Symphony’s Grand Finale


Lowell Liebermann

Yes, “The Bold and the Beautiful” is the name of a daytime soap opera. And, yes, North State Symphony conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett knew that before he gave the same title to this weekend’s season-ending concerts in Redding, Chico and Red Bluff.

Sometimes you’ve got to have fun when you’re naming these symphony concerts. Plus, “Bold” and “Beautiful” pretty much nails it for the program of music for this weekend.

The North State Symphony landed a coup in getting to perform the California premiere of a new clarinet concerto by Lowell Liebermann. The premiere is the kind of event normally reserved for the San Francisco Symphony or Los Angeles Philharmonic, and it will feature clarinet soloist Jon Manasse.

“It’s a fantastic work, a home-run kind of piece,” Wiley Pickett said this week. “The fact that the North State Symphony is getting to do this is really phenomenal. (Liebermann) is out of our price range. Jon (Manasse) is the best clarinetist in the world right now.”

The concert will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cascade Theatre in Redding. It will also be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Chico’s Laxson Auditorium and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the State Theater in Red Bluff. Tickets are $20-$24 for adults. Click here to order online, or here for more information.


Jon Manasse

Liebermann, in his late 40s, is one of the country’s top contemporary composers and he resides in New Jersey. His clarinet concerto accomplishes the impressive feat of being both familiar and immediately pleasing to audiences, while still pushing forward in terms of creativity, Wiley Pickett said.

“Liebermann is among a generation of composers who really care what the audience thinks, but are still advancing the art,” he said.

The last movement of the three-movement piece is infused with elements of Latin jazz, which may have been influenced by the neighborhood that the composer lives in in New Jersey. With Manasse’s incredible clarinet playing, it’s almost like taking Benny Goodman and placing him in a Latin jazz band.

“(Liebermann) doesn’t talk a lot about his work, but he has said of the last movement to think of Bugs Bunny wearing a hula and playing the maracas,” Wiley Pickett said. “That kind of fits.”

As for Manasse, his playing transcends the instrument.

“There’s only a couple of clarinetists making their living as a soloist and he’s one of them,” Wiley Pickett said. “Jon can do it all. When I heard him, I was completely blown away. He has the skill to play anything perfectly and cleanly, which is pretty tough on a wind instrument, and he just has an amazing sound. He can float the high notes and make that instrument sing and soar. It’s incredible the sound color he can get out of that instrument.”

The concert will open with Haydn’s “Lo Speziale” Overture and conclude with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, which Wiley Pickett says is a huge crowd pleaser.

Despite the recession, the symphony should conclude its 2009-10 season in the black, which Wiley Pickett attributes to strong audience support and individual donors who have stepped up pledges. The individual donors gave more because they likely anticipated the downturn in corporate sponsorships during the uncertain economy, Wiley Pickett said.

And even though the symphony will perform twice on Sunday, Wiley Pickett said the day is a favorite for him, because a group of Red Bluff women prepare a pre-concert meal for the orchestra before the final performance of the season.

“Very few times does the entire orchestra hang out in the same place at the same time,” he said. “It’s actually really good orchestra bonding time.”

jim-dyar-125Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com.

Jim Dyar

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com

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