AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Changes in SGV orchestral landscape

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

This article was first published today in the above papers.

 

To say that it’s been an eventful month for the orchestral
landscape in the San Gabriel Valley would be something of an understatement.

 

First, the Pasadena Symphony completed its 82nd season — and
its first in Ambassador Auditorium — on a high note, so to speak.

 

Then came word that the Los Angeles County Arboretum and
Botanic Garden would begin negotiations to bring the Pasadena Pops to the
Arcadia venue beginning in 2012, thus apparently ending the California
Philharmonic stay after a 15-year run.

 

Finally with a splashy announcement party at the historic
Castle Green, Rachael Worby — who elected not to renew her contract as the Pops’
music director after last summer — announced she would return to the SGV music
scene with a new ensemble, “Musi/que,” opening with a concert on July 30 on a
lawn next to Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium.

 

That’s a lot of balls in the air and it’s going to be some time
before we know where they all land. Moreover, despite all the offstage intrigue
both the Cal Phil and Pasadena Pops are busy preparing for their upcoming
summer seasons at the Arboretum and The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl,
respectively.

 

For both the Pops and Cal Phil, the news from the Arboretum,
announced April 27, was significant. In January, the Arboretum put out what’s
known in business circles as a RFP (Request for Proposal) to orchestras
interested in making the Arcadia their home base beginning in 2012. Only the
Cal Phil and Pasadena Pops responded.

 

The RFP, according to Arboretum CEO Richard Schulhof, asked
for information and ideas on more than two-dozen areas, ranging from future
programming visions to finances, marketing and management capabilities. The
proposal envisioned one orchestra being selected, not having two or more share
the space.

 

The ultimate goal, said Schulhof, is to generate additional
revenue for the Arboretum and to serve a wider range of audiences in upcoming
years. No one single element tipped the scales, said Schulhof; rather, it was
the Pops’ overall proposal that won out with the Arboretum’s board of
directors, which made the final decision.

 

Paul Zdunek, CEO of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops, is
excited about the Pops’ 2012 venue. “We see this as an opportunity to partner
with the Arboretum in creating a multi-discipline summer series that will make
this a kind of ‘Hollywood Bowl East’,” says Zdunek. “We’re thinking not just of
our Pops series but also of programs like mariachi music, jazz and
family-oriented programs.”

 

Next year will mark the Pops third venue in four seasons.
After a lengthy run at Descanso Gardens in La Caada, the orchestra moved to
its Rose Bowl location last season and will continue there this summer.

 

“Descanso Gardens is a beautiful location but not very
practical for a concert series,” says Zdunek. “The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose
Bowl was much less expensive to set up and, with no trees in the way, energy
from the concert stage flowed over the entire audience. However, it’s a space
wide open to the public, which meant we couldn’t leave the infrastructure up.

 

“The Arboretum has the best of both of those facilities,” he
continues. “It has a large performing space where we can leave up the stage and
sound system but one that also has the trees and flowers that will create an
ambience. Moreover, with the increased cost of driving to and parking at the
Bowl, we think we can tap into an increasingly large market east of Pasadena,
which was something we identified two years ago in our recovery plan.”

 

It’s going to take a few years for all of this to shake out.
The Pasadena Pops has to determine whether its relationship with its new
principal conductor, Marvin Hamlisch, can develop and whether the ensemble can
grow into its dreams for the Arboretum.

 

The Cal Phil (which didn’t respond to two requests for an
interview) faces the task of reinventing itself in a new home (in addition to
the Arboretum, the Cal Phil performs in Walt Disney Concert Hall during summer months).

 

Will the Arboretum’s decision to go for a new tenant
ultimately be forward-looking or foolhardy?

 

“Musi/que” (as well as the other two entities) will seek to
determine whether there’s inancial backing in this area for three orchestras
and whether the new ensemble will be one of them.

 

Things won’t be dull, that’s for sure.

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: L.A. Philharmonic’s “Casual Friday” concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Brahms: Academic
Festival Overture;
Symphony No. 3

Friday, March 4, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next concerts:
Today at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. The program will be the third symphonies of
Polish composer Henryk Grecki and Brahms.

Info:
www.laphil.com

______________________

 

One of the joys of attending a live concert as opposed to
listening to a recording is spontaneity. A recording is a snapshot of one
performance, frozen in time; each time you listen it’s the same thing, however
excellent. When you attend live concerts, each hearing is unique, even if the
program contains the same works.

 

Consider last night’s “Casual Friday” concert by the Los
Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall as a prime example. Eight
times during the indoor season, the orchestra radically changes the concert
format. The musicians wear casual clothes, which range from chic to VERY
casual. The audience follows the “casual” dress motif but since this is
Southern California, there’s not a great difference between a “Casual Friday”
concert and “normal” performances.

 

By now, the program format has been established: an
orchestra member gives a brief talk about what he or she does, the orchestra
plays one or two pieces, and the evening concludes with a 15-minute
question-and-answer session with the featured orchestra speaker, the “Upbeat
Live” (i.e., formal preconcert lecture) speaker, and the conductor, followed by
drinks with orchestra members in the downstairs caf.

 

The target audience is people who don’t usually attend
concerts, although many who come are “veterans” who just like the format; the
concept’s popularity can be deduced from the fact that it has grown from four
concerts to eight (in two series) in a short span of years.

 

How well “Casual Friday” works depends, in large measure, on
the introductory speaker and the Q&A session. When Music Director Gustavo
Dudamel is the conductor, as was the case last night, well over half the
capacity crowd stays for the feedback session; last night we learned, among other
things, that this week marks the first time that the Venezuelan maestro has
conducted Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in performance.

 

The introducer last night was Mark Kashper, a
33-year-veteran of the second violin section, who used a wicked sense of humor
during his 10 minutes to impart a great deal of information about playing
second fiddle, while subtly twitting both Dudamel and the Phil’s management. If
Kashper ever gets tired of playing violin, he’s got a potential second career
in stand-up comedy.

 

Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 is the least played of the composer’s
four symphonies. It’s the shortest of the quartet but it packs a lot into 35
minutes and Dudamel and the orchestra gave us a lot to think about last night.

 

After his rapid-fire concept of the second symphony last
week, Dudamel returned to his expansive mood for the third, but the tempos –
while relaxed — never bogged down. He was in his “shape every phrase” mode,
playing off the orchestra’s sumptuous strings against the mellow woodwinds and
brass throughout the performance. Yet in the third-movement Scherzo, Dudamel
got the strings to play briefly with a leaner, tauter sound that provide a
highly effective contrast to the “Andante” second movement. The piece is framed
by a dramatic theme, which in the final movement concluded with a serene
majesty. I’ve never been as moved by a performance of this symphony as I was
last night.

 

Even for a “Casual Friday” concert, a 35-minute symphony is
too short to stand on its own. Last night was supposed to open with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn. However,
as most everyone knows, the Phil’s “Brahms Unbound” festival has undergone
significant alterations since it was announced 15 months ago.

 

This week’s concerts were supposed to feature the world
premiere of Peter Lieberson’s Percussion Concerto, but the composer died before
completing it. The substituted piece for this weekend’s other concerts was
Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful
Songs)
by Polish composer Henryk Grecki, but because that work is 55
minutes long, the Haydn Variations
were jettisoned for last night.

 

Now, one might think that this would have been a good night
to bring back the Tragic Overture, which
was supposed to be played last week but was dropped due to the complicated
setup for last week’s performance of Glorious
Percussion.
Apparently not.

 

Thus, for the second consecutive “Casual Friday” concert and
the third time in four weeks (plus Cameron Carpenter’s organ transcription
earlier this month), patrons got yet another run-through of Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. The
performance was first-rate and, in the Q&A afterward, Dudamel skillfully danced
around the first question: why some in the audience were hearing the same
overture for the third time. Dudamel noted that, since the overture was written
in between the time when the second and third symphonies were composed, its
inclusion made musical sense. Perhaps, although I’m not sure the questioner was
appeased.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

To at least two critics, Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times (LINK) and Brian in Out West Arts (LINK), the performance of
Grecki’s Third was special. That’s not a surprise in the case of Mark, who has
been very positive in his reviews about the first three weeks of “Brahms
Unbound,” but Brian, who has been quite negative about Dudamel’s Brahms’ interpretations
up to this point, even liked Dudamel’s concept of the Brahms third.

If you’re coming tonight or tomorrow, be advised that the
order of the two pieces has been switched, wisely in my opinion.

The Brahms survey concludes next week with the Double
Concerto featuring soloists Renaud and Gautier Capuon and the fourth symphony. (LINK)

The June 5 concert is also the final segment of the Phil’s
inaugural “LA Phil LIVE” series; the concert will be telecast live to more than
450 theaters throughout the United States and Canada (LINK). No word to this
point whether the series will continue next season; owing to scheduling quirks,
there only a few Dudamel concerts that seem appropriate for this format and
three of them come in the first five weeks of the season. I wonder whether
Frank Gehry’s staging of Mozart’s Don
Giovanni
or the world premiere of John Adams’ new oratorio, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, will
be chosen; those would be gutsy calls for a still-new series.

It’s interesting to speculate on how Mark Kashper’s witty talk
from last night would translate to a TV audience. Well, I should imagine

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Santa Cecilia Orchestra honors composer Daniel Catn

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Santa Cecilia
Orchestra. Sonia Marie de Len de Vega, conductor

Friday, May 22, 2011 Thorne Hall (Occidental College)

______________________

 

With thousands of musicians working in the entertainment
industry throughout Southern California, this region hosts an unusually large
number of quality orchestras, some of which have thriving niche markets. One of
those is the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, which for 18 years has used concerts and
educational programs to bring classical music to the Hispanic community (which
is no longer small enough to be called “niche”).

 

For the final concert of its 2010-2011 season yesterday at
Occidental Colllege’s Thorne Hall, Music Director Sonia Marie de Len de Vega
had planned to honor composer Daniel Catn, who was born in Mexico but lived in
South Pasadena for many years. Catn attended the orchestra’s concerts regularly;
his wife is the orchestra’s harpist, although she didn’t perform yesterday for
understandable reasons.

 

Catn died unexpectedly on April 8 at the age of 62 while
teaching and composing an opera in Austin, Tex. Thus, this concert became a
memorial celebration but there was no sadness to it. Although de Len de Vega
wrote a touching remembrance in the program, there were no speeches or pictures
about Catn … nothing, in fact, but three short pieces (they totaled less than
30 minutes) that touched on elements of Catn’s compositional life.

 

For many in audience, the piece with which Catn is
indelibly linked is his final opera, Il
Postino (The Postman),
which received its world premiere at Los Angeles
Opera last September to ecstatic audience reaction and critical reviews. It
later debuted in Vienna and will open at Le Thtre du Chtelet in Paris next
month.

 

The middle of the three pieces yesterday, an Intermezzo for Oboe d’amore from Il Postino, featured a limpid, plaintive
solo from the orchestra’s principal oboe, Sarah Beck, accompanied by well-known
guest harpist Paul Baker. De Len de Vega emphasized the lush orchestral music
that Catn wrote in this Puccini-esque opera as she and the orchestra discretely
accompanied the soloists.

 

The opening piece was a three-minute Overture that Catn
wrote for the Mexican “telenovela” (a.k.a. soap opera) El Vuelo del guila (The Flight of the Eagles) in the 1990s. Beginning
with Rachel Berry’s winsome French horn solo, de Len de Vega conducted the
waltz melodies in a straightforward fashion.

 

The first half concluded with Caribbean Airs, Catn’s 20-minute, three-movement homage to the
sort of Cuban music that he said in a program note were among his earliest
musical memories. Percussionists Jason Goodman, Brad Dutz and Bruce Carver were
the frolicking soloists, joined by several of the orchestra’s percussionists in
the jazzy two outer movements, which bracketed a meditative inner movement that
spotlighted the orchestra’s lush string sections.

 

After intermission, de Len de Vega and her ensemble,
augmented by 14 percussionists, gave a highly credible account of Silvestre
Revueltas’ La noche de los Mayas. Revueltas
(who was born literally on the cusp of the 20th century — Dec. 31,
1899) originally wrote this piece as film music in 1939, a year before he died,
but today most of us know it through a four-movement concert suite created in
1960 by Jos Limantour.

 

Apart from some smudgy horn work, the opening emphasized
mystery. The second movement danced with pulsating joy, the third movement
again spotlighted the ensemble’s lush string sections and the fourth movement –
with its percussion-section cadenza — finished in a blaze of colorful glory. As
is always the case, the audience went bonkers at the conclusion.

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: L.A. Philharmonic and “Glorious Percussion” at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor, Glorious
Percussion
ensemble

Gubaidulina: Glorious Percussion; Brahms’ Symphony
No. 2

Thursday, May 19, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances: Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. Sunday at
2 p.m.

(NOTE: Tonight is a “Casual Friday” concert. The concerto
will not be performed; the program will be Brahms: Academic Festival Overture and Symphony No. 2.)

Info: www.laphil.com

_______________________

 

When Gustavo Dudamel first encountered Russian composer
Sofia Gubaidulina’s concerto, Glorious Percussion, in
Sept. 2008 as music director of the Gothenburg Symphony, he surveyed the
humungous battery of percussion instruments surrounding the podium and thought
to himself, “Oh my God! This is going to be loud!” He was right — the concerto
was loud (in spots). It also lived up to its title.

 

For the U.S. premiere of this 35-minute piece, played by
Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic last night at Walt Disney Concert
Hall, the five soloists and their instruments sprawled over the front half of
the stage with the orchestra crammed behind them. Dudamel looked like he was
negotiating a maze finding his way to the podium — he was, in more ways than
one.

 

The nearly invisible maestro was surrounded by the
following: wood blocks, glass chimes, bamboo chimes, cabaza, hand drums,
darabuka, bass drums, crotales, xylophones, marimbas, flexatones, triangles,
suspended cymbals, drums, tambourine, agogo, and Javanese gongs. By my count,
that added up to seven keyboard-type instruments, nine different drums and more
than three dozen assorted gongs, cymbals and other instruments … and that
didn’t include the timpani, wood blocks, sleigh bells, drum, bass drum,
cymbals, suspended cymbal and tam-tam, played by members of the Phil at the
back of the orchestra.

 

Playing this dizzying array of instruments were three
Scandinavian percussionists — Andres Loquin, Anders Haag and Eirik Raude — plus
Mika Takehara from Japan and Robyn Schulkowsky, who was born in the U.S. and
now lives in Germany. They came together for the world premiere three years ago,
followed that up with several performances in Germany and Switzerland, and this
season are playing the work with the Netherlands and Helsinki Philharmonics.
They liked each other enough to coalesce as an ensemble and appropriate the
concerto’s title as their group’s name.

 

Just watching them move carefully but gracefully from one
instrument to another without either knocking anything over or stumbling was
fascinating. So was their playing: sometimes individually, sometimes all five
playing together on three or four of the keyboard-type instruments, and once in
a cadenza-like riff on the large drums on the very front of the stage. Their
virtuosity on whatever instruments they happened to be beating, plucking,
shaking, waving, rattling or bowing was stunning. This is one piece that you have
to be in the hall to appreciate.

 

All of this was, indeed, glorious percussion; whether it was
glorious music is a matter of taste. Gubaidulina’s — a youthful-looking 79 years of age — has a Tartar father and a Slavic mother
and her music reflects that Europe/Asia background. Many consider her one of
the great, albeit somewhat unknown, composers of her generation. What was most
fascinating (to me) about this score on a first hearing was how she managed to
connect sonically the various percussion instruments with the sections of the
orchestra; sometimes it was hard to hear where one began and the other took
over.

 

The orchestra — heavy on brass, light on woodwinds, with a
large complement of strings plus two harps and celesta — had moments of
lightness and others of ponderous gravity; I kept waiting for Bydlo (the oxcart
from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an
Exhibition)
to appear on stage. Three times the orchestra comes to a
complete halt and the soloists take over for short virtuosic cadenzas.

 

In his program note, John Henken wrote: “You do not have to
be able to parse the ‘agreement of the sounding intervals with their difference
tones’ to appreciate the distinctive spectral sheen on Gubaidulina’s chords, or
identify the difference between a darabuka (Middle Eastern goblet drum) and an
agogo (Yoruban single or double bells) to revel in the colors she produces from
the percussion array.” Right on, John, and a good thing, too. Glorious Percussion was a lot to absorb
in one hearing but the audience took it in stride and responded with a huge
ovation, both for the performers and for the composer who came onstage to
accept the plaudits.

 

After intermission, Dudamel and Co. tackled Brahms’ Symphony
No. 2. If you were one of those kvetching about “The Dude’s” luxuriant tempos
in the first symphony two weeks ago, then you had to be thrilled with his
brash, in-you-face concept of the second. Others may not have been quite so
enamored.

 

Last night sounded like an young man was in charge. Dudamel
enforced brisk tempos, particularly in the two outer movements — this was one
of the fastest performances of the second that I can remember — and he
continues to emphasize extremes in dynamics. The orchestra — perhaps still
recovering from the sonic onslaught of the concerto — seemed edgy at first with
a tone that was less mellow than one might have expected from this so-called “Pastoral
Symphony.” However, by the final movement, the players were locked into Dudamel
and their rhythmic precision — even at the breathless tempos — was impressive
to the max.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

To a festival beset by several scheduling changes, add
another this week: the originally scheduled Tragic
Overture
was cancelled due to what the Phil says was “the stage setup
requirements for the percussion ensemble in Glorious Percussion.” In retrospect, the move made eminent sense although,
considering Dudamel’s previous experience with the concerto, one wonders why
the decision took until virtually the last minute to make.

The decision left a short-ish program for tonight’s “Casual
Friday” concert so Brahms’ Academic
Festival Overture
has been added to the Symphony No. 2 for this performance
only.

In his preconcert lecture, composer/conductor Russell
Steinberg said almost nothing about the concerto, apart from reading portions
of Henken’s program note. Steinberg admitted that he hadn’t heard the piece. You’d
think that, knowing his assignment, Steinberg might have made it to a
rehearsal. Instead, he focused on the Brahms. Perhaps Saturday and Sunday will
be different.

_______________________

 

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

STORY AND LINKS: Remembering Daniel Catn

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Six weeks ago the opera world lost one of its finest
composers when Daniel Catn died unexpectedly at age 62. The South Pasadena
resident, who was a long-time instructor at College of the Canyons in Santa
Clarita, was best known for his most recent work, Il Postino (The Postman), which received its highly successful
debut last September at Los Angeles Opera.

 

In my review of the premiere (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 beginning June 20.

 

Catn was much more than just one opera, however, and his
life and music will be honored in three quite different ways this weekend.

 

Sunday at 4 p.m. at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall,
Sonia Maria de Len de Vega will lead her Santa Cecilia Orchestra in the final
concert of the orchestra’s 18th season, “Mxico Sinfnico.” The concert was originally scheduled as
a celebration of music from south of the border, and specifically, of Catn,
but it will now do double duty. The 80-piece orchestra — which includes harpist
Andrea Puente Catn, the
composer’s wife –
will play four of Catn’s pieces along with
Silvestre Revueltas’ La Noche de Los
Mayas
, with an additional dozen or so percussionists on hand for that
swashbuckling piece. Info: www.scorchestra.org

Saturday morning at 10 a.m., KUSC (91.5-FM; www.kusc.org)
will begin its fifth season of “LA Opera on Air” with a broadcast of Il Postino recorded live at the Dorothy
Chandler Pavilion. The production stars Plcido Domingo in the role of Chilean
poet Pablo Neruda and tenor Charles Castronovo in the role of Mario Ruppolo
(the Postman in the title). Grant Gershon, LAO’s associate conductor and music
director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale) conducts.

 

The online broadcast will have a live chat discussion
between Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera’s senior vice president/chief operating
officer, with Andrea Puente Ctan, widow of the composer.

 

Monday evening at 6, LAO will commemorate Catn’s life and
legacy with a free program at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. No details have
been announced although a LAO spokesperson says there will be music.

 

BTW: other broadcasts in the LA Opera radio series will be
Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (May
28), Wagner’s Lohengrin (June 4),
Rossini’s The Turk in Italy (June 18)
and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw
(June 25). All five broadcasts will be aired nationwide and internationally
through the WFMT Radio Network (times will vary).

 

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

(Revised) Five-Spot: What caught my eye on May 19, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning,
I list five events for the weekend that peak my interest, including (ideally)
at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets).

 

Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Today, Tomorrow and
Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

This continuation of the Phil’s “Brahms Unbound” series
features Dudamel conducting the U.S. premiere of Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina‘s
Glorious Percussion and Brahms’
Symphony No. 2. Dudamel conducted the concerto’s world premiere in 2008
with his Gothenberg Symphony in Sweden. The percussion ensemble formed for that
concert stayed together and adopted the title as their name. David Mermelstein
has a profile of Gubaidulina in the L.A. Times’ Culture Monster section online HERE.

A couple of notes: (1) The original program called for Brahms’s Tragic Overture. That has been cancelled due to what the Phil says is “the the stage setup requirements for the percussion ensemble in Glorious Percussion.” (2) Tomorrow is a “Casual Friday” concert, so the concerto will not be performed. However, Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture will be played, along with the symphony. Info: www.laphil.com

Saturday at 4 p.m.,
First United Methodist Church of Pasadena

Chorale Bel Canto,
Chancel Choir, Rio Hondo College Chamber Singers, solists and orchestra;
Stephen Gothold, conductor

Verdi’s Requiem is one of the monuments of choral literature
and Chorale Bel Canto closes its season by joining forces with the FUMC Chancel
Choir and Rio Hondo Chamber Singers for this performance. KUSC’s Kimberlea
Daggy will give a preconcert lecture at 3:15 p.m. Information: www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Sunday at 4 p.m.,
Thorne Hall (Occidental College)

Santa Cecilia
Orchestra, Sonia Maria de Len de Vega, conductor

The final concert of the orchestra’s 18th season,
“Mxico Sinfnico,” was originally scheduled as a celebration of music from
south of the border. It will still include that element, but it’s also tinged with
sadness because it also will be a remembrance of the life and music of Daniel
Catn (composer of the opera Il Postino,
among other things). The 80-piece orchestra — which includes harpist Andrea Puente Catn, the
composer’s wife –
will play four of Catn’s pieces along with
Silvestre Revueltas’ La Noche de Los Mayas
(with an additional dozen or so percussionists on hand for that swashbuckling
piece). Info: www.scorchestra.org

 

Sunday at 7 p.m.,
Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale; Grant Gershon and James Newton, co-conductors

Gershon and Newton lead the Master Chorale, jazz orchestra,
soloists and tap dancer Channing Cook Holmes in selections from Duke
Ellington’s three Sacred Concerts.
The first of the three concerts took place in 1965 at Grace Cathedral in San
Francisco. The second occurred three years later at the Cathedral of St. John
the Divine in New York City and the third premiered in 1973 at Westminster
Abbey in London. Ellington called them “the most important thing I have
ever done.” Info: www.lamc.org

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.,
Altadena Senior City; Sunday at 2 p.m., First Baptist Church, Pasadena

Crown City Symphony, Marvin
Neumann, conductor

Overtures by Rossini (La
Gazza Ladra — The Thieving Magpie)
and Dvorak (Husitska) bookend these concerts. In between, Armenian-born
Ophelia Nanagyulyan as soloist in A
Rhapsody for Violin
by Bagdasarian and tubist Stephen Wood will be soloist
in Alexander Arutiunian’s Tuba Concerto. Info: www.crowncitysymphony.org

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Finales

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

This article was first published today in the above papers.

 

Four Southern California groups wrap up their 2010-2012
seasons during the next few weeks with major programs.

 

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra
concludes its season tonight at 7 p.m. in UCLA’s Royce Hall.
Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducts and also joins Concertmaster Margaret Batjer
as soloists in Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D minor for Violin and Piano. The
program also includes the world premiere of Derek Bermel’s Mar del Setembro (September Sea) and Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 (Prague). Information: 
www.laco.org

 

Chorale Bel Canto
joins forces with the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church of
Pasadena, the Rio Hondo College Chamber Singers, soloists and orchestra in a
performance of Verdi’s Requiem on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Pasadena’s FUMC.
Stephen Gothold, who directs both Chorale Bel Canto and the Chancel Choir, will
lead his combined forces. KUSC’s Kimberlea Daggy will give a preconcert lecture
at 3:15 p.m. Information: www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Gustavo Dudamel and
the Los Angeles Philharmonic
will wrap their season with the final three
weeks of “Brahms Unbound” at Walt Disney Concert Hall. On Thursday, Friday and
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2, the program will be Brahms’ Tragic Overture and Symphony No. 2 along
with the U.S. premiere of Glorious
Percussion
by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina. The soloists in the
concerto will be the ensemble “Glorious Percussion;” the musicians performed the
world premiere in September 2008 and stayed together while appropriating the
concerto’s title for their name.

 

On May 26-29, Dudamel pairs Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 with
Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3. The Gorecki work replaces the world premiere
of Peter Lieberson’s Percussion Concerto; Lieberson died before he could
complete the concerto.

 

The season concludes June 2-5 with Brahms’ Symphony No. 4
and his Double Concerto, with violinist Renaud Capuon
and his brother, cellist Gautier Capuon,
as soloists. This concerto replaces Gorecki’s Symphony No. 4; the Polish
composer died last year before he could complete it.

 

The 2 p.m. June 5 program will also the last of the “LA Phil
LIVE” series of telecasts to more than 450 movie theaters around the United
States and Canada. John Lithgow will be the program host. Information: www.laphil.com

 

The Los Angeles
Master Chorale
concludes its season next Sunday at 7 p.m. in Disney Hall as
Grant Gershon and James Newton leads the Master Chorale, jazz orchestra,
soloists and tap dancer Channing Cook Holmes in selections from Duke
Ellington’s three Sacred Concerts.

 

The first of the three concerts took place in 1965 at Grace
Cathedral in San Francisco. The second occurred three years later at the
Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City and the third premiered in
1973 at Westminster Abbey in London. Ellington called them “the most
important thing I have ever done.” 
Information: www.lamc.org

 

Other groups wrapping up include:

Camerata Pacifica,
Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino.
There’s a 50% discount offer for first-time ticket buyers. Information:
805-884-8410; www.cameratapacifica.org

 

La Mirada Symphony,
Saturday at 8 p.m. at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. Hector
Salazar, the last of five conductors auditioning for the position of LMS Music
Director, will lead a program of American music, beginning with a work by
William Grant Still and concluding with Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2.
Information: www.lamiradasymphony.com

_______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: LACO announces 2011-2012 season, extends Kahane’s contract as music director

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

On the eve of its final concerts in the 2010-2011 season Los
Angeles Chamber Orchestra has announced next season’s schedule and reported
that Music Director Jeffrey Kahane’s contract has been extended through the
2013-2014 season.

 

Next season — the orchestra’s 43rd and Kahane’s 15th as
musical leader — will feature one world premiere and four West Coast premieres
among the seven sets of orchestral concerts, each of which begin with a
Saturday performance in Glendale’s Alex Theatre and conclude the following
evening in UCLA’s Royce Hall.

 

The latest installment of LACO’s “Discover” series will be
Feb. 25, 2012 at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium. Kahane will first discuss,
and then conduct the orchestra and the USC Thornton Chamber Singers in, Bach’s
Magnificat in D major, BWV 243. Kahane and LACO members will also appear March
8, 2012, on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Colburn Celebrity Recital” series
at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

 

Kahane will conduct five of the seven sets of orchestral
concerts and will also appear as soloist in the opening program Sept. 24 and 25
conducting Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 from the keyboard. That program
will also include two of the West Coast premieres: Osvaldo Golijov’s Sidereus (since it’s not a world
premiere one presumes it will be completed on time, unlike his unfinished
Violin Concerto that was supposed to be played last week by the Los Angeles
Philharmonic) and Composer-in-Residence Derek Bemel’s Ritornello for electric guitar and orchestra.

 

The world premiere by pianist Thomas Andres, the latest
installment in the orchestra’s “Sound Investment” commissioning series, will take
place March 24 and 25, 2012. Andres will also be the soloist in his “recomposition”
of Mozart’s Concerto No. 26 (Coronation).
In what the orchestra is calling a “classical mash-up,” Andres has replaced
Mozart’s incomplete sketches for the left hand with his own creations. Perhaps
to act as a leavening agent, the program will conclude with Mozart’s Symphony
No. 40, K. 550, presumably unaltered.

 

In one of the other anticipated programs of the upcoming
season, Kahane will conduct his son, Gabriel, for the first time (the program
is cutely titled “Kahane2) on April 21 and 22, 2012 in a work
inspired by the Kahane family history and co-commissioned by the American
Composers Orchestra.

 

In addition to Kahane, Concertmaster Margaret Batjer will
conduct LACO in the complete Bach Brandenburg Concerti on Nov. 5 and 6 and
principal cellist Andrew Shulman be on the podium Jan. 21 and 22, 2012.

 

The orchestra will again offer its three-concert “Westside
Connections” chamber music series at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, a
five-concert “Baroque Conversations” series at Zipper Hall in The Colburn
School in downtown Los Angeles and several concerts for families. LACO will
also be involved in the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, which is
being sponsored by the L.A. Phil and the USC Thornton School of Music next
spring. Cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, the festival’s curator, will be the soloist in
Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Roccoco Theme on Dec. 10 and 11.

 

For a complete list of the orchestra series concerts, download a file by clicking
HERE. For other information, click HERE.

_______________________

 

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

(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: L.A. Philharmonic offers two Requiems at Disney Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Leila Josefowicz,
violin; Christine Schffer, soprano, Matthias Goerne, baritone

Mackey: Beautiful
Passing;
Brahms: Ein Deutsche Requiem
(A German Requiem)

Thursday, May 12, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next concerts: tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2
p.m.

Info: www.laphil.com

NOTE: The revision is an additional hemidemisemiquaver at the end.

______________________

 

Sometimes it’s the big things you remember about a concert
performance. Other times it’s the little things. From last night’s performance
of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem (A
German Requiem)
by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master
Chorale, soprano Christine Schffer and baritone Matthias Goerne — all under
the inspired leadership of Gustavo Dudamel — it’s the little things that remain
etched in my memory.

 

Part of my reaction is because I know this piece inside out;
I’ve sung it many times and even played first movement when I was a double
bassist in high school. Thus, last night it wasn’t that the big things — e.g.
the wonderfully expressive singing of the Master Chorale and the orchestra’s
top-notch playing — weren’t noteworthy; they were, to be sure. It wasn’t even
Dudamel’s exquisite control of this 75-minute, seven-movement work. It was the
little things.

 

It was Principal Timpanist Joseph Pereira setting up the
funeral-march dramatically at the opening 
of the second movement dramatically. It was way Goerne made eye contact
with the audience on three sides — terraces included — during his two solos
rather than singing just to those in front of him. It was Principal Oboist Ariana
Ghez slipping elegantly into the hushed choral singing midway through the final
movement. It was the graceful, understated way that Dudamel ended each of the
movements, even the three mighty fugues. It was the fact that, even though the
Brahms Requiem is a familiar piece, the audience held its collective breath for
15 seconds after the last note (a couple of sneezes notwithstanding) before
bursting into sustained applause.

 

The performance was part of the Phil’s “Brahms Unbound”
series that is concluding its 2010-2011 Disney Hall Season and, as was the case
last week with the first symphony, Dudamel offered a compelling account of A German Requiem. The orchestra, which
included three harps and the Disney Hall organ (which added impressive heft and
resonance) played beautifully. The Master Chorale sang the German texts with
great feeling, clean diction and burnished sound, sounding as fresh in the
final movement as it did in the first (not an easy task for a work where the
chorus sings in well over 90 percent of the time).

 

Dudamel, who conducted without a score, was in no hurry but almost
all of the tempos felt spot on; moreover, he never lost the work’s tension. He
took the fourth movement (How Lovely is
Thy Dwelling Place)
as a lyrical dance and the Master Chorale responded
with elegant grace. Dudamel began the sixth movement quite slowly but it was a
perfect lead-in to Goerne’s solo, in which we really felt he was, as the text
says, telling us a mystery. That led to the uplifting double fugue with its I
Corinthians text (the first place, as program annotator John Henken noted,
where the words “death” and “dead” appear in Brahms’ Requiem, and even then, as Henken writes, they
are “triumphantly reversed: the dead shall be raised and death swallowed up in
victory”).

 

Goerne sang his two solos powerfully and Schffer’s fifth
movement solo (You Who Are Sorrowful) was radiant. After the performance,
both turned and led the thunderous, and well-deserved, applause for the Master
Chorale (Dudamel stood to the side, allowing the soloists and LAMC Music
Director Grant Gershon to share the applause with the orchestra).

 

Dudamel elected to pair A
German Requiem
with a very different kind of requiem: Steven’s Mackey’s Beautiful Passing, which he wrote in
2008 following the death of his mother (the title refers to her final words:
“Please tell everyone I had a beautiful passing”). The work, a 22-minute violin
concerto with two movements connected by a cadenza, was written for violinist
Leila Josefowicz and she was hand last night as the stellar soloist.

 

In the preconcert lecture, Mackey explained that the piece
juxtaposes the violin’s serenity with the jangling, clattery world, as
represented by an orchestra that includes a large battery of percussion
instruments plus the piano. Josefowicz, playing without a score, did have some
serene moments, including the beginning and conclusion, but most of Mackey’s
writing required all of her formidable technique. Interspersed in the
orchestra’s “jangling” sections were moments of lush string beauty. Dudamel
conducted and the orchestra handled the jagged rhythms seemingly with ease.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

The only time I looked at the projected supertitles was in
the sixth movement where I was perplexed by two translations of verses from I
Corinthians 15 : (a) victory instead of death — oops; (b) in Goerne’s solo, one
translation was, “I tell you a secret.” Several Biblical translations I own use
the word “mystery;” theologically, there’s a big difference.

In the preconcert lecture, Mackey — whose early background
included playing electric guitar in rock bands — said it took nine months to
write the concerto. He’s apparently a fastidious composer. “In a good year,” he
said, I write an average of one minute per week.”

In their reviews, Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times (LINK) and Timothy Mangan in the Orange County Register (LINK) both noted that one of the orchestral themes in Beautiful Passing came from the tones made
by New Jersey Transit ticket machine. Mackey mentioned this cute point in the
preconcert lecture; I wrote it down and forgot to look at the note. Good on
them; my bad.

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on May 12, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events that
peak my interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at
a minimum, inexpensive tickets).  Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Tonight, tomorrow
and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Lelia Josefowicz, violin

In the second installment of the Phil’s season-ending “Brahms
Unbound” series, Dudamel leads the orchestra and violinist Leila Josefowicz in Stephen Mackey’s Beautiful
Passing,
paired with Brahms’ Ein
Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem).
This is one of several performances
of Brahms’ choral masterpiece happening this spring. INFO: www.laphil.com

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Zipper Hall, Los Angeles; Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Huntington Library, San
Marino

Camerata Pacifica

A sextet of musicians from this group that performs from
Santa Barbara to San Marino will be on hand for the season’s final concert,
offering music by Nino Rota, Philippe Gaubert, Roussel and Brahms. The group is
offering half-price tickets for first-time buyers; call 805/884-8410 for
details. INFO: www.cameratapacifica.org

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, Margaret Batjer, violin

In its final concert of the season, LACO presents the world
premiere of Composer-in-Residence Derek Bemel’s Mar de Setembro (September Sea), performed by Brazilian vocalist
Luciana Souza. This is the latest installment in the orchestra’s “Sound
Investment” commissioning program. Kahane and Batjer are soloists in
Mendelssohn’s Concerto in D minor for Violin and Piano, and the program
concludes with Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 (Prague). INFO: www.laco.org

Sunday at 1 p.m. at
Noor Restaurant’s Sofia Ballroom, Pasadena

California
Philharmonic: “Music, Martinis and the Maestro”

Music Director Victor Vener joins several of his colleagues
in this program that will feature Beethoven’s Archduke Trio and original compositions by Bryan Pezzone and Greg Pore.
INFO: www.calphil.org

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Ron McKean, organist

Church organists are among the most prolific improvisers
(their job often requires it) but McKean — Director of Music Ministries at St.
Joseph’s Catholic Church/Old Mission San Jose in Fremont, Calif. — is in a
different category. For the second half of his program, he’ll use a submitted
theme to create a six-movement organ symphony  – now that’s improvising! In the first half, he’ll play
three of his own compositions along with music by Bach, Vierne and Hermann Schroeder.
INFO: www.ppc.net

_______________________

 

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