Beethoven galore to accompany Dean Corey's last O.C. bow in 2014

Dean Corey’s victory lap as one of Southern California’s top music impresarios will be an interdisciplinary undertaking in which the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, which he’s led since 1993, will present Ludwig van Beethoven in a concert hall, in a museum gallery, in a sound-art installation, on a film festival screen, and in the pages of a book Corey is hastening to finish for publication early next year.

His final bow as president and artistic director at the end of the 2013-14 season coincides with the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Philharmonic Society, Orange County’s longest-running major classical music organization.

It will also mark the culmination of Corey’s last big initiative, a three-season push called “Beethoven: the Late Great.” 

The idea has been to present all the composer’s late works, capped with the ultimate in happy endings, a May 15, 2014, rendition of the Ninth Symphony that will ring down the Beethoven series and Corey’s 21-year run, while celebrating the Philharmonic Society's 60th birthday. It debuted in May 1954 as a community orchestra that later shifted to its longtime role of importing top touring talent.

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One art form not accounted for yet in the Philharmonic Society’s planning is theater – the discipline that Corey said gave rise to his book, and the concert focus on late Beethoven that has run through recent seasons.

“The spark and inspiration was seeing Moises Kaufman’s play '33 Variations' with Jane Fonda,” said Corey, who caught the production in its 2009 run on Broadway and again the following year at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A.

The drama concerns a fatally-ill musicologist who spends her waning energies trying to pin down Beethoven’s motivation for devoting a great deal of time and effort in his own late years to “33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli,” in which he explored a single source-theme on piano.

The Philharmonic Society will venture into the exhibitions world by organizing a show of Beethoven’s artifacts and writings at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, expected to run from February to May. 

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It will draw heavily on the collection of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, including a lock of the maestro’s hair and his life mask. Corey said the Library of Congress will loan manuscripts in Beethoven’s own hand, including his score for one of the movements of a late string quartet.

Two other exhibitions will take place at as-yet-undetermined sites. 

The Seattle-based artist Trimpin, who combines sculpture and music, is preparing an installation that Corey said will involve a grand piano hung upside down and programmed automatically to play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”  

Schroeder from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip  will arrive in cartoon form from the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, in an exhibition focusing on his Beethoven fixation.

On screen, Corey said, the Philharmonic Society will present a new documentary, “Following the Ninth: in the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” at next spring’s Newport Beach Film Festival. He said the Philharmonic Society is one of many partial funders of the film by writer-director Kerry Candaele.


Corey’s book, “Beethoven the Late Great,” will offer 33 personal essays on the composer, with some poetry thrown in. The Philharmonic Society’s subscribers will receive complimentary copies, and plans call for selling the book at concerts and in Orange County outlets.

The Philharmonic Society also will get around to what it mainly does: presenting leading classical orchestras and soloists at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa and the Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine. The coming season includes a recital by pianist Yuja Wang, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra led by violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

The concluding Beethoven’s Ninth will have a communitarian thrust, with the Orange County Youth Symphony combining with several area choirs.

“It’s Dean’s last concert, and he felt what better way to celebrate than with a big Orange County community event with one of the best pieces of music ever,” said Philharmonic Society spokeswoman Chantel Chen Uchida.

She said the budget for the coming season will rise to about $5 million to accommodate the special events, up from slightly under $4 million in recent years. This week the Philharmonic Society announced its preliminary fiscal results for the recently concluded 2012-13 season: unaudited expenditures of $3.75 million and revenue of $3.91 million, yielding a surplus of $162,000. 

The organization typically has enjoyed balanced budgets or surpluses under Corey, with a rare exception in 2006-07, the opening season for Segerstrom Concert Hall, when he attributed the $847,000 deficit partly to having overestimated the attraction of the hall’s newness factor.


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