Orchestra Nova season scores a hit

Videos add a visual element to Orchestra Nova  performances. Photo: Susan DeMaggio
Videos add a visual element to Orchestra Nova performances. Photo: Susan DeMaggio

By John Lydon

Contributor

Orchestra Nova, an ensemble on a mission to make classical music widely accessible, is about to start a new season, and its artistic director and conductor Jung-Ho Pak is excited.

Two series are planned: Nova Classics, with five concerts, and POPS!, with three.

In addition, there’s the annual holiday presentation of Handel’s “Messiah” and a benefit recital with violin superstar Lindsay Deutsch.

Regardless of the program, audiences at Orchestra Nova concerts should expect an unusual experience.

Pak and orchestra have set the goal of “breaking down the wall between performers and listeners, the feeling that classical musicians are precious museum pieces under glass,” he said.

They mingle with the audience, for example, before and after concerts. During the performance, Pak talks to the listeners about the music, not dissecting it like a musicologist, he says, but “like a friend” telling what he loves about each piece.

And to get their message across, Orchestra Nova pulls out all the stops.

“Even in a traditional … what we try to do is present it in an unusual way. With video — all of our concerts use video — and images to tell the story of these pieces.”

There may be props or guest artists, such as dancers, possibly in period costume.

The Nova Classics series begins Oct. 15 (classics are held on a Friday and repeated Saturday and Monday) with a Mozart evening billed as the Austrian master’s “very best.” Considering the program, it should be a night to remember. It starts with the Clarinet Concerto, which has one of Mozart’s most heart-wrenchingly beautiful slow movements; his last symphony, the “Jupiter,” from start to finish an essay in graceful passion; and the “Don Giovanni” overture, whose beginning presages the terrifying descent of the opera’s title character into the netherworld.

A salute to Vivaldi comes Nov. 12 with the “Four Seasons” concertos and a Concerto for Four Violins. Wedged between is a “tangoesque take on the ‘Four Seasons,’ ” Pak said, by the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla.

Just after Valentine’s Day, on Feb. 25, a look at the many faces of love is planned. It opens with the subdued eroticism of Debussy’s “The Afternoon of a Faun.” Then comes an arrangement of a piece by the Brazilian composer Villa Lobos that will showcase the soprano Maria Lozano, a finalist in Orchestra Nova’s “The Next Star” talent competition in March. Finally, a piece by Schoenberg about a lover’s forgiveness and another Wagner wrote to thank his wife for their son’s birth, round out the evening.

On April 1 the orchestra salutes public broadcasting in a 50th anniversary celebration of San Diego’s KPBS. The program includes music from PBS and NPR shows, some of it written by guest speaker B.J. Leiderman.

The series ends the weekend of May 13 with the “Victory through Peace” program. The best-known piece on the program is Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony,” whose famous knocking rhythm at the beginning became a symbol for victory to the Allies and residents of occupied Europe in WWII because it spells V in Morse code.

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