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Santa Monica Symphony Kicks off 75th season with Dvorak Cello Concerto

LA Phil’s Robert deMaine ot perform Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Dvorak’s beloved “Cello Concerto in B Minor”

By Tabitha Hogue

On Sunday evening, October 20th, the Santa Monica Symphony (SMS) will open its historic 75th season with a free performance of perennial favorites. Audiences will be treated to Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Dvorak’s beloved “Cello Concerto in B Minor”, to be performed by the LA Phil’s celebrated principal cellist, Robert deMaine.

This performance is the first of a string of impressive programs the SMS will be presenting throughout the year, including Mahler’s grand Symphony No. 5 in December, the world premiere in April of a newly commissioned flute and harp concerto by Emmy-award-winner Bruce Broughton, and a performance in May of Carl Orff’s decadent Carmina Burana (made famous through its usage in numerous films, TV shows, and commercials, including Glee, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and many others).

“We’re extremely excited about this season and we’re very aware of the tremendous history of this orchestra,” said SMS Music Director and Conductor Guido Lamell, who is also an LA Phil violinist.

As the long-standing and true cultural foundation of Santa Monica – comprising a mixture of professionals, emerging pre-professionals, and exceptional volunteer musicians, the SMS has many achievements under its belt. It was the first American orchestra to record Tchaikovsky’s First and Second Symphonies. (The original Santa Monica Symphony LP will be on display in the Barnum Hall lobby at the October 20th concert, along with a selection of historical photos and programs on loan from the Santa Monica History Museum). Soon after its inception in 1945, the Santa Monica Symphony’s concerts were being broadcast on the radio; the famed Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini heard the orchestra on the radio and commented on how impressed he was with the ensemble. And in 2017, the Santa Monica Symphony performed a completely sold out concert in Walt Disney Concert Hall – the only community based orchestra ever to do so.

Santa Monica Symphony has welcomed a number of renowned guest conductors over the years, including Miklós Rózsa, who wrote many famous Hollywood scores for films by Hitchcock and others. In 1975, the orchestra celebrated the centennial of the city of Santa Monica by commissioning composer Nelson Riddle to write The Santa Monica Suite, which the Santa Monica Symphony premiered at a concert in May, a performance in which actor Henry Fonda served as narrator.

Sunday’s performance will give a nod to the Santa Monica Symphony’s rich history by opening with Weber’s “Overture to Oberon”, which was the first piece the orchestra ever performed. The work serves as an overture to Weber’s sadly unsuccessful opera Oberon, first performed in 1826. Oberon itself may have failed to achieve popularity, but the Overture is a beautiful piece that has been frequently performed by orchestras around the world.

George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” is featured next on the program. It’s been aptly described by musicologist Scott Foglesong as “charting the adventures of an American tourist sampling the glories of Paris and succumbing to fits of homesickness along the way.” Lamell calls it one of “the most ingenious, celebrated and popular of Gershwin’s works,” and commented, “I am bowled over by the genius of Gershwin; his music ranks at the epitome of the American voice.”

Last but certainly not least, the program will close with a performance of Antonín Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto in B Minor” by the internationally acclaimed LA Philharmonic principal cellist Robert deMaine.

“I feel greatly privileged to be a colleague of his in the LA Phil,” Lamell remarked. “I consider him to be one of the pre-eminent cellists of our time. It’s a very great honor and joy to be able to present him in a performance of what many believe to be one of the greatest concertos for any instrument in the entire repertoire.”

The concert on October 20th will be free of charge and open seating. In celebration of the 75th season, the orchestra will be offering a free cake and coffee reception at intermission. For more information, visit www.smsymphony.org or call (310)395-6330.

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