The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra visits Mondavi
Pianist Olga Kern will perform British and Russian music
The Mondavi Center plans to greet the New Year with a bang on Saturday evening (January 15, 7:30 p.m.), hosting a leading London-based touring orchestra – the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – featuring a popular soloist with a strong local following. , pianist Olga Kern.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has visited the Mondavi Center several times over the years, usually with a guest conductor at the helm (for example, Pinchas Zukerman was guest conductor and violin soloist when the RPO performed at Mondavi in 2o16 and 2020 ).
But for their current 15-city US tour – which marks the orchestra’s 75th anniversary – the RPO will be led by its new music director and conductor Vasily Petrenko, who officially took over with the 2021-2022 season of the orchestra.
Petrenko was born in 1976 in the Baltic Sea city then known as Leningrad, USSR (now Saint Petersburg, Russia). Petrenko studied conducting under several conductors associated with the Baltic Sea, including Ravil Martynov (who conducted orchestras in St. Petersburg for much of his career), Yuri Temirkanov (who conducted the Orchestra several times Petersburg Philharmonic at Mondavi), Latvian-born conductor Mariss Jansons and Finnish-born conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (currently with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra).
Petrenko became Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005 (when Petrenko was still about a year away from his 30th birthday). Petrenko enjoyed considerable success during his long tenure as Musical Director of the Liverpool Orchestra, which ended in 2021. Petrenko now holds the title of Laureate Conductor of the Liverpool Orchestra.
Petrenko’s association with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London began in 2016, when he first performed with them as guest conductor. In 2018, the RPO announced that Petrenko had been hired as the orchestra’s next music director, starting in fall 2021.
Along the way, Petrenko became a British citizen in 2015.
Pianist Olga Kern is a familiar face to Mondavi Center audiences. She was called back on stage for two encores when she performed at Mondavi on April 26 with the Royal National Scottish Orchestra at Mondavi, and she also appeared at Mondavi in 2007 with the National Philharmonic of Russia. About 20 years ago, she also performed in Sacramento with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and she appeared with the Bear Valley Music Festival (a summer series in the Sierra of the Bear Valley ski area, along Highway 4 below Ebbetts Pass, about an hour and a half southeast of Sacramento).
Kern was born in Moscow and in 2001 became the first woman in over 30 years to win the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. This award launched Kern on a busy career as a recital artist and soloist with numerous orchestras, and as a recording artist. Kern became a US citizen in 2016, after living in New York for more than a decade.
The music presented at the January 15 concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Mondavi Center reflects the orchestra’s English roots and the Russian heritage of conductors Vasily Petrenko and Olga Kern. The concert will open with British conductor Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes”, which are orchestral excerpts from his opera “Peter Grimes”. Next, Kern will join the orchestra for a performance of Pyotr Tchiakovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a staple of the Russian orchestral repertoire that has long been an audience favourite.
The concert will close with “Enigma Variations” by British composer Edward Elgar, a piece that seems to be quite popular with British and Russian orchestras these days. (The “Nimrod” section of “Enigma Variations” has been featured as an encore at Mondavi by at least one touring Russian orchestra in the relatively recent past).
Contacted on Monday, a spokesperson for the Mondavi Center confirmed that the Jan. 15 concert with the RPO and Olga Kern was still going on, even though UC Davis announced late last week that UCD students were returning to online education via at least Ja. 28, due to pandemic-related factors.
Tickets for the concert are currently very scarce at the Mondavi Center box office, but a few seats scattered around Jackson Hall were still available Monday morning, priced from $72 to $165 on MondaviArts.org. And a few other returned tickets will likely be available at the box office this week.
The usual policies and protocols at concerts these days will be observed: Audience members must show their CDC vaccination card (a phone picture is acceptable) or the State of California digital COVID-19 vaccination record, as well state-issued photo ID that matches vaccination records, and members of the public must wear a mask at all times while inside the venue. Per CDC guidelines, the Mondavi Center recommends wearing premium N95 or KN95 masks for optimal protection and asks ticket holders to avoid using cloth masks alone.