PSO West Coast Tour Report – Stephanie Tretick

PSO tests two halls; audiences are enthusiastic

Charles Lirette
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
found that sound reverberated in Costa Mesa, Calif.,’s Segerstrom Hall.
Orchestra members had to adjust their playing to compensate.

By Stephanie Tretick

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After arriving in Los Angeles this past
Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Symphony began its West Coast tour with five
concerts in California. The concerts have taken the orchestra all over
the considerable length and width of this state, mostly by bus. Travel
has been daily, the vistas an amazing study in geographical contrast.



Charles Lirette
PSO principal trombonist Pete Sullivan warms up before a concert in Costa Mesa.
Click photo for larger image.


Previous coverage

PSO musicians warm up in California


From serene coastal sand dunes and surf at Santa Barbara, the
orchestra’s route went south through the immense sprawl of the Los
Angeles basin and west into the desert to Palm Springs. Here the
highway follows the valley where the North American and Pacific plates
meet, the two sliding past each other at a sizeable five inches per
year. The valley is ringed with snow-capped peaks that grow taller
every year, as the earth’s crust grinds together. It is a rugged,
almost lunar landscape.

A few miles outside of Palm Springs the valley narrows, and in this
area huge wind farms have been built to take advantage of the strong
air currents which constantly flow here. Orchestra members were
fascinated by the weird sight of so many immense, slender stems with
white propeller heads spinning in the sun, lining the hills and
churning out electricity for the cities to the east.

The halls which the PSO has visited so far on this tour have been as
varied as the landscape, ranging from converted movie houses to
brand-new concert stages. The halls the past two nights, in Costa Mesa
and on the University of California Davis Campus, were first-time
venues for the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Hall is a true concert hall. The seating
surrounds the stage completely, and there is no provision for curtains
or scenery at all. Cool modern lines are utilized throughout the room,
and curved lines predominate. Even the music stands are of bent wood,
in keeping with the architectural theme.

The orchestra rehearsed briefly in Segerstrom before the concert on
Friday evening and found that the hall’s curved wooden surfaces
produced an unusually bright sound, which echoed for a long time.

Without any square corners in the room to bring sound to a stop, the
long reverberations began to overlap. PSO members adjusted their
playing style for the evening to accommodate the hall’s muddy

The repertoire for this PSO tour consists of one program: Stravinsky’s
Pulcinella Suite, the Schumann Piano Concert with soloist Jonathan
Biss, and the Sibelius Fifth Symphony. Encores, played almost every
night, include Sibelius’ Valse Triste from "Kuolema," and the Polonaise
from Tchaikovsky’s opera "Eugene Onegin."

Saturday night’s venue, The USC Davis Mondavi Center for the Arts, is a
multipurpose auditorium with a huge backstage area equipped for rigging
massive scenery and lighting. The building is of a much more
conventional design than the futuristic Segerstrom, and the sound of
the stage felt much more natural to the orchestra.

What has not varied during this Pittsburgh Symphony tour has been the
enthusiasm with which the orchestra has been received. Although
audiences do vary in behavior and character, the appreciation for the
orchestra has been clearly demonstrated each night with extended
applause and standing ovations.

Yesterday the orchestra traveled to its northernmost California
destination, San Francisco, to play a concert in Davis Hall. After a
day’s rest, the PSO will fly to Seattle for one more concert before
returning home.

QUOTED FROM: Pittsburgh Post Gazette online, published on Sunday, April 1, 2007 –

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