On Oct.13 a hush is sure to fall over the audience as the first of five highly-anticipated performances of the Chamber Orchestra of the South Bay’s 37th season commences at the Norris Center for the Performing Arts.
Longtime conductor and founding Director Frances Steiner will lead the resident orchestra. She will be accompanied by featured pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, the 2017 Van Cliburn International Music Contest winner, in performing selections from Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.
Steiner said she is hopeful youthful crowds will be drawn to the 28-year-old Sunwoo’s engaging musical talents.
“We pride ourselves on featuring young, up and coming artists,” Steiner said of the talent for COSB performances. “The Van Cliburn contest is like one of the Olympics of piano competitions. There are three or four of them and this one attracts applicants from all over the world.”
Further, part of the reason the Van Cliburn contest is so important is because they manage the winning musicians for three years and find them concerts,” Steiner said.
The COSB has been called “The Cultural Jewel of the South Bay” for its highly professional musical standards. Throughout the year, principal artists, including lead violinists, flutists and clarinetists from the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as others from around the world, perform with the Chambers 25-35 professional musicians.
COSB President Dr. Peter Barrett said one of the reasons the orchestra is so consistently good is because of their training from professional schools such as the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School.
“Many have masters degrees and Doctorates of Musical Arts,” said Barrett, a retired physician at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. “A large fraction of the musicians come back to the orchestra after lengthy musical careers because they like working with Frances.”
Still, Steiner acknowledged classical music can be mysterious for the untrained ear. Like when the Emperor Franz Joseph II from the movie “Amadeus,” told Mozart he enjoyed his opera “Seraglio,” but it “simply had too many notes.”
But even complicated sounding music should be fun, comprehended and enjoyed to the fullest, Steiner said.
For instance, she said the opening performance is described in the program as:
Mozart: Overture to Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492
Mozart is the composer. Overture to Le nozze di Figaro means: The overture is the introductory music to the opera “The Marriage of Figaro.” K is the initial of L. von Köchel, the historical music categorizer. (In the 18th century, no copyrights existed so musicologists came along in the 19th and 20th century to catalog the master compositions for posterity.) The number 492 is the chronological number out of 626 pieces actually categorized, so the listener knows the piece was created some time in the middle of Mozart’s career.
To further interest and give wings to each performance, COSB board members Chuck Klaus or Stephen Richards present brief, humor-filled lectures. Topics include biographies, the motivation behind selections and descriptions of the sometimes-eccentric personalities behind the music.
Klaus said he has a passion for musical theory and history and loves to connect with the audience.
“I put in more jokes and try to show the human side of classical music,” said the former radio announcer.
On a recent Sunday, members and officers of the COSB had a Benefactors Salon—or short concert—at the spacious Palos Verdes Estates home of Myla Azer. Four members, including Steiner on the cello, plus a piano, violin and viola performed the “Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 47” by Robert Schumann who only lived from 1810 to 1856.
Klaus gave a brief synopsis of Schumann’s colorful composition. He pointed out findings where the composer actually sent coded messages using his beloved wife Clara’s initials who he credited as the main inspiration behind his genius.
“If this music doesn’t stir something in your heart,” Klaus said to the members and subscribers at the gathering, “please consult your cardiologist.”
Want to go?
“Bravo Beethoven -- Celebrate Clara Schumann”
Oct. 13 -- Concert previews begin at 6:45 p.m.
27570 Norris Center Drive
Rolling Hills Estates
Tickets are $58.