Program Notes 

The Spectacular SSO Season Finale!

Featured Guest Artist - Ruslan Biryukov

cellist Ruslan Biryukov


"An astonishing young cellist Ruslan Biryukov. The audience gave the concert a standing ovation. 

If the first concert is any consideration, I would get my tickets early!" - Wendy Kikkert, Beverly Hills Outlook

"To say the performance was incredible would not do it justice." - Jose Ruiz, Review Plays

" ...musicality and technique that immediately commanded the attention of the listener, playing with great nervous intensity one moment and melting lyricism the next. There was no challenge too great for RusLan. His interpretation was nothing short of stunning..."
- Ted Ayala, Crescenta Valley Weekly

"Ruslan is an extraordinary; one of a kind performer. He has everything: technique, virtuosity, personality, communication, attractive and articulate presence, a great human story and background!" "He will be a big WINNER!" - Peter Mark, Artistic Director, Virginia Opera

"Ruslan is a charismatic performer who brings the audiences to their feet. His artistry is both sensitive and passionate and his technical command of the instrument is stunning." - Eleonore Schoenfeld, Piatigorsky Chair, USC Thornton School of Music


Temecula Valley Symphony Principal Cellist and Artist in Residence, founder of the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra and Los Angeles Cello Quartet, and Artistic Director of Positive Motions Concert Series in San Diego, Cellist Ruslan Biryukov is known for his "superb artistry, passion and individuality." Biryukov represents a new generation of creative professional musicians whose artistic level is recognized not only by awards, but also by a world-wide audiences. Ruslan was the only cellist ever to be invited to perform solo recitals for 10 consecutive years at the Sundays Live Concert Series in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art - the longest running live radio broadcast concert series in the United States . Biryukov is also the only Russian cellist to be invited to solo with orchestra during the inaugural season of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County. Recent appearances by Biryukov include Dvorak cello concerto performances with the Redlands Bowl Symphony and Marina Del Rey Symphony (Summer Series), Glendale Philharmonic (“Bestemming” Cello Concerto by Sharon Farber, World Premiere) and San Bernardino Symphony in Los Angeles. His chamber music accolades include performances with world-renowned violinist Midori at the Disney Hall in Los Angeles, cellist Kirill Rodin at the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory, and members of the Ysaye Quartet. 

Mr. Biryukov has been a master teacher in music festivals across Europe and Russia. He has held teaching positions at the Ippolitov-Ivanov State Institute of Music (Moscow), the Music Academy (Lovran, Croatia) and California Institute of Music. His creative artistic ideas are based upon the traditions he learned from esteemed artists Elena Zenchenko, Yuri Abdullayev, Nazmiya Abbaszadeh, Vladimir Anshelevich, Kirill Rodin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Daniil Shafran, Natalia Gutman, Janos Starker, Steven Isserlis, and Eleonore Schoenfeld. Within over quarter century of his teaching career, his students won over 300 prizes at various competitions worldwide, including the International Youth Tchaikovsky Competition (Nathan Le), Stulberg International String Competition, Music Teachers Association of California Competitions, American String Teachers Association competitions, etc. etc. His students performed solo with major orchestras worldwide including San Diego Symphony, Redlands Bowl Symphony, La Jolla Symphony, Torrance Symphony, Culver City Symphony, New West Symphony, Armenian State Orchestra, Moscow State Philharmonic, etc. A number of graduates of “Ruslan Conservatory” enjoy professional music performing and teaching carriers in United States, Russia and Europe. 

In 2012 LA Talk Live Radio Station invited Ruslan to host a talk show “The Cool Classics” in collaboration with Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Culver City Symphony Maestro Frank Fetta. The Cool Classics project evolved into a full production company specializing in music videos and films based in Los Angeles. 

RusLan was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and received his formal music education at the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory in Russia (Master of Music, M.A.), and the USC Thornton School of Music in United States (Artist Diploma and Graduate Certificate). He first earned international recognition by winning major awards in Azerbaijan and by the inclusion of his name in the Golden Book of Russia's international program "New Names". Biryukov has gone on to win numerous other awards worldwide, including the Grand Prize at the 17th Mu Phi Epsilon International Competition. 

Biryukov resides in Los Angeles and Temecula, California. He was awarded United States Citizenship as an “Extraordinary Ability Artist.” The title means that he has “sustained national or international acclaim and the achievements have been recognized” in his field, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Additionally, Mr. Biryukov is the only musician in the world to be granted a US Commercial Pilot license and Certified Flight Instructor single & multi-engine instrument license (SEL,MEL,CFII, MEI).


Cello Concerto in E minor - This will be the full 2nd half of the concert - about 35 minutes, featuring cellist Ruslan Biryukov.

Aram Ilyich Khachaturian 

A person in a suit with his arms raised

Born: 6 June [O.S. 24 May] 1903. Tiflis or Kojori, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire

Died: 1 May 1978 (aged 74). Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

Here is some wonderful info provided by Ruslan Biryukov (copied from the Asbarez newsletter):

“Crafted in 1946, just a year following the conclusion of World War II, Aram Khachaturian’s ‘Cello Concerto in E-minor’ endured a tumultuous fate, shrouded in the political turmoil of its time. Alongside luminaries like Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Kabalevsky, Khachaturian faced accusations of “formalistic tendencies,” a nebulous charge often wielded by those wielding power over the Soviet cultural sphere.  This period of persecution threatened the livelihoods of these esteemed composers, illustrating the capricious nature of state propaganda.

“Despite its artistic merits, Khachaturian’s concerto languished in neglect, its performances sporadic and its reception muted both in the USSR and the West. Remarkably, the piece has never graced Californian stages, nor does any record indicate its premiere in the United States.

“What irked Soviet authorities about the concerto?  For one, its expansive length, spanning over 30 minutes, challenged conventional expectations.  Its fusion of jazz harmonies with folk-inspired melodies, reminiscent of Armenian ashughs, clashed with the sensibilities of Moscow’s political elite, despite Stalin’s own ties to Tiflis, Khachaturian’s birthplace. During Stalin’s reign, jazz and Western music faced stringent bans, viewed as breeding grounds for individualism and dissent.

“However, the concerto’s intricate harmonies masterfully weave jazz influences into its fabric, while its melodies resonate with the rich hues of Armenian tradition and folk rhythms. The second movement, steeped in lyrical poignancy, echoes the haunting memories of World War II, painting a panoramic canvas of epic proportions. The third movement, with its spirited “Sabre Dance” rhythms, sparkles with virtuosity and verve, a testament to Khachaturian’s mastery of composition.”

Prokofiev – Symphony No 1 in D Major, Op. 25 – “Classical”

Our 2nd main concert selection - 4 movements, about 20 minutes

Sergei Prokofiev

Born: 27 April [O.S. 15 April] 1891. Sontsovka, Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Russian Empire 

(now Sontsivka, Ukraine)

Died: 5 March 1953 (aged 61). Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union

A person leaning against a fireplace

Twentieth- century composer Sergei Prokofiev claimed that his “Classical” Symphony is what Haydn might have written had he lived another 100 years.

Sergei Prokofiev spent his formative years as a young student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. This was a time of considerable political turmoil in Russia. At the tender age of 17, he played his first compositions in public, and his music was perceived as avant-garde and difficult to understand, an opinion that suited the proud Prokofiev just fine. He was more than willing to trade on the image of himself as something of a musical renegade. The premieres of his First and Second piano concertos also caused a scandal in his homeland because of the bold, virtuosic writing, and dissonances some critics deemed disturbing. His reputation as a progressive composer was sealed.

It is interesting, then, that one of his most famous works is a piece that looks back to the older style of Haydn, known by the nickname “Classical.” Prokofiev wrote the Symphony No. 1 in D major in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution. The composer toured quite extensively during that year, in part to escape the turmoil and tumult in Russia. It was also a creatively productive period for him, as he composed and premiered many works on his tour.

In the time between Prokofiev’s graduation from the Conservatory and the premiere of the “Classical” Symphony, the composer had traveled to London and met many of the musical figures that were shaping modern music in Europe. The idea of using 20th-century harmonies and resources in the service of a classical form, like the symphony, was one that many composers would explore in the early part of the 20th century and beyond. Although we would call this “Neo-classicism,” Prokofiev did not see the “Classical” Symphony as part of a neo-classical trend in his style. For him, it was an isolated experiment, and he disliked fellow Russian Igor Stravinsky’s preoccupation with neo-classicism, famously calling it, “Bach on the wrong notes.”

The “Classical” Symphony is an extremely interesting work that meshes the tradition of clarity and formality with the renegade spirit of Prokofiev’s early works. Classicism was attractive to the unsentimental Prokofiev because it eschewed the overwrought emotionality of Romanticism. There are Haydn-esque qualities in the “Classical” Symphony, like the sudden changes in volume we experience in works like “The Surprise” and “The Clock” symphonies. There is also reference to the classical practice of alternating opposites: loud and soft, high and low, light and dark, gravity and levity. Furthermore, there is a 20th-century sensibility in Prokofiev’s harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness. This experiment, juxtaposing 20th-century style with the traditional four-movement formality of the classical symphony, allows for moments of parody and humor.

A note regarding the Zhdavnov decree, and its effect on Prokofiev. He, along with many prominent composers, such as Shostakovich and Khachaturian, was sanctioned and his works were banned. (Read more about this in the notes about the Khachiturian.)

Prokofiev’s life took a bad turn. On February 10, 1948 he was accused, along with Dmitri Shostokovich and others, of “formalism,” which the pianist and Prokofiev scholar Boris Berman describes as “a political libel in the guise of an aesthetic term.” Formalist art was viewed as being elitist and “undemocratic” for its preoccupation with form over content. As a result, Prokofiev and the others were unable to perform or broadcast their work. And just ten days after his denunciation, Prokofiev’s wife Lina was arrested and charged with “espionage” for trying to send money to her mother in Spain. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Stress from the crises caused Prokofiev’s health to deteriorate further, and on March 5, 1953 he died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Joseph Stalin died the same day.

La Leyenda del Quetzal y la Serpiente (The Legend of the Quetzal Bird and the Snake)       by José Elizondo

This is the concert opener - about 5 ½ minutes…




The Legend of the Quetzal Bird and the Snake

La Leyenda del Quetzal y la Serpiente

by José Elizondo 

José Elizondo 

Stories of winged snakes and the Quetzal bird are a recurrent motive in several ancient cultures in Latin America. For the Maya, this refers back to the mythological figure of Kukulkan, while the Aztecs had the story of Quetzalcoatl, perhaps the best known of these myths. In fact, the name of Quetzalcoatl himself means “feathered serpent” or “serpent of precious feathers” in the Nahuatl language. And he was usually artistically depicted as a combination of a green quetzal bird and a serpent. The figure of Quetzalcoatl was associated with creation, arts, knowledge and learning. 


Elizondo was always fascinated by the spectacular pyramids and archeological sites of the pre-Hispanic cultures of his homeland Mexico. This was particularly the case with Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza, and the extraordinary architecture and artistic representations found in these sites. For example, on every equinox, the architecture of the main pyramid in Chichen Itza casts a shadow that looks like the image of a snake descending the pyramid’s staircase. And the acoustics of the pyramid are such that if you stand at a specific point and clap, you hear the distinct chirping sound of the Quetzal bird.


“La Leyenda del Quetzal y la Serpiente” is not a programmatic piece. It’s simply a fantasy for orchestra that attempts to create an atmosphere of mystery and wonder, which evokes the feelings of the composer upon visiting the archeological sites in his homeland. This piece was commissioned by maestro Sergio Buslje, music director of the Pan American Symphony Orchestra. And the world premiere of this piece took place on June 1st, 2002 at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC.

Las leyendas de serpientes emplumadas y del pájaro Quetzal son un motivo recurrente en varias culturas prehispánicas de América Latina. Para los mayas, esto remite a la figura mitológica de Kukulkán, mientras que los aztecas tenían la leyenda de Quetzalcóatl, quizá el más conocido de estos mitos. De hecho, el propio nombre de Quetzalcóatl significa "serpiente emplumada" o "serpiente de plumas preciosas" en lengua náhuatl. Y se le solía representar artísticamente como una combinación de un pájaro quetzal verde y una serpiente. La figura de Quetzalcóatl se asociaba con la creación, las artes, el conocimiento y el aprendizaje. 


Elizondo siempre estuvo fascinado por las espectaculares pirámides y yacimientos arqueológicos de las culturas prehispánicas de su México natal. En particular, con Teotihuacán y Chichén Itzá, y la extraordinaria arquitectura y representaciones artísticas que se encuentran en estos sitios. Por ejemplo, en cada equinoccio, la arquitectura de la pirámide principal de Chichén Itzá proyecta una sombra que parece la imagen de una serpiente descendiendo por la escalinata de la pirámide. Y la acústica de la pirámide es tal, que si uno se sitúa en un punto concreto y aplaude, oye el inconfundible gorjeo del pájaro Quetzal.


"La Leyenda del Quetzal y la Serpiente" no es una obra programática. Es simplemente una fantasía para orquesta que intenta crear una atmósfera de misterio y asombro, que evoca los sentimientos del compositor al visitar los sitios arqueológicos de su tierra natal. Esta pieza fue un encargo del maestro Sergio Buslje, director musical de la Orquesta Sinfónica Panamericana. Y el estreno mundial de esta pieza tuvo lugar el 1 de junio de 2002 en el Lisner Auditorium de Washington, DC.

Featured Living Composer - José Elizondo



José Elizondo






José Elizondo is a versatile Mexican composer. He studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Humanities and Music, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At Harvard University, José studied musical analysis, as well as choir and orchestra conducting.


In the field of technology, José works as an engineer in a company that specializes in artificial intelligence technology and speech recognition systems. In addition, he is frequently invited to give lectures at universities in Europe, Canada, and the United States about music, linguistics, history, and technology design.


As a composer, José writes chamber and orchestral music in a lyrical and expressive style, often inspired by Latin American music. Performers of Elizondo's works include distinguished artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Carlos Prieto, Andrei Ioniță, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Yury Revich, as well as more than 250 orchestras, including the China Philharmonic, the Czech National Symphony, the Mexico State Symphony, the Cuenca Symphony in Ecuador, the Moravian Philharmonic, the Malaysian Philharmonic, the Houston Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony and Philharmonic, the Pan American Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic of Montevideo in Uruguay, and the Macau Orchestra.


José Elizondo es un polifacético compositor mexicano. Estudió Ingeniería Eléctrica, Informática, Humanidades y Música, en el Instituto Tecnológico de Massachusetts (MIT). En la Universidad de Harvard, José estudió análisis musical, así como dirección de coros y orquestas.


En el campo de la tecnología, José trabaja como ingeniero en una empresa especializada en tecnología de inteligencia artificial y sistemas tecnológicos de reconocimiento de voz. Además, es invitado frecuentemente a dar pláticas en universidades en Europa, Canadá y Estados Unidos acerca de música, lingüística, historia, y diseño de tecnología.


Como compositor, José escribe música de cámara y orquestal en un estilo lírico y expresivo, a menudo inspirado en la música latinoamericana. Entre los intérpretes de las obras de Elizondo figuran distinguidos artistas como Yo-Yo Ma, Carlos Prieto, Andrei Ioniță, Sheku Kanneh-Mason y Yury Revich, así como más de 250 orquestas, las cuales incluyen a la Filarmónica de China, la Sinfónica Nacional de la República Checa, la Sinfónica del Estado de México, la Sinfónica de Cuenca en Ecuador, la Filarmónica de Moravia, la Filarmónica de Malasia, la Sinfónica de Houston, la Sinfónica y la Filarmónica de San Antonio, la Orquesta Sinfónica Panamericana, la Filarmónica de Montevideo en Uruguay, y la Orquesta de Macao.