NEWS AND LINK: Philadelphia Orchestra on the brink of bankruptcy filing

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily


The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the world’s legendary ensembles,
will apparently become the latest orchestra to file for bankruptcy, according to
the Philadelphia Inquirer Web site and other sources. The site is reporting
that paperwork will be filed later today or next week.


The Philadelphians would be the largest and most important
orchestra to go down this avenue. Currently, The Louisville Orchestra holds that dubious honor.

The Philadelphia Orchestra decision is not expected to cause an interruption in
the orchestra’s current season and, according to the story, the orchestra is apparently
moving forward with a major fund-raising effort. The orchestra’s endowment has
a current estimate value of $140 million and, while that is down from its high
mark, it is sure to be a point of contention in the ongoing process.


While the decision by the orchestra’s board comes after
years of financial losses, the board is apparently hoping for relief from its
contracts and ongoing pension obligations for its musicians and from other contractual
obligations, including its rental relationship with the Kimmel Center, which houses
its home auditorium Verizon Hall.


Read the complete story HERE.



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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LINKS: A budding violinist and his instrument

Those of us who frequent Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts
have sort of grown up with Spencer Mangan, the now-12-year-old son of Orange County Register Music Critic
Timothy Mangan. Turns out that Spence is quite the young violinist, and his dad
has regaled us with his delightful story of buying his son his first full-size
violin … and quite an instrument (and story) it is. Click for the links. (NOTE: I have a comment in part II.)

 Part I

 Part II

 Part III




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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 14, 2011

Each Thursday morning,
I list five events (six this week) that peak my interest, including (ideally)
at least one with free admission — this week there are two. Here’s today’s



Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge

China Philharmonic;
Long Yu, conductor, Renaud Capuon, violin

The Southland’s newest concert hall, located on the campus
of Cal State Northridge, gets its first major classical music program with this
performance. Yu conducts music by Berlioz, Puccini, Borodin and Ravel; Capuon
will be soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. INFO:
The same program is presented Friday night at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa
Mesa. INFO:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Alex Theater, Glendale, Sunday at 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane conductor, Jon Kimura Parker, piano

The program includes John Harbison’s Gil pi usati, Dvorak’s Serenade in E Major for Strings, and
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor).
The Harbison piece was premiered by LACO in 1993. Parker (who was born on
Christmas Day 1959 in Vancouver) won the 1984 Leeds International Pianoforte
Competition and has gone on to an international career. INFO:

Sunday at 4 p.m.,
Neighborhood Church, Pasadena

Pasadena Pro Musica;
Stephen Grimm, conductor

In this Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday program at the beginning
of what Christians call “Holy Week,” PPM presents Dietrich Buxtehude’s
seven-movement work Membra Jesu Nostri,
along with Grimm’s own Christus Factus
and William Cornyshe’s Woefully


Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
at Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa

Pacific Chorale, John
Alexander Singers, Pacific Symphony; John Alexander, conductor, Lori Loftus,

John Alexander conducts his forces in the Southern California
premiere of David Lang’s The Little Match
Girl Passion,
which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for music and also won a
Grammy Award. The piece, based on a Hans Christian Anderson story and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, will be paired with
Faur’s Requiem. INFO:


And the weekend’s “free admission” programs …


Friday at 1 p.m.,
Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale’s 22nd High School Choir Festival

LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon
leads a 900-voice massed choir of students from 24 Southland high schools and
an 80-voice Festival Honor Choir also comprised of students from those schools.
In addition to hearing some terrific singing led by one of America’s premiere
choral conductors, it’s a great way to experience the magnificent acoustics of
Disney Hall for free. A preconcert by the Master Chorale’s Chamber Singers, led
by Assistant Conductor Leslie Leighton, will begin at 11 a.m. Tickets for each
event must be arranged ahead of time. INFO: 213/972-7282;


Sunday at 3:30 p.m.,
Occidental College, Eagle Rock

Occidental College
Chorus and Glee Club; Desiree La Vertu, conductor

The program, performed in the college’s distinctive Herrick
Chapel, features music by Bruckner, Mozart, Lauridsen and Victoria, songs from
Latin America, gospel selections and popular favorites. INFO:



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Ravi Shankar postpones April 19 concert to Sept. 29

Sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar, who was scheduled to
perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall on April 19, has postponed his appearance
until Sept. 29.


In a statement, Shankar writes: “It is with deep regret that
I have asked the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association to postpone my concert
scheduled for April 19. As you know, this upcoming concert was already
re-scheduled from October 20 for reasons of my health. Now I have asked that it
be re-scheduled again. This time, the reason is due to visa complications with
a trusted member of my ensemble. To give you the best possible performance, I
feel the only option is to postpone our concert.”


Tickets for either date (April 19 or Oct. 20) will be valid
for entry on Sept. 29.


The concert is still being billed on the Phil’s Web site as
a “90th birthday celebration), although the April date was 13 days
after Shankar’s 91st birthday. The new date comes two after the
Phil’s 2011-2012 gala opening concert and the day before the orchestra’s first
subscription concert.


Info and questions: 323/850-2000



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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(Revised) NEWS AND LINK: Composer Daniel Catn dies unexpectedly at age 62

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San
Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News


NOTE: This post has been amended to include a quote from Charles Castronovo at the end and a link to the LA Opera Web site.

Daniel Catn, the most significant Mexican-American
classical music composer of the last 25 years, died unexpectedly Saturday in
Austin, TX at the age of 62. Catn, who lived in South Pasadena, was best known
for his opera Il Postino, which was
premiered last September to great acclaim and sold-out audiences at Los Angeles


 Il Postino starred Placido Domingo as
Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruppolo (The Postman of the
title). In my review (LINK), I called the work “a stunning new opera … one of those
all-too-rare nights when every individual element melded marvelously… a
performance that reminded us that opera — at its best — can touch emotions and
tell stories like no other medium.” Many other critics were equally laudatory
in their reviews. (LINK)

Il Postino went on
to performances in Vienna and will be presented at the Theatre du Chtelet in
Paris on June 20. Another production was mounted last week by the University of
Houston’s Moores Opera Center.


Catn’s death is obviously a tragedy for his family and friends
(he is survived by his wife Andrea Puente, three children Chloe, Tom, and Alan,
and four grandchildren). However, it’s also a great loss for all who love opera
and particularly those in Southern California, with its large and growing
Latino population. Part of what made Il
distinctive was that it was written in Spanish.


Although Catn’s lyrical style was likened to Puccini — most
notably in Il Postino — what made Catn
unique was his ability to infuse his works with a Mexican flavor without being
too obvious about it (Catn was born in Mexico City and later became a U.S.


When San Diego Opera produced his Rappacini’s Daughter in 1994, Catn became the first Mexican
composer to have an opera produced in the U.S. Two years later, Houston Grand
Opera commissioned Florencia en el
which was subsequently produced by LA Opera. It was the first
opera written in Spanish underwritten by a major opera company.


Catn was also notable for creating in Il Postino an opera that was as memorable as its sources: the 1985
novella Ardiente Pacienca (Burning
by Antonio Skrmeta and the Academy-award-winning 1994 film, Il Postino (The Postman), by Michael
Radford. Few operas, or motion pictures, for that matter, are able to translate
its source material as well as did Catn in Il
In the process Catn created something that was, on the one hand,
familiar and, on the other, totally different.


Catn had recently written a new chamber version of his
first opera (now called La Hija de
and was currently at work on his fifth opera, Meet John Doe, which was due to premiere
in October 2012.


Catn studied philosophy at the University of Sussex in
England before enrolling at Princeton University as a PhD student in composition.
Following his studies he served as music administrator at Mexico City’s Palace
of Fine Arts (1983-89). Catn was also a writer on music and the arts. His
honors include the Plcido Domingo Award in 1998 for his contribution to opera
and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000.


Catn was on leave from his position on the faculty of
College of the Canyons in Valencia when he died. The Los Angeles Times is reporting (LINK) that the composer died in
his sleep in his apartment in Austin, and no foul play is suspected, according
to a spokeswoman for the university. The composer’s representative said that he
wasn’t suffering from any known illnesses.


Marc Stern, chairman of LA Opera, issued the following
statement: “On behalf of Plcido Domingo and the entire company, we are shocked
and grief-stricken at this terrible loss. (since it is the middle of the night
in Japan at present, Plcido is not yet aware of this heartbreaking news; I
know he will be devastated). All of us at LA Opera were truly fortunate to have
worked very closely with Daniel as he prepared “Il Postino” for its world premiere in
Los Angeles last year … and Daniel became a beloved and respected member of the
LA Opera family in recent seasons.


“The incredible success of Il Postino should have marked the beginning of a new era of
artistic achievement for him,” continued Stern. “He was unquestionably one of
the most important opera composers of our time as well as one of the most
popular, and his sudden passing is a terrible loss to the world of classical
music. I know that his operas will continue to move audiences with their beauty
and emotional power. We send our deepest, heartfelt sympathies to his wife and
family on their terrible, sudden loss.”

From Rome, where he is performing, Castronovo wrote: “It was a rare opportunity  to be able to create the role of Mario in Il Postino with Daniel Catan. His  wonderful music was only one view into a man that was so warm, giving and accepting all at the same time. He made me feel that I was part of his musical process, putting my own personality and musical instincts into a piece of art that he dreamt up with all his love. It was a great honor to know him and create music with him. I know future performances of Il Postino will be full of all the casts love and respect for this wonderful man.”

Click HERE for the LA Opera Web site information on Catn.



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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