New West Symphony Presents

Fascinating Rhythms

Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, January 27 and 28, 2024


Eileen Roberts

January 5, 2024

Thousand Oaks, CA – New West Symphony presents the first concert of its new 2024 Masterpiece Series on January 27th in Thousand Oaks and January 28th in Camarillo. This centennial celebration of classical music milestones honors George Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue and Fascinating Rhythm, along with Ottorino Respsigh’s Pines of Rome. All premiered in 1924, a formidable year for music. Polish-Canadian pianist Daniel Vnukowski will be the guest pianist, having previously performed Rhapsody in Blue as a special guest at the National Philharmonic Hall in Poland which was broadcast live on television and made available as a DVD.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick-off 2024 than with the music of this exhilarating concert. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is an audience favorite at an epic level, and the Pines of Rome takes the idea of “technicolor orchestra” to an otherworldly place all together,” says Artistic and Music Director Michael Christie. Polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman is the subject of the multi-Oscar winning film, The Pianist. Szpilman’s Concertino for Piano and Orchestra illustrates his enormous gifts as a composer and why many consider him to be the “Polish Gershwin.” Combine these masterpieces with the awe-inspiring imagery of Joe Sohm, Roger Kellaway’s transporting music and the Bergmans’ elegant lyrics; we are presenting performances with the delightful array New West Symphony audiences have come to expect.”

Composed in just five weeks, Rhapsody in Blue is one of Gershwin’s most recognizable creations, which inaugurated a new era in America’s musical history – the Jazz Age. It has become one of the most popular of all concert works. In American Heritage magazine, Frederic D. Schwarz posts that the famous opening clarinet glissando has become almost as instantly recognizable to concert audiences as the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Fascinating Rhythm was also written that same year, and has been recorded by hundreds of music artists and used in numerous films.

Guest pianist Daniel Vnukowski will perform the two Gershwin pieces, along with Szpilman’s Concertino for Piano and Orchestra. Observed as being “Gershwin-esque” in its melodic flavor, it was written in 1940 and has the gorgeous and sumptuous flow of a film score. Wladyslaw Szpilman’s incredible story as a trained pianist in Warsaw and Berlin, including his escape of the Warsaw Ghetto and his life being saved by a German officer, because known to the world with the multi award-winning film based on his memoir of survival, The Pianist. After the war, Spzilman returned to his musical career at Radio Poland in Warsaw. He went on to become the head of Polish Radio’s music department until 1963, when he retired to devote more times to composing and touring as a concert pianist. Spilzman died in Warsaw on July 6, 2000 at age 88.

Daniel Vnukowski is a Polish-Canadian concert pianist who has earned international recognition, performing to enthusiastic audiences and critical acclaim in solo recitals, with numerous orchestras and in multiple festivals. Recently, Mr. Vnukowsk has included in his repertoire the music of long-forgotten, interwar-period Jewish composers, resulting in several highly-acclaimed CD’s of piano music as well as a sold-out Carnegie Hall at Weill Hall recital debut. He hosts a program on Toronto-based Classical FM radio, and offers a lecture-recital series on Holocaust music at universities worldwide.

Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome is a four movement piece and is the second of his three tone poems about Rome, after having moved there in 1913. Respighi said that the city’s “marvelous fountains” and “umbrella-like pines that appear in every part of the horizon” were two characteristics that spoke to his imagination. This influence resulted in his three tone poems about Rome, which brought him international fame. The setting of each movement goes back in time, from children playing the in contemporary city to the era of the catacombs from the early Christian period, before it concludes at the time of the Roman Republic. Pines of Rome is easily the most prolifically recorded of all Respighi’s works.

Visions of America is created by and with visuals from Joseph Sohm. “My primary goal is to lift people up,” says Mr. Sohm, “with beautiful music combined with spectacular imagery of us feeling good. That’s the America I am trying to capture, and to illustrate in some way the democracy, the glue that connects us all.”

The musical interpretation of Visions of America began two decade ago when Mr. Sohm connected with his Ojai-based friend and neighbor, composer Roger Kellaway.

“Joe Sohm is an American history teacher, and that’s the underpinning of what Visions of America is about,” says Kellaway.

As a pianist and composer, Roger Kellaway has written in the music fields of jazz, classical and “pop,” and scored for numerous films and television. Career highlights include wiring the closing theme for the groundbreaking television series All in the Family, twenty-nine film scores including Barbra Streisand’s A Star is Born for which he received an Academy Award® nomination, and a GRAMMY® Award for his music on the album “Memos From Paradise.”

Mr. Kellaway will be playing piano for Visions of America in the concerts. A 30-minute suite version, it is an updated and compressed version of the original. Narration is recorded by Clint Eastwood. Recording artist B. Valentine will be singing three songs during the suite, and Los Robles Children’s Choir will provide additional choral vocals.

Academy®, Grammy®, and Golden Globe® winning contributing lyricist Alan Bergman will be in attendance. “Visions of America reinforces how beautiful it is here, how lucky we are to be part of it, and how we share responsibility for keeping democracy alive and healthy,” says Bergman.

“This concert brings together our largest orchestra of the 2024 season. As we begin the road to the 30th Anniversary of New West Symphony in 2025, this is only the beginning of the rich, massive, wildly entertaining and satisfying programming we will be performing leading up to an important marker in the history of New West Symphony,” says CEO Natalia Staneva.

Rhapsody in Blue – Fascinating Rhythms Tickets & Information
Starting at $30 with student tickets at $10

Dates & Venues

January 27, 2024, 7:00pm | Thousand Oaks
Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center
2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

January 28, 2024, 3:00pm | Camarillo
Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center
4235 Mar Vista Dr., Camarillo, CA 93010

Program for Rhapsdody in Blue – Fascinating Rhythms

Michael Christie, conductor

Kellaway/Bergman/Sohm   |  Suite from Visions of America

Gershwin                               |  Rhapsody in Blue

Gershwin                               |  Fascinating Rhythm

Respighi                                 |  Pines of Rome               

About the New West Symphony

Now in its 29th season, the New West Symphony draws its players from the rich talent pool of professional accomplished Southern California-area musicians. Performances are held at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks and Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center in Camarillo.

Highlights of the upcoming season include:

  • Holidays with Jennifer Holliday, featuring Tony and GRAMMY® Award-winning Jennifer Holliday on December 2 & 3, 2023.
  • The dazzling exploits of Cirque de la Symphonie, feats of human skill synchronized to live symphonic masterpieces.
  • The 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s timeless Rhapsody in Blue and Ottorino Respighi’s spectacular Pines of Rome.

Making their New West Symphony main stage debuts are pianists Daniel Vnukowski, playing Rhapsody in Blue, and Lara Downes playing Scott Joplin’s Four Rags for Piano and Orchestra.

About Michael Christie

Named Artistic and Music Director of the New West Symphony in December 2018, GRAMMY® Award-winning conductor Michael Christie is a thoughtfully innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience entertaining, enlightening, and enriching. Deeply committed to bringing new works to life, he has championed commissions by leading and emerging composers alike. For further information, visit and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.