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Concerts abound on UC Davis music department calendar

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From page C10 | September 20, 2011 |

There are many concerts planned for the upcoming season by the UC Davis music department, many of which feature distinguished visiting artists. Here is a breakdown of performances by some of the larger ensembles:

UC Davis symphony orchestra

The season begins on October 21 with a free concert, “Rising Stars of Opera.” The first half will feature two Adler Fellows from the San Francisco Opera, the second half will feature baritone Eugene Brancoveanu (a former Adler Fellow now embarked on a professional career) with the orchestra. Although this is a free concert, it is nonetheless a ticketed event, and seats are going fast.

The orchestra returns on Nov. 20 with Argentine composer and guest conductor Fabian Panisello, who will be conducting his own Violin Concerto (a work premiered about eight years ago) as well as a short selection by Igor Stravinsky. Christian Baldini, the conductor of the UCD symphony orchestra, also will lead the orchestra in performances of the Richard Strauss tone poem “Don Juan” and a Verdi overture. Baldini said “This is a very special project, with a world-renowned composer. It is unusual for a university orchestra to get someone like this to come and conduct his own music.”

On January 29, the orchestra will play Wagner’s expansive overture to the opera “Tannhäuser” and an intermezzo from the Leoncavallo opera “I Pagliacci,” as well as the Elgar Cello Concerto (1918-19) featuring young Jeremy Tai, who won the Mondavi Young Artist Competition last year at age 12. The program also will feature a new work to be picked soon through the UCD symphony orchestra’s annual Composition Award.

On March 11, the orchestra performs two works that the ensemble will be taking on a late March tour of Spain: Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, and the “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” by Debussy. Also on the program: the Samuel Barber Piano Concerto, featuring pianist Lara Downes (a favorite of Mondavi Center audiences).

For the May 6 program, the orchestra will premiere a new work by Ross Bauer, a longtime member of the UCD music faculty. Also on the program will be Zoltán Kodály’s “Dances of Galánta,” Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” with veteran baritone Wolfgang Grendel, and the Prelude to “Penelope” by Gabriel Fauré.

The orchestra season will continue on May 20 with an hour-long family concert featuring Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” with Provost Ralph Hexter as narrator.

The orchestra season will conclude on June 1 with a joint concert also featuring the University Chorus. The orchestra will perform the Symphony No. 1 by Brahms.

University chorus

For the December 2 concert, conductor Jeffrey Thomas said “I’m very excited to present a program of some brilliant works from the Baroque era by J.S. Bach and others in December. We’ll have a terrific orchestra comprised of some of our performance faculty and a solo vocal quintet of five exceptionally talented young artists.

“The Winter Quarter concert on March 4 will bring our annual collaboration with the UC Davis Alumni Chorus,” Thomas said. “On that program, the University Chorus will sing a rather mesmerizing composition by one of Britain’s most successful and popular composers, James Whitbourn. It features a very unusual combination of instruments including organ, solo viola, percussion, and tambura (a North Indian instrument). Then the full forces of both choirs, organ, percussion, and brass will perform three of John Rutter’s best and most-loved works, including the Te Deum and Gloria.”

Thomas added that “The crowning glory of the season will happen at the end of Spring Quarter on June 1, when we will perform “Hymnus Paradisi” by Herbert Howells, first performed in 1950. Rarely heard, it is a work of uncommon beauty and emotion.”

Empyrean Ensemble

Mika Pelo, co-leader of this new music ensemble, said “The first program (on Nov. 19) is mostly a portrait of our artist-in-residence Fabian Panisello; we’re doing two of his chamber pieces. Also on this program a piece by Fred Lerdahl, who is the Bloch lecturer at UC Berkeley this year.”

Pelo continued “On January 22, our own Ross Bauer, who founded the Empyrean Ensemble and will turn 60 this year, is celebrated with a composer portrait (and) with dedications from composers Harold Meltzer and Martha Horst, both former students of Bauer. In addition, Peter Josheff will play Berio’s famous Sequenza for clarinet. Ross studied with Berio, so you can see all the clever connections here!”

Pelo added, “Our third program on April 22 sees the premieres of two exciting music drama pieces by faculty compsoers Laurie San Martin and Sam Nichols. Both are big pieces with set designs. Accompanying them is a vocal piece by composer starlet Erin Gee, a piece that was originally commissioned by Klangforum in Vienna.

“And finally,” Pelo concluded, “on June 4, our fine graduate student composers will feature their new compositions. Planning is not finished for this one yet, but there will be short pieces from all our students for the entire ensemble,” Pelo said.

UC Davis band and other ensembles

The UC Davis band will start the season on October 23 with the annual Causeway Classic Band Festival, which will feature concert bands from UC Davis and Sacramento State, as well as festival bands featuring junior high and high school students from around the region. Guest conductor Robert Hazo, who is also a noted clinician, will lead performances of several of his own works.

The season will also include performances (details of which are still being firmed up) by the UC Davis Baroque Ensemble, UC Davis Jazz Band and other groups.

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