‘Unfortunately, Salonen couldn’t conduct it for us. He has an engagement at the Paris Opera exactly at the same time, so I asked him for recommendations for a conductor. He recommended Daniel Stewart, music director of the Santa Cruz Symphony, and now he is coming to guest conduct the whole show and make sure it’s tip-top.’
“Stewart was masterful in maintaining excellent balance between the complex counterpoint of themes and ideas… Most impressive, both Nyx and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony were conducted from memory”
San Francisco Classical Voice
Local Santa Cruz
The packed houses and thunderous audience ovations confirm Yuja’s status as one of this century’s most phenomenal artists; her collaboration with SCS verifies our orchestra’s superb commitment to bringing world-renowned artistry to local stages.
The orchestra was in complete attunement with Yuja’s range of creative expression. Maestro Stewart navigated the musicians in a graceful narrative that captured the poetic essence of Beethoven and Brahms. Yuja and Stewart’s instinctual understanding of the varied tempos and character within each composition made the music flow and come to life.
“The return of classical superstar Yuja Wang underscores how conductor Daniel Stewart has transformed and elevated the Santa Cruz Symphony. Stewart and Wang could have set these shows up basically anywhere—in Europe, or a major U.S. city. For Stewart, doing it here was about continuing to build momentum."
“Last time, we did the last concertos of Prokofiev and Brahms. This time, we’re going to do the first concertos of Beethoven and Brahms,” This is one of the things Wang loves about Stewart. “We’re both such musical nerds,” she says.
“Stewart and Wang have a lot in common. Their bond has arisen from a shared obsession with the power, passion and relevance of the music they play, and a bit of a rebel streak in their attitudes about the culture around it. Dedicated and driven, they are, in their own ways, both redefining the classical music world.”
"Running parallel to that gentle calm, though, is an incredible energy and passion that has pushed the Santa Cruz Symphony to its current level of acclaim and visibility. That profile is likely to get even higher with the return of pianist Yuja Wang on June 24 and 25."
"Profoundly moving… Monumental and compelling throughout the 90-minute performance!"
"Stewart maintained an uncompromisingly close rapport with the soloists, orchestra and chorus throughout the concert. Directing from memory without a score, Stewart’s eye contact and gestures reflected his in-depth understanding of Verdi’s compositional intentions."
"Stewart guided and balanced with dynamic clarity the liturgical and operatic elements that followed the serenity of the opening moments — drawing our attention beyond any doubt to Verdi’s central conflict between terror and consolation."
"Stewart understood the musical, dynamic contrast between the pleas of post-mortal redemption and terrifying horror of Judgment Day."
"Maestro Danny Stewart was inspiring, and brought compelling emotional depth to the Santa Cruz Symphony, Chorus and soloists. They rose to an extraordinary artistic level high above their usual excellent playing."
"Bravo Maestro, orchestra, chorus and soloists for truly a monumental performance!"
Local Santa Cruz:
"Performed with superior technical skill and passionate conviction. The emotional intensity and majestic serenity of Verdi’s composition was powerfully expressed."
"Guided by Maestro Daniel Stewart’s commanding stage presence, the operatic, choral, and orchestral voices were consistently balanced and in harmony with each other."
"Stewart’s understanding of Requiem’s theatricality was apparent in his precise direction of each rhythmic contrast."
"The Symphony orchestra, Cabrillo Chorus, and guest soloists supported each other in service to Verdi’s music, making the profound quality of Requiem palpable."
"Stewart, the singers, and musicians conveyed the spiritual meaning and depth of mood."
"SCS performances go beyond entertainment to create an experience of music that is compelling and accessible to a modern audience."
"What makes the Santa Cruz Symphony so widely respected is how brilliantly it interprets on the modern stage."
Performing Arts Monterey Bay:
"Hair-raising stuff that shook the very foundations of the Mello concert hall."
"The choice of Michelle Bradley, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Stuart Neill and Peixin Chen, all with major operatic experience, was inspired. Their voices soared over the orchestra to fill the hall."
"The orchestra, for its part, was acutely responsive to conductor Stewart’s fully-memorized, finely shaped and dynamically presented vision."
"Not only one of my all-time favorite performances, but a highly memorable one as well. Daniel Stewart, his solo quartet, Cheryl Anderson’s Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus and the Santa Cruz Symphony itself have given me a fresh new impression that I will cherish."
Santa Cruz Sentinel:
"People around me were literally jumping out of their seats"
"One of the strengths of Daniel Stewart’s leadership of the Santa Cruz Symphony since he took over as music director three years ago is the high caliber of artists he has brought to the town. Last weekend was no exception. With four outstanding soloists, two of whom herald from the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist development program, a program for which Stewart had the honor of being its first conductor, the Symphony’s performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” was impressive. Their projection combined with the keen ear of Stewart that not a note of their solos and ensembles was lost amidst the rich orchestration."
For Immediate Release—Santa Cruz, Calif. Santa Cruz Symphony Music Director, Daniel Stewart announced at the March 25 & 26 “Fratres” concerts that Yuja Wang will be returning to Santa Cruz County for a surprise set of encore concerts on June 24 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and June 25 at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville.
“Following the rapturous reception to Yuja Wang's debut with the Santa Cruz Symphony this past February, it is a unique honor to look forward to presenting her for the second time this season, in a pair of surprise encore concerts. After having brought the final concertos of both Prokofiev and Brahms for our previous concerts, we thought it would be fun to program the first concertos of both Beethoven and Brahms for our next concerts together,” states Music Director Daniel Stewart. “Where else in the world could one hope to hear Yuja Wang perform four piano concertos in four months?”
It is a distinct tribute to her working relationship with Stewart that she is returning so quickly to perform with him and the Santa Cruz Symphony again.
“Under Stewart’s inspired guidance, Yuja and the orchestra created a musical conversation within the challenging concertos that left a lasting impression of symphonic harmony,” said Fleur Williams of Local Santa Cruz of their first concerts in February.
“Yuja Wang is one of those incredible pianists...with the ability to set the keyboard on fire with her technical capacity and musical prowess to master a nearly impossible work while displaying a depth of understanding and an effortless virtuosity,” said Joe Sekon of PeninsulaReviews.com. “She demonstrated these skills in Sunday’s concert where she was perfectly matched with Maestro Stewart’s keen ear and direction.
San Francisco Classical Voice agrees. “The orchestra under Stewart’s baton was crisp, energetic, and tightly wound. Yuja matched this quality with ease. The result was an enjoyable performance of a spiky concerto.”
For those who have yet to see Yuja Wang live in concert, this is an opportunity to hear, as the Washington Post describes her, “quite simply, the most uncannnily gifted pianist in the concert world today."
Tickets go on sale at noon Wednesday March 29 online at SantaCruzTickets.com, at the Civic Box Office at 307 Church Street in Santa Cruz or by calling the box office at (831) 420-5260.
Local Santa Cruz
"The Santa Cruz Symphony Uplifts Us Again"
"The Santa Cruz Symphony has once again done what it does best: commemorating world-famous scores and composers from the past, spotlighting distinguished contemporary musicians, and bringing audiences to the edge of their seats."
"As with all of their classical concerts, the performances highlighted remarkable technical ability, creative ingenuity, and compelling stage presence."
"The Symphony’s choices in material and artists define what makes classical music the rich art form that captivates and uplifts audiences."
"A slow, gradual crescendo emphasized how moments of pause hold as much power as movement, and had listeners spellbound."
"The audience was once again treated to Director Daniel Stewart’s innovative programming."
"Most impressive was the control of dynamics performed in all three works."
"This performance exemplified the kind of subtle control of dynamics more commonly found in commercially-produced recordings than in live performances! On this very point alone the Santa Cruz Symphony has risen to yet another important level."
"The overall effect was superb — it was a new sound experience in precise control employing minimal motion that created a floating and surreal almost mystical sonority. Very well executed!"
"Bursts of orchestral energy reinforced the idea with impressive, contrasting dynamics shaping the contours of the ideas Schubert had composed."
"The cryptic references to the previous movements were masterfully combined by Stewart with fine orchestral precision and impressive tonal balance to its very conclusion. This concert was unique and thoroughly enjoyed by the overwhelming applause!"
Performing Arts Monterey Bay
"Daniel Stewart and the strings of his Santa Cruz Symphony gave one of their best shows. I don’t remember when this ensemble of violins, violas, cello and basses sounded better."
"Stewart demonstrated commitment to and skill in preserving the character of the string quartet itself, modulating the dynamics accordingly. Likewise was the musicians’ response to his subtle phrasing and molding of the nearly 45-minute score that is notorious for undoing less than the most-seasoned ensembles who take it on. The range of dynamics ran from fortissimo to pianissimo, back and forth, as well as the ‘mezzos’ in between."
Santa Cruz Sentinel
"The rich string sound was magical."
"When Stewart broke the news that Wang would be returning to Santa Cruz in late June in an additional concert to the regular season his news was greeted with rapturous applause from the audience who were thrilled at the prospect."
Local Santa Cruz:
Yuja’s detailed expression and rhythmic precision beautifully matched Maestro Daniel Stewart’s sensitivity for mood and timing. Under Stewart’s inspired guidance, Yuja and the orchestra created a musical conversation within the challenging concertos that left a lasting impression of symphonic harmony
Orchestral balance was superbly supportive and imaginative. Well done orchestra, Yuja Wang and Maestro Stewart for yet another unforgettable musical experience!
Performing Arts Monterey Bay
Stewart was animated and boldly in charge on the podium. His orchestra measured up to great effect but also felt the weight of the piece.
SF Classical Voice
The orchestra under Stewart’s baton was crisp, energetic, and tightly wound. Yuja matched this quality with ease. The result was an enjoyable performance of a spiky concerto.
Local Santa Cruz:
-"The Symphony’s production of the opera was a musical triumph"
-"Last weekend’s performances received waves of laughter and wholehearted standing ovations from an audience spanning all backgrounds and ages. With the Santa Cruz Symphony providing such electrifying presentations, it’s clear why"
-"The soloists, Stewart, and the Santa Cruz Symphony managed the musical and theatrical mechanisms with extraordinary style, skill, and ease. Under Stewart’s guiding hand, the orchestra had a natural swing and closely timed collaboration with the singers."
Santa Cruz Sentinel:
-"The three hour show was rapturously received by a full house."
-"Where else could you find so many New York Metropolitan Opera soloists performing together on stage in one place?"
-"Stewart did an admirable job working to keep a splendid balance between the singers and the instrumentalists"
-"The Santa Cruz Symphony under the direction of conductor Daniel Stewart presented a thrilling performance of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia to a sold out audience"
-"Quite obviously the time and work spent in NY with the Metropolitan Opera has paid huge dividends for Maestro Stewart. His experience in opera was quite evident as he bobbed and weaved through the melodic lines while the orchestra created crisp, clean entries and wonderful dynamic balance."
-"The all-star cast assembled for this exciting performance included Ginger Costa-Jackson as Rosina, Victor Ryan Robertson as Count Almaviva, John Michael Moore as Figaro, Steven Condy as Dr. Bartolo, Ryan Speedo Green as Don Basilio, Susanne Mentzer as Berta, and Hadleigh Adams as Fiorello. Special kudos were deserved by stage director David Paul and choral director Cheryl Anderson"
Performing Arts Monterey Bay:
-"A superb presentation….Excellent throughout….Brilliant….Well-controlled and a delight to watch…..Both well-played and well-sung….Very impressive"
-"This performance left me very pleased. To hear such a quality Barber was an unexpected thrill. "
-"I would hope that the Santa Cruz Symphony will continue in future to venture into this kind of opera production. To present an opera as I saw it, with top young singers, imaginative staging and full orchestra, fulfills a need. It will keep opera alive and well"
Armstrong, Dorman, and Stewart communicated the emotional and complex elements of classical music with composure, humor, depth, and energy. It is yet another indication that as the Symphony season continues, Santa Cruz can expect world class performances, a vast orchestral repertoire, and transformative musical experiences.
"Maestro Danny Stewart opened the Symphony’s 59th Season to a sold out, enthusiastic audience"
"The performance was brilliant…a thunderous standing ovation in appreciation of this monumental performance."
"A well-constructed program, executed with profound thought and precision."
"Stewart was masterful in maintaining excellent balance between the complex counterpoint of themes and ideas...Most impressive, both Nyx and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony were conducted from memory, without a score!"
Highlights include superstar Yuja Wang in an all-piano concerto program of Salonen and Brahms; Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with a cast from the Metropolitan Opera; a politically themed season opening program of Bernstein, Beethoven, Molicone, and Shostakovich's 5th Symphony; and Verdi's Messa da Requiem.
"Maestro Stewart brought textural clarity to the work, enhanced by the exceptionally subtle dialogue between sections of the orchestra. Most noteworthy were several beautiful endings of phrases that slowly, calmly vanished into nothingness. Wow!"
Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews
"'Inventing America,' the title of last weekend's offering from the Santa Cruz Symphony, might easily be changed to 'Reinventing the Santa Cruz Symphony.' Such was the power and majesty of this opening program under the leadership of Daniel Stewart."
Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
"The Symphony’s program, titled “Pacific Perspectives,” included two works composed right on our doorstep: Lou Harrison’s “Pacifika Rondo” (1963) and maestro Daniel Stewart’s “Sinfonia” (2011). The room was bursting with excitement as the audience waited with anticipation to hear the new maestro’s own composition. The piece was a colorful patchwork combining jazz elements, blues scales, syncopated rhythms and instrumentation of Argentinean tango with a vocabulary of ostinato, polytonality and a smattering of aleatoric notation, and featured exciting woodwind solos, lush warm unison strings and a battery of percussion instruments.
Musical elements from Korean and Japanese court music and Chinese chamber music, with a smattering of Mexican and Spanish-colonial music come together in “Pacifika Rondo” that, like the ocean has a circular form in its seven movements. The Santa Cruz Symphony was joined on stage by musicians renowned for their expertise in performing on the piri, sheng, kayageum and fipple flutes that Harrison’s score requires, exposing the audience a variety of timbres that was most refreshing."
Lou Harrison’s 30-minute seven-movement Pacifika Rondo was a treat that engaged the entire audience. What a feast of sounds!
From the look of it, Stewart must have loved mastering and performing the piece. The audience responded with sustained applause.
Stewart’s own Sinfonia, composed in 2010, was about as eclectic in style as an orchestral piece can be.
Rhythmically challenging, it, like the Harrison, drew smiles from the musicians. …from the mysterious to the eruptive……a lushly cinematic display"
Sinfonia is a most interesting, well thought out composition that will enjoy many future performances.
...high rhythmic percussive energy on a palette of many musical colors that modulated into numerous delightful textures.....a beautifully designed lyrical string section"