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‘Cello Goddess’ Maya Beiser to perform with LJS&C

The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) will present the third concert of its 60th anniversary season “The Nature of Things,” Feb. 7 and 8 in Mandeville Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus.

Conducted by Steven Schick, the concert will explore the nature of reflection in three works: Osvaldo Golijov’s cello concerto “Azul”; Chinary Ung’s piece for unaccompanied cello “Khse Buon”; and Carl Nielsen’s earth-shaking Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable.” Cellist Maya Beiser will solo.

Cellist Maya Beiser last performed with the orchestra in 2007.
Cellist Maya Beiser last performed with the orchestra in 2007.

1) “Azul” has become one of Golijov’s most successful recent compositions. Written for cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony, the original version was meant to project a sense of calm and transcendence. After its premiere in 2006, Golijov felt the work incomplete, too innocent. He rewrote “Azul,” expanding the music and changing its character to evoke a meditative energy.

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Along with cello soloist and orchestra, Golijov includes a small ensemble that consists of a hyper- accordion (an accordion whose range has been extended electronically) played by Mark Danisovzsky, and two percussionists, Fiona Digney and Stephen Solook. Both the small ensemble’s and cellist Beiser’s music will be amplified electronically.

2) “Khse Buon” was composed in 1980 by Cambodian UCSD music professor Chinary Ung. It was his only composition written during an 11-year period when Ung took part in an effort to preserve his native culture after the Cambodian holocaust under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Ung became deeply involved in learning, performing and transcribing much of the Cambodian court music, which accompanies traditional Cambodian ballet.

“Khse Buon,” (or “four strings,” following a Cambodian tradition of naming music for the solo instrument that plays it) was Ung’s first attempt to integrate string sounds from the East into Western string playing. Solo cellist Maya Beiser will perform it.

3) Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 (1915-16) represents “that which cannot be extinguished,” an indomitable spirit, a sort of force. Full of violence and conflict, the music finally smashes through this discord to a triumphant close.

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While the symphony is in the traditional four movements, these are played without pause, and the music seems to flow in one great arc across its 37-minute span. The fourth movement includes the symphony’s most famous feature — dueling timpanists set at opposite sides of the stage. In the end, the conflicts are resolved, and the symphony hurtles to a heroic conclusion.

If You Go: Concert times are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8 in Mandeville Auditorium at UC San Diego. A pre-concert lecture by Steven Schick will be offered one hour prior to concert times. Tickets from $15 at (858) 534-4637 or lajollasymphony.com Parking is free.