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Maestra Magnifique: Principal UCSC music producer Nicole Paiement conducts the university orchestra in a weekend of innovative programming.

UCSC Orchestra Performs Music of the Americas

Conductor Nicole Paiement continues her streak of innovative programming.

By Scott MacClelland

As is often the case among the media, arts organizations rarely pay attention to one another. Music presenters, for example, schedule rehearsals and set programming in joyous oblivion of one another's rehearsal dates and programs. A couple of years ago, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony enjoyed about a dozen performances throughout the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. ("Enjoyed" may not be the right word; in that season some listeners did complain about both overkill and a lack of other choices.) Meanwhile, some presenters do take notice. Among them may be found Nicole Paiement, the principal producer/performer on the UC-Santa Cruz music faculty, and conductor this weekend of a program of Astor Piazzolla, Heitor Villa Lobos and Lou Harrison performed by the UCSC Orchestra. Paiement has seized the opportunity to tap into the vast repertoire in the gaps between the New Music Works and Cabrillo Festival on one hand and the Santa Cruz County Symphony's cautious and mostly traditional programming on the other. She also keeps an eye on colleague Linda Burman-Hall's Baroque Festival and the eccentric musical variety offered by John Orlando at Cabrillo College, and UCSC's own Arts & Lectures.

While she is not alone in this, she does enjoy unique advantages. Today Paiement leads a university orchestra that includes more than 30 string players, students with advanced skills who have vastly enriched the performance resources over the "two and a half violins" she encountered when she first arrived at UCSC 15 years ago.

Unlike virtually all other presenters, she enjoys the luxury of as much rehearsal time as it takes to deliver a quality product. (At the end of November, she will produce Handel's biblical oratorio Jephtha, a masterpiece from late in the composer's life.) Moreover, her work at the university, and at the San Francisco Conservatory, has become a magnet for talented students. (Next season, one of them will be soloist in Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, a work that terrifies most professional cellists, including the big-name soloists.) And, as to what must be a sore point among other presenters, she says, "I don't have to worry about selling out concerts, which permits us to be more curious and explorative."

By design, Paiemont's programming can be seen as analogous to "a balanced meal, things that go together to feel satisfied," she says, "not a stomach ache." She came by concept-driven programming by exposure to Ernest Ansermet, the legendary founding conductor of the Suisse Romande Orchestra, through his recordings, writings and the few films of him at work. "He premiered so many important works," she says, "and his programs had a coherency to them."

The upcoming program covers a broad range of style, and instrumentation, from the 12 players needed for Villa Lobos' Choros No. 7, to the huge orchestra, including piano, tack piano and percussion, required for Harrison's Elegiac Symphony. Violinist Roy Malan will be soloist for Piazzolla's tango-driven Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, Cuatro estaciones porteņas.

THE UCSC ORCHESTRA, conducted by Nicole Paiement, presents Music of the Americas, Fri-Sat, Nov. 9-10, at the Music Center Recital Hall, UCSC. Tickets are $10 gen/ $8 seniors/ $6 students. 831.459.2159.

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