The California Symphony begins its season by honoring the musician who would have turned 100 in August: Leonard Bernstein. Music Director Donato Cabrera says he approached the programming keeping the dynamic conductor, composer, and teacher in mind. The concert, with guest pianist Charlie Albright, is this Sunday at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek.

There’s more information at the California Symphony website.

“Seeing over the last year all these memorial celebrations and remembrances, it is just astounding to me the impact that this one individual had on a whole artform for an entire country, and an entire, well, a couple of generations at least,” Cabrera says. “This concert that the California Symphony will be doing is not only a celebration of his music, but what I tried to do with the soloist, the concerto, I’ve tried to create a teaching moment that he would have done as a programmer.” So with music from Candide and West Side Story bookending the program, he and soloist Charlie Albright chose Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. “The concert opens with Candide Overture, which is so frothy and full of… it’s just like a champagne bottle being uncorked, I thought it would be nice to have a sort of serious moment in the concert, but played with Vivaciousness that I know Charlie will do. He brings this – again this sort of Bernstein enthusiasm to the way he makes music. His commitment to education, his commitment to living in the moment that’s so Leonard Bernstein!” There’s also a set of Latin American Dances by Gabriela Lena Frank (inspired in part by Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances). “It’s not only to show of course the influence of Afro-Cuban jazz and rhythms on not only West Side Story, but it continues to this day through the wonderful music of Gabriela Lena Frank, but it’s also to show that Bernstein was also such a supporter of young, up and coming talent.”

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