard at Cambridge University with Rafael Puyana and Mary Potts and later with Zuzana Ruzickova and Gustav Leonhardt.

Hogwood later broke away from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields to form his own Academy of Ancient Music in 1973, and directed the academy across six continents for some 30 years. The Academy of Ancient Music recorded more than 200 CDs, including the first-ever complete cycle of Mozart symphonies on period instruments.

Other roles Hogwood has held include being a founder member of the Early Music Consort artistic director of the King’s Lynn Festival, artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, a tutor at Harvard University, Principal Guest Conductor of the Kammerorchester Basel, Honorary Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University

We were fortunate to present him in concert on three separate occasions, first with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1992, then with the Handel & Haydn Society the following year. The last time we brought him to Orange County was in 1996, when he conducted a performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice featuring the Mark Morris Dance Group and Handel & Haydn Society Orchestra & Chorus.

Here is Hogwood conducting his Academy of Ancient Music in a performance of Handel's Messiah.

0 Comments | Add Comment

Music Monday: Tchaikovsky's Sixth - Monday, September 22, 2014

Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, "Pathétique," is a passionate work whose tragic motifs gained significance with the composer’s sudden death mere days after he conducted its premiere in St. Petersburg.

Excited and inspired, Tchaikovsky completed the first movement in just four days. In a letter to his nephew Vladimir "Bob" Davidov, he wrote, "You cannot imagine what bliss I feel, assured that my time has not yet passed and that I can still work."

Yet the composer ultimately decided against revealing the inspiration and program behind his newest work—"let them guess," he wrote. This secret was kept even from Bob, whom he considered his confidante: "The program itself, whatever it may be, is imbued with subjectivity, and quite often during my wandering, composing it in my mind, I wept terribly."

Nine days after Tchaikovsky conducted the Pathétique's first performance, he was dead, seemingly from cholera. And speculations abound. Was it suicide? The Symphony's Finale is a bleak, slow movement in a minor key. The first movement, which Tchaikovsky had completed so quickly, includes a quotation from a famous Russian funeral chant.

We'll never know for sure. However, Tchaikovsky's brother Modest suggested the work's Russian title (French translation "Pathétique"), meaning passionate or emotional, a clear reflection of the composer's frame of mind during the work's construction.

On October 11th, don't miss the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by its Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski, performing this work at our 2014-15 season Opening Night concert.

For now, enjoy this video of the Vienna Philharmonic performing this piece, conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

0 Comments | Add Comment

Pick 4 Concerts, Save 25% - Friday, September 19, 2014

For two weeks only, save 25% when you purchase 4 concerts to our 2014-15 season. Mix and match-—the possibilities are endless! Use promo code PICK4*. Offer ends Oct. 3, 2014.

Order now and secure the best seats in the house! Call our Patron Services Department at (949) 553-2422, ext. 1, or visit

* Offer ends 10/03/2014. Must use promo code when ordering to receive discount. Limit 4 concerts per order. Valid only through the Philharmonic Society box office. No discounts to prior purchases. Seating varies by performance. Although rare, all dates, times, artists, programs, venues, and prices are subject to change.

0 Comments | Add Comment

Laguna Beach Music Festival Salon Performance - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Join Marisa & Steve Robbins as they welcome you into their spectacular home to enjoy an intimate evening of music with award-winning guitarist Vladimir Gorbach in support of the Laguna Beach Music Festival.

Gorbach has been awarded USC’s first ever International Artist Fellowship, representing the entire music school and all instruments. His career and artistry are recognized internationally as an award-winning guitarist with captivating presence.

Visit to learn more about this virtuoso and click here to purchase tickets. Space is limited.

Premium Salon Performance feat. Vladimir Gorbach
Thursday, October 16, 5:30pm | Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach
Tickets: $100

Laguna Beach Music Festival | February 12-15, 2015

0 Comments | Add Comment

Music Monday: Dvorak’s The Noon Witch - Monday, September 15, 2014

After his residence in the United States and the success of his Ninth Symphony, Antonín Dvorák returned to his homeland of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and surprisingly changed the direction of his career. He abandoned the symphonic form that made him famous and instead focused on string quartets, opera and tone poems for orchestra.

Dvorák found inspiration for five tone poems from the nationalist folk poems of Karel Jaromír Erben, the second in the set being The Noon Witch, Op. 108. The music tells the story of a misbehaving boy, whose mother warns that if he continues to disobey the Noon Witch will come and take him away. Much to the mother’s surprise, the Noon Witch actually appears and demands to have the child. She chases them and disappears when the bells ring 12 times. Sadly, the child’s father comes home to find his wife collapsed, holding their dead son in her arms. The tone poem ends with the return of the witch’s music, symbolizing her triumph.

You can hear this piece performed by the world-renowned London Philharmonic in our season opening concert on Saturday, October 11, at 8pm.

0 Comments | Add Comment

The World's Smallest (Playable) Violin - Friday, September 12, 2014

From Trujillo, Venezuela, it’s the world's smallest (playable) violin. It's the work of Baltazar Mónaca. In the video below, he plays Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor on this tiny, little violin, controlling the notes with slight movements of his thumb.

0 Comments | Add Comment

Jirí Belohlávek wins Antonín Dvorák Prize - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Czech conductor Jirí Belohlávek has been honored with the Antonín Dvorák Prize for his work promoting Czech classical music and the music of Dvorák (1841–1904). The award will be given to Belohlávek at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 16, following a performance he will conduct by the Czech Philharmonic and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Orange County engagement
Prior to their Carnegie Hall engagement, Belohlávek will conduct the Czech Philharmonic and Thibaudet at our Renée & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 8pm. The program includes Dvorák's beloved New World Symphony, along with Janácek's Taras Bulba and Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major. Tickets for this performance start at $35.

More on Belohlávek
Belohlávek, 68, has been chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic since 2012, and is also the president of The Dvorák Society for Czech and Slovak Music and of the Prague Spring International Music Festival. In April 2012, he was honored with the title Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to music.

Studying cello, Belohlávek graduated from the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. After graduating, he studied conducting with Sergiu Celibidache, formerly principal conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic. After winning the Czech National Conducting Competition in 1970, he served as an assistant conductor at the Czech Philharmonic, then became chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and went on to serve as chief conductor at the BBC Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Belohlávek has made numerous recordings. This year, the first part of the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvorák (1841–1904) played by the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Belohlávek has been issued. The recordings of the second part have already concluded and will be published by Decca Classics in 2015.

0 Comments | Add Comment

Music Monday: Back to School with Bach - Monday, September 08, 2014

With the transition from August to September comes the start of another school year. Kids, teens and adults alike are flooding back into classrooms, hitting the books and learning from respected teachers. For the classical musician, this is equivalent to entering the practice room and spending some quality time with Johann Sebastian Bach.

One of his most famous works, The Well-Tempered Clavier, is considered the “bread and butter” of classical music. The two volume work was composed for solo keyboard between 1722-1742 and contains preludes and fugues for every major and minor key. He wrote these pieces specifically for students to practice not only technique but phrasing, style and musicality. It’s the closest thing to a textbook in the musical world!

The Well-Tempered Clavier has influenced the compositions of major composers, such as Beethoven and Schumann, and continues to be studied and performed by musicians to this day. Below is a performance of the Prelude in C minor, BWV 847 by Glenn Gould. Enjoy!

0 Comments | Add Comment

The Philharmonic Committees - Friday, September 05, 2014

"Fun, laughs, giggles, and stories to tell." These are a few of the things that await you as a member of the Committees of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. The Committees are the Society's principal fund raising and volunteer force. 800 strong, these dynamic individuals pull together to implement an extensive array of youth music education programs in Orange County, reaching more than 150,000 schoolchildren each year.

In addition to volunteering at our youth programs, The Committees also present a wide variety of fundraising events, including the Philharmonic House of Design and the Huntington Harbour Cruise of Lights®, the proceeds of which support the Society's youth music education programs.

Share the Music, and Join a Committee! If you have a passion for music and want to share it with our young people, you are invited to become a member of The Committees of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and support the Youth Music Education Programs in Orange County schools. We have 16 Committees and 5 groups, each with its own unique personality. Click here to find out more about each of our 16 Committees and 5 groups.

0 Comments | Add Comment