The Santa Cruz Symphony: Invocations

Esa-Pekka Salonen

The Sunday, April 7 performance of the Santa Cruz Orchestra offered a unique treat in that two of today’s finest leading composer-conductors were represented: Maestro Danny Stewart on the podium conducting Karawane (2014), a composition by fellow colleague, Finnish Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen. In 2020, Salonen will become Music Director/Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. With the passing of Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen seemed the likeliest leading active composer-conductor to assume that honor and the many challenges associated with it. 

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Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Orchestral, Santa Cruz Symphony

Symphonic Fire: The Santa Cruz Symphony

Music Director & Conductor Daniel Stewart

Under the brilliant direction of Conductor Daniel Stewart, cellist Jonah Kim’s nuanced performance of Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191, demonstrated a deep understanding of the music’s emotional trajectory. The Santa Cruz Orchestra established a backdrop that was warm, luminous and animated by a tangy freshness, as indeed was the playing of Kim.

Kim’s interpretation of contoured passion responded to the music’s lyrical soul. He exhibited an expressive mastery that illuminated the concerto’s essential vitality with an attention to nuance that derived both from mature artistry and the orchestra’s excellent supporting role.

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Archived in these categories: Classical Era, Concerto, Santa Cruz Symphony

Santa Cruz Symphony: Enlightenment

Cellist Jeremy Tai


Contemporary works are much like contemporary art. The major difference is one can spend time viewing an art work, looking at it from several angles in an attempt to better understand what in many cases the artist intended to depict. However, and unfortunately, music is performed in real time and as it passes, so too does the time it demands for a better understanding. 

“Enlightenment” is a most appropriate title for the opening concert of the orchestra’s 2019 season, and it was filled with wonderful surprises. Like the tortoise found in Hindu mythology, appearing capable of carrying the heavens on its back, one hears and witnesses towering achievements from our young conductor. In order to reach such heights, Maestro Stewart has created an impressive musical atmosphere based on mutual respect and partnership. When this occurs, impressive musical results are the artistic consequence, a fact the supportive audience has experienced during his tenure. He has built the technical quality of the orchestra much in the manner of the late Pierre Boulez, and his contemporary Esa-Pekka Salonen now of the San Francisco Symphony, who forever look for perfection in details and refinement in the intimacy of the works they perform. Especially evident was the orchestra’s sound in the Mozart Symphony No. 40. The orchestra’s development sounded like an impressive “major big city orchestra”!

San Francisco take note!

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Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Cello, Concerto, Orchestral, Santa Cruz Symphony

Santa Cruz Symphony: Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps


I have the good fortune of having heard two unforgettable performances. In ca. 1968 I attended a Cleveland Orchestra concert with Igor Stravinsky conducting Le Sacre du Printemps. In ca. 1971, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing a more profound performance of Le Sacre du Printemps with Pierre Boulez conducting. At that point in time the Cleveland Orchestra was considered among the great orchestras of the world in a  group that included the symphony orchestras of Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, Concertgebouw and Vienna! When Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conducted his Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in Vienna, a major music critic wrote “Dudamel and his Venezuelan “band” are nipping at the heels of the great Vienna Symphony Orchestra.” Can you feel it San Francisco? Read full story

Archived in these categories: 20th Century, Orchestral, Santa Cruz Symphony

Santa Cruz Symphony: Fidl Fantazye


The highly anticipated Mahler Symphony No. 4 was performed by the spirited Santa Cruz Symphony under the baton of Maestro Danny Stewart, Music Director and Conductor extraordinaire. To compound this intensity, once again Maestro Stewart conducted this masterpiece and the entire concert from memory! The venue was the Mello Center for the Performing Arts Sunday on October, 7. The fourth movement featured the superb voice of guest artist, Chinese soprano Meigui Zhang. It is quite obvious Stewart’s affinity for Mahler allows him to capture and magically express Mahler’s musical intensity. The performance had a tremendous impact on the audience, especially the ‘Mahlerites’ who filled the Mello with eagerness and appreciation. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 is set for the following season.  Read full story

Archived in these categories: Orchestral, Romantic Era, Santa Cruz Symphony