A Moment With Victor Vener

On the eve of the California Philharmonic's debut concert at Santa Anita Park, Musical Director Victor Vener opened up about working with Vanessa Carlton and more.

The California Philarmonic kicks off its debut summer concert series at on Saturday, June 30. Musical director Victor Vener sat down with Patch to talk about the upcoming season, and what audiences can expect.

What went into working with artists such as Vanessa Carlton? How do you work the musical arrangement while keeping true to the artist’s vision/creation?

"I look at her creation as the words she writes and the music she writes — not her recordings, which have other people's influences in the studio. I look at the music and imagine how this could be expanded to utilize the full power of the symphony orchestra. And it's frosting. All I do is frosting. She is the cake. There isn't one beat really that's different. It's just the way it's clothed. Instead of being clothed with a guitar and a drum and a synthesizer in a studio, it's now clothed with symphonic instruments.

How will the switch from the Arboretum to the Race Track affect this year’s program?

The non-musical experience for the audience has been exponentially improved. The music will hopefully be as good as it always was…It's the same family, we've just moved to a different house. It doesn't change who the family is.

How was it adjusting to the acoustics at the Track?

It's the same outdoor deal. We're hoping it might be improved with the seating being slightly below ground-surface. And, the Arboretum has neighbors…So, if there was a teenage party going on at the other side of the fence, you could actually hear it during some of the music. They also had peacocks that could be quite loud during the soft parts of the music.

How do you craft your summer programs? What is your thought process when it comes to choosing and arranging selections?

Part of it is I'm looking at things as a musical director, as a musician…My problem is not that I have to pick music for five concerts. My problem is what am I not picking for those five concerts: It's one of exclusion rather than inclusion. There's so many pieces of good music I would love to bring to my audience but there isn't time for that.

There isn't enough time in five evenings to present all the music that needs to be presented or that I would love to present or that I have a personal affinity to. The Grieg piano concerto that we're doing for Concert Number 3 has been on the short list for ten years. I've wanted to do it every year, but something else had to be done instead that beat it out.

Then, there's a certain kind of programming my audience wants and they respond to by buying tickets, and that that wraps around the music of Broadway. It's just a hard, cold fact that Broadway music sells better than anything….I want them to come for Broadway and walk out thrilled with Grieg.

What inspired you to pursue a career in music and with the Philharmonic?

It's just what I fell in love with. I was exposed at an early age to the purpose and value of popular as well as symphonic music.

Anything special you want readers to know about this year’s summer program? Is there a piece you are particularly looking forward to performing?

Each concert is like a child of mine, OK? And I don't want to say, "Well, Child Number 5 is really exciting but Child Number 4 isn't that good. I think they're all that good. And they're good in different ways.

Like the program that's got the Association on it next week? It's good in that it's got a really classic, fabulous group of composers/singers that wrote some of most timeless music of that genre. And in that same program is Richard Strauss' "Don Juan," which is perhaps singly the most difficult, most virtuosic classical piece of music ever composed…It's beautiful and it's exciting and difficult to perform and it's a challenge to the orchestra.

"Symphonie Fantastique" is a really clever piece of music. It's written three years after Beethhoven died...The story of it couldn't be more bizarre. And interesting. It's like a crime novel.

I've also put together a half-an-hour compilation of excerpts from "Carmen," and I'm really excited about that. "Westside Story" we're also doing this summer...Each concert will have a lot for everybody. Even if you don't like everything, you will like a lot. Regardless of whether you're a high-minded experienced classical listener or you've never been to a concert before, you should walk out that evening happy that you came.


Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for pre-concert family-friendly activities and live jazz, while the concert begins at 8 p.m. Full bars and a number of gourmet food options will be available during pre-concert festivities.

Sunday matinee performances will continue at the incomparable Walt Disney Concert Hall, known for its acoustic superiority. Performances begin at 2 p.m., with a complimentary pre-concert Talk with The Maestro at 1 p.m.

The 2012 Cal Phil Festival on the Green at Santa Anita and Cal Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall schedules are as follows:


Let The Festival Begin!

Saturday – June 30, 2012

Sunday – July 1, 2012

Kicking off the first concert of its 16th season with a bang, the platinum-selling USC Trojan Marching Band, The Spirit of Troy, will join Cal Phil on stage. But that’s only the beginning. Three-time Grammy nominated singer/songwriter, Vanessa Carlton, best known for her chart-topping ballad "A Thousand Miles," will also perform alongside the orchestra. Meanwhile, Cal Phil will captivate its audience with such classical masterpieces as Copland’s "Rodeo" and Respighi’s "Pines of Rome." 


The Association

Saturday –July 14, 2012

Sunday – July 15, 2012

The Association, the band that brought us such beloved classic hits as "Cherish," "Windy," and "Never My Love," joins Cal Phil and its esteemed Maestro Victor Vener for the second concert of the summer season. Audiences of all ages will revel in this rare opportunity to rock with one of the greatest bands to come out of the ‘60’s and one of the Southland’s most acclaimed orchestras of today. The orchestra will play such revolutionary classical masterpieces as "Symphonie Fantastique" by Berlioz and "Don Juan" by Strauss.


Center Stage

Saturday – July 28, 2012

Sunday – July 29, 2012

Joining Cal Phil and Maestro Victor Vener center stage during the third concert of the 2012 season are Kristi Holden from "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular" and David Burnham from "Wicked" on Broadway.  Cal Phil concert goers will her beloved music from such musicals as "Phantom of the Opera," "The King & I," "Carousel" and "Sweeny Todd."  Also on the bill? World-renowned piano virtuoso Gayle Martin Henry — the sole American laureate of the sixth International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. He will perform Grieg’s "Piano Concerto" and Tchaikovsky’s "Symphony No. 4." 


Carmen on Broadway

Saturday – August 11, 2012

Sunday – August 12, 2012

Carmen on Broadway is Cal Phil’s effusive nod to some of the greatest musicals in history, including: "Carmen," "West Side Story," "Man of La Mancha," "Beauty & The Beast," "Lion King" and "Les Misérables." Featured guests including Bass Baritone Cedric Berry and opera stars Sandra Rubalcava and Christopher Bengochea.  Also performing during this fourth concert of the season are 2010 Cal Phil Young Artist Award Winner Emily Dyer and the Cal Phil Chorale, which is under the direction Maestra Marya Basaraba. 


Beethoven and John Williams

Saturday –August 25, 2012

Sunday – August 26, 2012

The Cal Phil season finale features music from two legendary composers who have left their indelible stamp on the world of music: Beethoven, arguably the greatest classical composer of all time, and John Williams, a revered composer who has scored more than 100 feature films. The bill includes Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from his "Symphony No. 9" and popular scores from "Star Wars," "Superman," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Amistad." Up-and-coming talents Danielle Bond, Ashley Faatoalia and Ben Lowe — this year’s Cal Phil Young Artist Award recipients — will join the orchestra, as will Emily Dyer.

To purchase tickets for Festival on the Green at Santa Anita Race Track, call 626.300.8200 or visit www.calphil.org. Tickets for Walt Disney Concert Hall are available for purchase through Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.


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