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Classically Trained: A symphonic odyssey into space

October 13, 2011|By Bradley Zint

I first tried watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" when I was around 10 because I heard it somehow related to "Star Wars." My adolescent reasoning was simple: "Star Wars" is great, so any related films must be great, too. Right?

So in the pre-Netflix and pre-car era of my life, my friend and I rode our bikes two miles to go rent the VHS tape (remember those?) from Blockbuster. But within mere minutes of pushing play, we found the opening "dawn of man" ape sequence silly and tried fast-forwarding to the action. Turns out the action never really came in that slow-moving 1968 Stanley Kubrick classic.

Still, even at a young age, I was stricken by the film's soundtrack and how its use of classical music filled the sound void between the sparse dialogue.

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Taking note of Kubrick's innovative use of music is the Pacific Symphony and its upcoming "2011: A Space Odyssey" concerts Oct. 20 to 22 in Costa Mesa.

The 8 p.m. concerts, led by guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, will feature the two most famous works used in the film: Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and Johann Strauss' "On the Beautiful Blue Danube."

Unlike "2001," which used just one part of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" for its now-iconic opening credits, the Pacific Symphony will be playing the entire tone poem. To enhance the space-like experience while listening to the "Blue Danube," a choreographed video by astronomer José Francisco Salgado will be played.

The video starts with footage from Earth and then goes outward to other galaxies and the universe's largest structures, which Salgado dubs "the cosmic web."

Also on the program are Alan Hovhaness' "Prayer of St. Gregory" and Mozart's Concerto No. 21 for Piano and Orchestra.

"Prayer of St. Gregory" features Pacific Symphony principal trumpet Barry Perkins. Pianist Jeremy Denk is the soloist for the Mozart piece.

Guerrero, a Costa Rica native, also serves as music director for the Nashville Symphony. Next week's concerts will be his fourth appearance with the Costa Mesa-based Pacific Symphony.

"I have to admit that I first became aware of Strauss' work through Kubrick's movie," Guerrero said of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" in a release. "The movie utilizes the very famous sunrise introduction from this tone poem, but it really sets the tone for the rest of the piece, which is quite an orchestral tour de force.

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