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A Classical Special Concert
Friday, May 17, 8pm
Saturday, May 18, 8pm
Sunday, May 19, 2pm
Copley Symphony Hall

Jahja Ling, conductor
Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano
Pepe Romero, guitar
The Romeros Guitar Quartet

GRANADOS: Tres danzas españolas
CELEDONIO ROMERO:Concierto de Malaga
GOULD: Troubadour Music for Four Guitars and Orchestra
FALLA: El amor brujo

The music of Spain dominates this very special Jacobs Masterworks concert featuring the outstanding double bill of The Romeros Guitar Quartet and the celebrated mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. The Romeros will treat audiences to dance music by Enrique Granados, a concerto (played by Pepe Romero) by their founder Celedonio Romero and a work written for them especially by American composer Morton Gould several years ago on the occasion of San Diego’s Bicentennial. The second half of the program features Ms. Graves singing Manuel de Falla’s famous gypsy-inspired El amor brujo. Jahja Ling conducts.

CLICK HERE to read U-T San Diego's recent feature story about The Romeros!


Tres danzas españolas


Born July 27, 1867, Lerida

Died March 24, 1916, English Channel


            Raised in Barcelona, Enrique Granados studied in Paris, then returned to make a brilliant (if unfortunately brief) career in his native country. Granados was particularly famous for his piano music and for his piano playing: his few recordings, made in Barcelona in 1912, demonstrate that he was a pianist of rare technique and sensitivity. He established a piano school, Academia Granados, in Barcelona in 1901 and devoted much of his professional career to developing a specifically Spanish school of performance. Granados’ early death was tragic. World War I forced him to move the premiere of his opera Goyescas (itself based on a set of piano pieces) from Paris to the Metropolitan in New York. Following the opera’s resounding success there, President Wilson invited Granados to perform at the White House, which caused the composer to cancel his plans to return directly to Spain. Instead, he sailed for England on the liner Sussex, which was torpedoed by a German submarine. Granados, not quite 49 years old, and his wife both drowned.

            Granados achieved early success with his set of Spanish Dances for piano, which remains his most famous work. Composed between 1892 and 1900, these twelve dances evoke a specifically Spanish atmosphere, ranging from the most haunting and delicate music to the most vivid and rhythmic. Several of the dances seem full of the spirit of Andalusia, that part of Spain on the Mediterranean coast known for its citrus and wine – and also for its exotic atmosphere compounded of gypsy music, flamenco rhythms, and the Moorish influence of North Africa.

            This concert opens with three of Granados’ Spanish Dances, heard here in an orchestration by the Catalonian conductor and composer Joan Lamote de Grignon (1872-1949). Music this evocative and pleasing requires little introduction. Briefly, though, these dances are in ternary form, with a middle section at a tempo somewhat different from the opening. One of the sources of this music’s particular charm is its rhythmic variety: these dances will pulse ahead impetuously and then just as suddenly hold back. A good performance demands a full knowledge of this specifically Spanish idiom. All three of the dances on this program show the Andalusian influence. The silken, haunting opening movement has been nicknamed Oriental for its exotic atmosphere, while the famous Andalouse – based on the canto hondo, an ancient gypsy lament – has probably become Granados’ best-known work. The rhythmic fluidity of this grieving, haunting dance is remarkable: into the basic meter of 6/8, Granados will occasionally drop a measure in 3/8, contributing to the music’s unsettled pulse; the gentle middle section, marked con molta espressione, is a subtle variation of the opening. The Rondalla aragonesa accelerates from its sturdy beginning into a graceful central episode, then drives to a fiery close.


Concierto de Malaga


Born March 2, 1913, Cienfuegos, Cuba

Died May 8, 1996, San Diego


            Though he was born in Cuba, Celedonio Romero grew up in Andalusia, in the southern part of Spain. He attended the conservatory in Malaga and later studied with Joaquin Turina at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid, but Romero’s conservatory training was limited to theory, harmony and composition. He was virtually self-taught as a guitarist. Romero established his reputation as a virtuoso guitarist in Spain, but feeling thwarted artistically under the Franco government, he was able to escape that country in 1957. Traveling first to Portugal and later to the United States, Romero settled in the San Diego area. With his sons Angel, Pepe and Celin, Celedonio Romero established The Romeros Guitar Quartet, which was soon hailed as the “royal family of the guitar.”

            Though he was not a prolific composer, Romero did write a number of works for his own instrument. Romero’s Concierto de Malaga had a curious genesis. This music was originally composed as a suite for solo guitar, but its dramatic scope seemed to suggest that the music might find better expression as a concerto for guitar and orchestra. Romero turned to the Spanish composer Federico Moreno-Torroba (1891-1982) for assistance, and it was Torroba who prepared the orchestral version. Torroba, who completed work on the Concierto de Malaga in 1981, died the following year – this was one of his final projects.

            The title is important to understanding the Concierto de Malaga. Malaga is a city with a long and rich history. One of the oldest cities in the world, Malaga is set on the Mediterranean coast where it was not only a trading and cultural center, but also a city shaped during different periods by Christian and Islamic governments. Malaga is also one of the centers of flamenco music. That can be a difficult term to define accurately, but flamenco music is characterized by rhythmic energy, complex meters, sensual excitement (it often includes dancing and hand-clapping), and bold colors. When he composed this music, Romero was evoking not just the atmosphere of a particular city but also an entire tradition of musical expression.

            The Concierto de Malaga is in the expected three movements, but Romero does not use the traditional sonata form of the classical concerto. Instead, these movements are sectional in construction, with the music leaping between different tempos and moods almost instantaneously. Though Romero is consciously evoking the colorful flamenco tradition in this concerto, the music is remarkable for its seriousness and for the gravity of its expression – it made very good sense to cast this music as a concerto. The Concierto de Malaga is rounded off by a dance-finale. Romero titled it Tangos y Tientos, and while “tangos” is clear enough, listeners should know that “tiento” is the Spanish word for “touch.” In its original sense, a tiento suggested music in which a performer might “try out” his instrument, but the meaning has broadened to include a suggestion of fantasy and improvisation.


Troubadour Music for Four Guitars and Orchestra


Born December 10, 1913, Richmond Hill, New York

Died February 21, 1996, Orlando


            Morton Gould was one of the most important American musicians of the twentieth century, and he appears to have been involved in virtually every aspect of musical life in this country. Gould studied piano and composition as a boy and first made his career as a pianist, performing in silent movie theaters and eventually becoming a staff pianist at Radio City Music Hall. He next went to work in radio, managing classical music for various New York and national radio broadcasts. As a composer, he wrote in many different genres: Broadway shows, film and television scores, ballet, orchestral and chamber music as well as band music. Gould conducted every major orchestra in the United States, and he won a Grammy® for his recording of the music of Charles Ives with the Chicago Symphony. Gould served as president of ASCAP and was on the board of directors of the American Symphony Orchestra League. In 1994 he was named a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, and the following year he received the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Stringmusic, written for Mstislav Rostropovich and the National Symphony Orchestra.

            In 1969, the city of San Diego observed its bicentennial: 200 years earlier, in 1769, Father Junipero Serra had founded San Diego as a settlement, and the city has remained California’s oldest settlement. The San Diego Symphony commissioned Morton Gould to write a piece to commemorate that bicentennial. Gould was a familiar figure to local audiences: he conducted the San Diego Symphony regularly during the 1960s and 1970s and led concerts at both Balboa Park and the amphitheater at San Diego State University. In response to the commission, Gould composed a work that he called Troubadour Music, scoring it for small orchestra and four guitar soloists. Troubadour Music was written specifically for San Diego’s most famous resident musicians, The Romeros: Celedonio, Angel, Pepe and Celin Romero were the soloists at the premiere, which took place in the summer of 1969 under the direction of the orchestra’s music director Zoltán Rozsnyai. That concert was broadcast internationally over the Voice of America.

            Gould’s inspiration for this piece were the troubadours, that group of poet-musicians who flourished in the Middle Ages and who wrote and sang about such themes as chivalry and love. Over a period of time, troubadours came to be known as traveling or strolling musicians, and Gould specifically invokes that custom in this music: his four soloists not only play but also stroll throughout the performance.


El amor brujo


Born November 23, 1876, Cadiz

Died November 14, 1946, Alta Grazia, Argentina


            Falla went to Paris to study in 1907 and remained there for seven years, but with the outbreak of World War I he returned to Madrid and – not surprisingly – wished to write something specifically Spanish. Through his friend Martinez Sierra, he met the Andalusian singer-dancer Pastora Imperio, and from her mother, the gypsy Rosario la Mejorana, they heard the old Andalusian gypsy tale that became the basis for El amor brujo. Sierra adapted a scenario, and Falla composed the music between November 1914 and April 1915, when it was premiered in Madrid.

            Though El amor brujo has become one of Falla’s most famous works, the premiere was a failure, and critics complained about its lack of Spanish character. In fact, Falla tried not for a Spanish but a gypsy character in this music. Its form is unique: El amor brujo is a ballet for four characters based on a gypsy tale of love and magic, yet it also calls for three songs to be sung by contralto. At the premiere, Pastora Imperio both danced the lead role and sang these songs. Briefly, the story tells of the young gypsy woman Candelas who loved a passionate but dissolute gypsy who has died. Candelas is now pursued by the handsome Carmelo, but she is haunted by the ghost of her former lover: whenever she and Carmelo are about to exchange “the perfect kiss” that will symbolize their love, the ghost appears and prevents it. Carmelo devises a plan: remembering the dead gypsy’s fondness for all beautiful young women, he asks his friend Lucia to accompany them. The ghost appears and begins to flirt with Lucia, freeing Candelas and Carmelo to exchange “the perfect kiss.” Vanquished, the ghost disappears forever and triumphant bells ring out.

            Falla’s title El amor brujo does not translate easily into English and has been rendered variously as Enchanted Love, The Spectre’s Bride, Wedded by Witchcraft, and Love, the Magician. Perhaps it is simplest – and most euphonious – to leave it in the original Spanish. Though Falla did not use any authentic gypsy or folk tunes, he tried to adapt the idiom of gypsy music for El amor brujo. This shows up in many ways: in the Andalusian dance rhythms of some of the pieces, in the percussive accompaniment to the famous Ritual Dance of Fire, in his use of the Cadiz tango rhythm 7/8 for the lovely Pantomime and particularly in the use of cante hondo. That term, which means literally “low song,” refers to a type of Andalusian song sung in a low register, with much repetition of the same note and florid decoration of the vocal line.

            Falla generates all the color and excitement of this passionate story with relatively modest forces: he uses the Mozart-Haydn orchestra, adding only piccolo, piano and bells. The story is easily followed: opening flourishes lead to In the Cave, and we hear Song of a Broken Heart. The apparition first appears in a flourish of trumpet calls, and now Candelas dances the rhythmic Dance of Terror, spiked with the sound of trumpets that accompany the ghost. Frightened, she draws a magic circle, and we hear the prayer-like Fisherman’s Tale. Midnight arrives on its twelve quiet strokes, and now Candelas makes a further attempt to exorcise the demon: though the Ritual Fire Dance fails to chase off the dissolute ghost, it has become famous on its own (and also became one of Arthur Rubinstein’s most successful encore pieces). The brief Scene leads to the second song, Song of the Will-o’-the-Wisp, where Candelas compares the flickering flame before her to the difficulties of love. The gorgeous Pantomime is the Cadiz tango, and then comes Candelas’ third song, Dance of the Game of Love, where she denounces her dissolute former lover and lays his ghost to rest. El amor brujo concludes with the triumphant sound of morning bells and the dawn of a new life for Candelas and Carmelo.

-          Program notes by Eric Bromberger



Our conductor Jahja Ling noted that he never had any contact with the orchestral music to be performed here before the intermission. “I know, and have played other piano music by Granados, very Spanish and very beautiful. I also know music by Morton Gould, but this piece is new to me.” Continuing, he commented, “This is a very special program, very different from the usual central European programs that are our staple. I really look forward to doing these pieces.” In contrast to the first half, the maestro noted that he knows and has conducted El amor brujo, and that it is one of his favorite pieces. “It was one of the first compositions, in fact, assigned to me to conduct as a student at Yale.” Continuing, he said, “We are very fortunate to have Denyce Graves as the ideal vocal soloist for this music. Of course, she is a great Carmen, and that role’s same seductive, mysterious quality was written into this wonderful music by Falla.

The Tres danzas españolas by Granados have never before been played here. Celedonio Romero’s Concerto de Malaga is being heard in San Diego for the first time at these concerts, but Morton Gould’s Troubadour Music was given its world premiere here during the 1969-70 season, a special event celebrating the 200th anniversary of San Diego’s founding. Zoltan Rozsnyai conducted; The Romeros, as they were constituted then, were the soloists. At the time, Gould had simply written a concerto for them, but after the premiere and the subsequent performance at the Hollywood Bowl, noting the choreography that brought out each of the players as the music played, he developed the title and called it Troubadour Music. El amor brujo, by Manuel de Falla, which ends this Spanish flavored program, was first heard here with Nan Merriman as soloist under Fabien Sevitzky in the summer of 1952. It has not been heard here since the season of 1974-75, when Isaac Kharabchevsky guest conducted and programmed just the orchestral movements.

-          Melvin G. Goldzband, Symphony Archivist



Half a century after walking onto the world stage as the first classical guitar quartet, The Romeros continue to be a veritable institution in the world of classical music. Celebrating their 50th anniversary by dazzling countless audiences and winning the raves of reviewers worldwide, their seasons have included sold out performances from Asia to Australia, to Europe and throughout the U.S. The 50th anniversary included a new recital CD recorded and released by Sony Red Seal label, entitled appropriately, Los Romeros: Celebration. That same year DECCA released a retrospective collection, Los Romeros: Golden Jubilee Celebration. A new recording project with Deutsche Grammophon includes a much anticipated Christmas music recording featuring favorites from around the world. Christmas with Los Romeros was released in the USA November 2012, accompanied by a tour of cities across the country featuring music from this recording.

Known to millions as “The Royal Family of the Guitar,” the Romeros were founded by the legendary Celedonio Romero with his sons Celin, Pepe and Angel in 1960. The Quartet went through natural transformations, and today consists of the second (Celin and Pepe) and third (Lito and Celino) generations. To have so many virtuosi of the same instrument in one family is unique in the world of musical performance, and in the realm of the classical guitar it is absolutely without precedent. The New York Times has said: “Collectively, they are the only classical guitar quartet of real stature in the world today; in fact, they virtually invented the format.”

Celedonio Romero was a renowned soloist in Spain. As each of his sons reached the age of two or three, they began learning the guitar from their father, making their debuts in Spain by the time they were seven. In 1957 the family immigrated to the United States, where three years later “The Romeros” walked onto the world stage as the first guitar quartet while the boys were still in their teens. The Romero tradition of family and love for the guitar provided the fertile ground for the next generation of guitar virtuosos as Celino and Lito eventually joined the quartet on the concert stage. On May 8, 1996, Celedonio Romero passed away in San Diego; his sons and grandsons continue his legacy. As the family says, “The spirit of the quartet is him; all our concerts now pay homage to him.” The 2012-13 season will be full of celebratory concerts dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Celedonio’s birth.

The sterling reputation of The Romeros has been confirmed by repeated recital performances and orchestral appearances including symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Sevilla, Amsterdam, Munich, Rome, Shanghai and Seoul, among many others. They have made frequent festival appearances throughout the world, including the Hollywood Bowl, Saratoga, Blossom, Wolf Trap, Salzburg and Schleswig-Holstein, among others.

The Romeros are particularly popular with college audiences, making regular appearances on university music series throughout the country as well as on fine arts series worldwide. In New York they have been repeatedly invited to Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, the 92nd Street Y and Rockefeller University. They have appeared at Vienna’s Gesangsverein and Konzerthaus; the Berlin Philharmonie, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Zürich Tonhalle; Madrid Auditorio Nacional de Musica and the Beijing Concert Hall.

Touring worldwide, The Romeros have performed on multiple occasions at The White House. In 1983 they appeared at The Vatican in a special concert for John Paul II, and in 1986 they gave a command performance for his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. In 2000 His Royal Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain knighted Celin, Pepe and Angel into the Order of Isabel la Católica.

Perhaps The Romeros’ most lasting legacy is the creation of an entirely new repertoire for guitar quartet, both as a chamber ensemble and as a concerto soloist. For 50 years, three generations of Romeros have inspired distinguished composers to either write new works or arrange existing ones, including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Morton Gould, Francisco de Madina and Lorenzo Palomo. As Rodrigo has said, “The Romeros have developed the technique of the guitar by making what is difficult to be easy. They are, without a doubt, the grand masters of the guitar.”

With a 50-year plus history, The Romeros have built an enviable discography. Their achievements have not gone unnoticed. In February of 2007 The Romeros were granted The Recording Academy’s President’s Merit Award from the Grammys® in honor of their artistic achievements. Television fans have seen and heard The Romeros many times on such shows as The Tonight Show and The Today Show, PBS's Evening at the Boston Pops, the KPBS/PBS biographical documentary Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar, other PBS specials and the NDR documentary film Los Romeros: Die Gitarren-Dynastie.

[See May 16 Symphony Expose concert page for Pepe Romero biography]



May 17, 2013

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