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Santa Barbara Symphony Captivates with Heartfelt and Evocative Performances Featuring Mozart and Tchaikovsky

Guest conductor Christian Reif will lead the orchestra in a performance of Mozart’s Overture to “La Clemenza di Tito,” Symphony No. 39 and Michael Gilbertson’s “Graffiti,” while rising-star cellist Thomas Mesa will thrill with his rendition of Tchaikovsky’

(February, 2020) Santa Barbara, CA— The Santa Barbara Symphony presents a youthful program that segues from the masters to the shining stars of the future with “Reif Conducts Tchaikovsky and Mozart,” February 15 and 16 at the Granada Theatre. Under the baton of guest conductor Christian Reif, this event will include a performance of Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer Michael Gilbertson’s Graffiti: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra by the Symphony, as well as Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, and the Overture to La Clemenza di Tito. Also on the program, rising-star cellist Thomas Mesa performs Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. These concerts have been made possible by the generosity of Selection Sponsors Dan and Meg Burnham and Corporate Sponsor Mission Audio/Video.

Hailed as one of his generation’s most promising conducting talents, Christian Reif has impressed critics with his phenomenal poise and interpretive prowess. Reif, who until recently was Resident Conductor at the San Francisco Symphony,will lead the Symphony through two of Mozart’s most celebrated compositions, the overture to La Clemenza di Tito and Symphony No. 39, as well as Michael Gilbertson’s Graffiti: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra.

Composed near the end of his life, Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, adapted by Caterino Mazzola from Pietro Metastasio’s original of 1735, was created to celebrate the Coronation Day of Emperor Leopold II. Mozart worked feverishly to complete the composition during the last 12 days leading up to its premiere at the National Theater in Prague. It is said the overture was just barely completed the night before the opening. The timeless and captivating Symphony No. 39 is unmistakably Mozart. Completed during the summer of 1788, this piece was one of a set of three of the composer’s last symphonies.

Inspired by his role model Mozart, Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme is simple, elegant, and varied with clear admiration of the Classical style. Taking a break from the dark, orchestral fantasy Francesca da Rimini, Tchaikovsky chose to escape to a Rococo style that was both winsome and elegant.  The piece will be performed by Cuban-born cellist and rising star Thomas Mesa, who’s playing has been hailed by critics for its “musical intensity that was commanding in every detail…” (New York Concert Review).

Rounding out this trio of innovative musical masterminds, Reif will also lead the symphony through a sure-to-be breathtaking performance of Michael Gilbertson’s Graffiti: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer and musical wunderkind, was inspired to write this composition after observing the creative drive of San Francisco’s street artists. Of his work, Gilbertson has said, “I’ve always tried to write music that is intuitive, sincere, and humane.” (Musical America).

Reif Conducts: Tchaikovsky and Mozart will take place on February 15 and 16 at the landmark Granada Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at,, or by calling the Granada Theatre Box Office at 805-899-2222.

About Thomas Mesa

Cuban-American Thomas Mesa was the top prizewinner at the 2016 Sphinx, 2013 Thaviu, and 2006 Alhambra Orchestra Concerto competitions. He has appeared as concerto soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl, and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, among others. Recent recital engagements have included the Mainly Mozart Festival, Bargemusic, Carnegie Hall, the Supreme Court of the United States, the Heifetz Institute, and the International Beethoven Project. He tours with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and is the principal cellist of Sphinx Virtuosi. An ongoing collaborator with The Crossing, he appeared on the choir’s 2017 Grammy-nominated album Bonhoeffer. A graduate of The Juilliard School and Northwestern University, he is currently a doctoral candidate at the Manhattan School of Music.

About Christian Reif

German conductor Christian Reif has quickly established a name for himself as a fast-rising talent. In July 2019, Reif completed a three-year post as Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. His tenure culminated in a six-city European tour with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra including performances at Vienna’s Musikverein, Berlin Philharmonie and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie. Following the Berlin performance, the Merkur wrote of Reif that a “bright future and a great career must lie ahead”. Reif was a Conducting Fellow with the New World Symphony from 2014 to 2016, and a Conducting Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summers of 2015 and 2016. During his time at Tanglewood, he stepped in for Seiji Ozawa to conduct the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland, and he led the TMC Orchestra in Shostakovich’s 14th Symphony with soprano Dawn Upshaw, baritone Sanford Sylvan and TMC vocalists. Reif’s enthusiasm in performing contemporary music has led to several world premieres. Among those are Michael Gordon’s El Sol Caliente – a city symphony in honor of Miami Beach’s centennial – and concertos for DJ and orchestra performed at New World Symphony PULSE events where the concert hall is transformed into a nightclub. Christian Reif studied with Alan Gilbert at the Juilliard School, where he completed his Master of Music in Conducting in 2014 and received the Charles Schiff Conducting Award. Prior to that, he studied with Dennis Russell Davies at the Mozarteum Salzburg, where he received a diploma in 2012. He is winner of the 2015 German Operetta Prize, awarded by the German Music Council, and two Kulturförderpreise awards given to promising artists of the region who promote cultural advancement in their communities.

The Santa Barbara Symphony looks forward to sharing the upcoming season of thrilling and inspired programming with the community and visitors alike! For more information on the Santa Barbara Symphony, or its programming, visit

About The Santa Barbara Symphony

Now in its 71st year, The Santa Barbara Symphony delivers artistic excellence, outstanding music education stewardship and programming, and community collaboration – all through symphonic music. Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Nir Kabaretti as Music & Artistic Director since 2006, The Symphony is one of the region’s premier cultural institutions. Through his charismatic leadership, this globally admired conductor and Santa Barbara resident invigorates audiences and musicians alike through his passion, creativity, and vast experience. As the only music education program tied to a professional symphony orchestra in the region, The Symphony serves more than 4,000 students annually throughout Santa Barbara County. While The Symphony continues to evolve, bringing joy, engagement, and connection remain steadfast pillars of its mission and were evident in the organization’s ability to thrive during the pandemic including the historic announcement that board chair Janet Garufis and President & CEO Kathryn R Martin join Nir Kabaretti in making a five-year commitment to serve in their roles. For more information, visit

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