Orli Shaham on Café Ludwig's "All-American" program

Orli Shaham on Café Ludwig's "All-American" program

On February 11, 2018 the Pacific Symphony’s “Café Ludwig” concert series commemorates the centennial of Leonard Bernstein and Steve Reich’s 80th birthday. Pianist Orli Shaham has been curator of the “Café Ludwig” series since 2007, and performs on each program. She shares her thoughts about this all-American program:

We are lucky as American musicians to be celebrating Steve Reich's 80th birthday and the Bernstein centenary in the same year. Both these men have contributed to the American musical language in immeasurable ways, opening sonic doors for those who have been writing after them. I decided to make this entire program a celebration of American chamber music and where it stands today. Using this repertoire which is so close to us in both time and place has allowed me to explore musicians from the Pacific Symphony with whom I rarely get to make music, as American chamber music has always been a leader in innovative instrumentation. Having this combination of pieces, all of which are new to this series, allows me to showcase the depth of our musicians. This orchestra is known for its interpretations of American music, and for our musicians this music rolls off their tongues!

Eric Ewazen is an adroit, smooth composer whose use of brass instruments has helped to redefine our collective imagined capabilities of those instruments. Brass players gravitate to his music because it is in the vernacular for them, and it therefore feels equally natural to our ears. I am delighted to be presenting his Trio for Trumpet, Cello and Piano, and to have the opportunity to collaborate more deeply with Barry Perkins, our principal trumpet, as well as with my frequent partner Timothy Landauer on cello. Ewazen's music often includes a rhythmic drive which is visceral and allows the melodies to soar. His reflective moments are deeply held and reverential, allowing space for the listener to breathe.

Howard Hanson's Pastorale for Oboe and Piano was suggested to me by our beautiful principal oboist Jessica Pearlman Fields. It is a work with an enormous range, both emotionally and in terms of oboe technique. I had been looking for a chance to delve into more personal repertoire with Jessica and this is the perfect opportunity. Her ability to embody many styles and her rich, complex tone are perfectly suited to this lovely work.

Steve Reich's Quartet for 2 Pianos and 2 Vibraphones is a relatively new work (2013) and shows a mature, fully formed style that is truly his alone, though it is American through and through. All the rhythmic elements and harmonic language he has developed over his career are here, as is his natural affinity for Jewish themes. With this work, he has brought these all into a perfect balance, so that the listener is always engaged, always involved, and always satisfied. Surfing the waves of his energy is a thrill worthy of the greatest daredevil! And how often do you get to hear two percussionists and two pianists all in one piece? I'm delighted to finally be able to invite Kenneth McGrath and Robert Slack on vibraphone to a Cafe Ludwig afternoon, and to bring my colleague and friend, the exceptionally talented Molly Morkoski, to join us!

Leonard Bernstein's Sonata for clarinet and piano is succinct and powerful. It's an early work where one can already hear the influences of Copland, Broadway and Latin American music mixed together, a sound world which will form his signature and inspire his compositional descendants. And I know working with Joseph Morris will be an incredible journey. I am looking forward to this and the Hanson as more intimate collaborations within this often extroverted program. 

Paul Schoenfield's trio uses many uniquely Jewish themes within a greater American language. This work will allow Joe Morris to wow you with his expressive range and virtuosity, and likewise will give Paul Manaster a chance to explore his inner klezmer violinist, one among many talents!

I feel this program follows a number of threads through American chamber music of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Open intervals, expansive sounds, welcoming harmonies, rhythmic drive, inclusion of ethnic colors. What a better way to celebrate our remarkable country than through this repertoire!

The concert is at Pacific Symphony’s Samueli Theatre (615 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, CA 92626) on February 11, 2018 at 3:00 pm. Details and ticket information is at PacificSymphony.org