Classically Trained: Greek mythology inspires new music

November 15, 2010|By Bradley Zint

The Pacific Symphony has gone Greek this week with the world premiere of "Prometheus."

Composer William Bolcom's new work for solo piano, orchestra and chorus will be performed Thursday through Saturday night by the Costa Mesa-based symphony. The series is led by principal conductor Carl St.Clair, and Jeffrey Biegel will play piano.

Evoking the ancient spirits of Zeus and Prometheus — the crafty Titan credited with creating mankind and stealing the power of fire for mortals, only to be punished and bound by chains after the deed — "Prometheus" promises to be an interesting musical interpretation of the Greek mythology under the command of a talented pianist.


The series at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall also features Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" and Mozart's 34th and 35th symphonies. A 7 p.m. pre-concert talk precludes the 8 p.m. performances.

Bolcom is no stranger to the Pacific Symphony. In 2006, the Grammy- and Pulitzer-winning composer premiered a song cycle, "Canciones de Lorca," with the orchestra and legendary tenor Plácido Domingo. Bolcom said his new work traces back to the legend of Prometheus' fiery gift that eventually fueled mankind's technological expansion into harnessing electricity, steam, oil, computers and the power of the atom.

"It is undeniable that our century and millennium have not gotten off to an auspicious start — with Sept. 11, 2001, our worldwide economic crisis and all the ills of the 20th century [foisting] on the 21st," Bolcom said. "My 'Prometheus' is perhaps the antithesis of the joyous mood of the Beethoven work on the program, but it is not devoid of hope, particularly if it points us to begin to understand our situation.

"This piece is dedicated to that hope."

Biegel said he tries to "hear" all the delicate construction of a new work such as "Prometheus" in his head after much practice before the first rehearsals.

"The exciting challenge to learning a new work that no one has heard before is unheralded," he said. "The challenges are most apparent in creating a first impression, a first interpretation that may serve as a model for future performances."

Tickets for the series start at $25. For more information, visit or call (714) 755-5799.

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