When Canadian conductor Boris Brott takes the Hospitality Point podium Wednesday evening, he will open the San Diego Symphony's SummerPops season on a decidedly sophisticated note. His mainly Ravel program, called "Ravel Rhapsody," inaugurates the orchestra's 12 weeks of outdoor programming on Mission Bay.
To be sure, Brott has not failed to include "Bolero," the hummable 1928 ballet piece that instantly made the composer world-famous (even before he could count to "10"). But Brott's Ravel sampler also includes "La Valse" and the Suite No. 2 from "Daphnis et Chloe," hardly typical pops selections.
Brott, who is music director of the Hamilton (Ontario) Philharmonic, devised a program for Canadian television in 1975 to celebrate the centennial of Ravel's birth. In addition to hosting the program, the Ravel specialist conducted the Toronto Symphony in a concert of the French composer's orchestral works and arrangements.
Brott's chief mentor, celebrated French conductor Pierre Monteux, provided the eager young Canadian with a direct connection to Ravel's musical world.
"My initial conducting studies were with Igor Markevitch and Pierre Monteux," Brott explained. "Monteux had conducted the premiere performance of 'Daphnis et Chloe' and was strongly identified with Ravel."
Having spent two years as Monteux's apprentice in Europe, as well as four summers at the conductor's summer music camp in Maine, Brott said he felt he had gained almost a direct link with the composer. Many of Monteux's Ravel scores were annotated during conversations with the composer.
"Monteux's view of Ravel was very classical, that is, he stressed the composer's desire to achieve a clear sense of form, as opposed to the blurred image of the Impressionist label his music is usually given. Ravel's music is conductor's music, in the sense that it plays the orchestra."
Brott made his SummerPops debut last season and returned in December to conduct a week of the San Diego Symphony's concerts for student audiences.
Last chance for the mighty Wurlitzer. This Sunday, members of the Theatre Organ Society of San Diego will bid farewell to the soon-to-be-demolished California Theatre with a 2 p.m. concert on the aging movie palace's Wurlitzer theatre organ. Four local organists, Chris Gorsuch, Chuck Kramarich, Russ Peck and Greg Breed, will perform on the city's second-largest theatre organ before it is dismantled and put into storage.
The 24-rank Wurlitzer, which is owned by the society, was installed in the California Theatre in 1977, and the first concert was presented a year later. According to society member Bob Brooks, the California Theatre's original eight-rank instrument had been long gone, having been sold to a local Catholic church after talkies made theatre organs obsolete. The society's Wurlitzer came from a movie theater in Santa Rosa and was purchased for the society by local organ aficionado Preston M. (Sandy) Fleet.
Next month, Theatre Organ Society members will remove the Wurlitzer from the California Theatre and put it into storage while they locate a new home for their prized instrument. According to society president Jackie Cornell, it will be out of commission for at least a year.
"Even if the Wurlitzer should go to the North Park or Balboa theatres, it would take two to three years before these facilities were ready for concerts. At the moment, however, the whole thing is still out in left field. In the meantime, we will probably give concerts using electronic organs or meet in members' homes that have (theater) pipe organs," said Cornell.
Mazeltov! Friday night at Temple Beth Israel, cantor Sheldon Merel will be honored for 10 years of service at San Diego's oldest Reform synagogue. Merel is well-known in the local musical community, both for the synagogue's excellent music program and for his leadership in local interfaith musical concerts. Last month, Merel organized the "Blended Voices" concert at Symphony Hall, which put the choirs of five San Diego churches on stage with the Jewish Community Center Orchestra and the musicians of Temple Beth Israel.
Rumble in the park. Balboa Park's Spreckels Organ is armed with a new rank of pedal pipes whose low roar is equal to the sound of planes landing and taking off from nearby Lindbergh Field. On June 10, civic organist Robert Plimpton inaugurated the new 32-foot Bombarde in his regular Sunday afternoon recital. He demonstrated the new stop's ability to snarl in French toccatas--Plimpton opened his program with Widor's popular Toccata from the Fifth Organ Symphony--and to undergird the fugues of J.S. Bach with fiery accent.
For the record, the lowest pipe of the new Bombarde is indeed 32 feet in length, and its pitch is a mere 16 cycles per second. (The lowest C on a piano is still an octave higher than the low C of the Bombarde.) The term Bombarde comes from the French organ-building tradition and denotes the brightest and loudest reed stops on an organ.