THE INBOX: Rachael Worby’s new ensemble, etc.

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

RACHAEL WORBY,
former music director of the Pasadena Pops, is returning to the Pasadena area
with a new program, “Muse/ique.” The opening concert will feature Worby leading
an orchestra with soprano Jessye Norman on July 30 at 7:30 p.m. outdoors on
Caltech’s Beckman Mall (the date is a weekend when neither the Pasadena Pops
nor the California Philharmonic are performing).

 

The program, which the media release says will “mix high
culture with casual whimsy,” will include music by Leonard Bernstein, Duke
Ellington and George Gershwin. Subsequent events will begin in fall the fall
and carry on into 2012.  Tables for
the July 30 concert on sale; single tickets will go on sale June 15. INFO:
818/732-1712.

 

Worby served for 11 seasons as Pasadena Pops music director
before leaving last September. Marvin Hamlisch takes over as the Pops music
director this summer with concerts on The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl. The
Pops is negotiating to move to the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia
beginning in 2012.

 

THE PASADENA
CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC
has acquired property adjacent to its current location
that will enable the school to expand. The new property (130 N. Hill St.) will
also allow for the creation of new performing spaces. The school currently has
1,250 onsite students and reaches an additional 3,000 students through its
outreach programs.

 

LOS ANGELES OPERA
will commemorate the life and legacy of composer Daniel Catn on May 23 at 6
p.m. in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The 62-year-old Catn, a South Pasadena
resident, died unexpectedly on April 8. His final opera, Il Postino (The Postman) received its world premiere by LAO to
great acclaim in Sept. 2010 (LINK).

Another Catn opera, Florencia
en el Amazonas,
was presented by LAO in 1997. MORE

Speaking of IL POSTINO, PBS has announced that
the LAO production of Catn’s opera will be part of the PBS lineup in the fall.
The exact dates will be announced later. The programs will air on PBS SoCal
(the former KOCE in Orange County) and other PBS stations, which no longer
include KCET. MORE

 

ROBERTO CANI, a
native of Milan, has been named the Stuart Canin Concertmaster of the Los
Angeles Opera Orchestra. Cani, who studied at the Milan Conservatory of Music,
the Gnessin Institute of Music in Moscow, and the University of Southern
California, won several competitions and has extensive solo and orchestra
experience. Canin served as LAO concertmaster from 2001-2010. MORE

 

Pasadena resident NAZELI
ATAYAN ROHMAN-FLY
will be one of 74 pianists will compete in The Van
Cliburn Foundation’s Sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding
Amateurs May 23-29 in Ft. Worth, Tex. Rohman-Fly was born in Armenia, studied
there and in Moscow, and has performed extensively in Europe and the U.S. The
competitors, who range in age from 35-79, represent 18 nationalities from 11
countries. Among the jurors is Mark Swed, music critic of the Los Angeles Times. MORE

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Organist Chelsea Chen at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Chelsea Chen,
organist

Monday, May 9, 2011 Pasadena Presbyterian Church

______________________

 

This has been quite a 24-hour period for organ lovers and
for young organists. Sunday night, 30-year-old Cameron Carpenter made his Walt
Disney Concert Hall recital debut. (LINK) Last night, 27-year-old San Diego
native Chelsea Chen played an impressive recital at Pasadena Presbyterian
Church sponsored by the Los Angeles and Orange County chapters of the American
Guild of Organists.

 

The church’s large instrument — with 6,366 pipes in 111
ranks it’s slightly larger than the Disney Hall instrument and one of the
largest in Southern California — was originally built by the Aeolian-Skinner
company in the “American Classic” style. It’s eminently suited for French
literature, and Chen’s program leaned heavily on that genre, beginning with a
probing performance of Marcel Dupr’s Prelude and Fugue in G Minor.

 

As was the case with Carpenter’s program, Chen used several
transcriptions in her recital but what a difference in choices! After the Dupr,
Chen played Leon Roques’ transcription of Debussy’s Arabesque Suite No. 2, using a variety of registrations (including
the balcony Echo organ) to achieve graceful effects — what a difference this
piece makes when played on the organ. That sense of graceful delicacy continued
with a playful performance of four movements from Faur’s Dolly Suite, Op. 56, as arranged by Maurice Clerc.

 

To conclude the first half, Chen was joined by violinist
Lewis Wong, whom she met in 2005 while they were studying at Juilliard. Their
vehicle was the final two movements of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 for Flute and
Piano that the pair transcribed winningly for organ and violin. Except for a
couple of fleeting moments, this was the most un-Prokofiev piece I’ve ever
heard but Chen and Wong played it with lightly and partnered each other
sensitively.

 

After intermission, Chen concluded with Maurice Durufl’s
Prelude, Adagio and Chorale Variations on Veni
Creator,
a performance that began in mysterious quiet and gradually built
to a dramatic, full-throated conclusion. Chen’s elegant performing style is a
pleasure to watch and her registration choices and prodigious technique made
this a highly pleasurable evening from first note to last.

 

For the single encore, Chen and Wong continued their
emphasis on lyrical grace with a Taiwanese folk song, which translates as Anticipating the Spring.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

During a preconcert dinner, Robert Prichard was made an
honorary life member of the Los Angeles AGO chapter. Prichard was organist for
nearly 30 years at Pasadena Presbyterian Church (during the last decade he was
also music director) and was instrumental in designing the Aeolian-Skinner
organ when it was installed in the church’s old sanctuary in 1961. Prichard is currently
organist and music director at St. Therese of Liseux Catholic Church in Alhambra.

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Organist Cameron Carpenter at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Cameron Carpenter,
organist

Sunday, May 8, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

______________________

 

Organist Cameron Carpenter is either a genius or one of the
world’s great musical eccentrics. Sometimes the two go together (pianists
Vladimir Horowitz and Glenn Gould spring to mind as examples). Last night, the
30-year-old Carpenter made his Walt Disney Concert Hall recital debut with a
performance that was either (a) glorious, (b) crazy, (c) mind-blowing or (d)
all of the above, depending on your tastes. He got sounds out of the Disney
Hall organ that nobody else could conceive; the same could be said for many of
the pieces he played.

 

Through it all, Carpenter remains unique, although in many
ways, this was a decidedly non-Carpenter program: no cutesy pops stuff, no
ragging on the quality of the instrument, no white top or jeans (he wore a
black tunic jacket, adorned subtly with his trademark Swarovski crystals, in
the first half and a black mesh-net shirt in the second; black pants and shoes
both halves). His playing style is as sparse as his thin, albeit muscular frame
– in a “Sunday Morning” interview several years ago, he said he burns through
5,000 calories a day, including drinking three gallons of whole milk daily and
it’s easy to see why. Since he never announces his program ahead of time, he
talks between selections; many organists do this but few, if any, engage the
audience so completely. At one point in the second half, when he had to restart
a piece after resetting a couple of pistons; he told the audience, “The organ
is saying to me, ‘you want me to do what???”

 

His first half included three pieces you’d get from many
organists — Bach’s Toccata in F, Brahms Prelude and Fugue in G minor and
Franck’s Chorale No. 1 in E Major — but he played them like no other organist
would: the Bach dazzlingly fast and thunderously loud, the Brahms with the widest
range of registrations possible, and the Franck in a way that brought out lines
and notes that often disappear in organ haze. His concepts weren’t to
everyone’s tastes but the same was often said of Horowitz and Gould.

 

In between this trio, Carpenter played his own Serenade and Fugue, or as he called it,
his homage to Bach, written (in 7 days) because he didn’t like Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on the name B-A-C-H.
It was also, ironically, the only piece of the evening for which he used a
score. Liszt also appeared at the end of the first half in two sparkling Carpenter
transcriptions: the Transcendental tude No. 5 in B-flat (Feux follets) and the tude No. 3 (La campanella).

 

The second half of the program consisted of three more Carpenter
transcriptions, beginning Brahms’ Academic
Festival Overture.
This program was billed as part of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s “Brahms Unbound” series, which means that if you attended the
Phil’s concert in the afternoon you heard two quite different takes on this
familiar overture. Carpenter’s concept was big and bold but this was just a
warm up for the balance of the program, which began with his rendering of the
Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor (which, since Bach originally wrote the piece
for solo violin, meant this was a transcription of a transcription). You had to
listen hard to imagine the original piece, but Carpenter’s take was elegant in
its own way.

 

The concert concluded with the final movement of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 5 (to quote the late Anna Russell, “I’m not making this up”).
Carpenter explained that he wrote the piece at age 15 only to realize when he finished
that the was work was “unplayable.” He set it aside for 15 years and picked it
up again seven months ago; last night, essentially, was the work’s world
premiere.

 

A century ago, when orchestras were far less prevalent than
they are today, organists often used to transcribe symphonic works but not, I
suspect, anything like this. If you know Mahler’s 5th, what
Carpenter did with it was amazing; if you don’t, it was long, complex and
bewildering. Like everything else (except for his own Serenade), he played it from memory, a mind-boggling achievement in
itself.

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Gustavo Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic open “Brahms Unbound”

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Leonidas Kavokos, violin

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor and Academic Festival Overture;

Dutilleux: L’arbre des
songes, (The Tree of Dreams)

Friday, May 6, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performance: Sunday at 2 p.m.

Info: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

Success is a mercurial word when it comes to evaluating
conductors but at least one measure of that elusive quality is how any maestro
(or maestra) handles “meat the potatoes” repertory staples, including the music
of Johannes Brahms.

 

For the next five weeks, Gustavo Dudamel — the 30-year-old
Venezuelan who is completing his second season as music director of the Los
Angeles Philharmonic — is going to show us at least some of his thoughts and
feelings about Brahms’ four symphonies and Ein
Deutsches Requiem
under the banner of “Brahms Unbound” at Walt Disney
Concert Hall.

 

This week’s concerts feature Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and the Symphony No. 1, and if last
night’s performance is any indication, success will be just one of the
laudatory words that will be heaped upon Dudamel and the Phil by the time the
festival concludes in the first week of June.

 

Dudamel and Co. opened the evening with a stylish and
rhythmically precise rendition of the Academic
Festival Overture,
highlighting the four student songs that Brahms worked
into the 10-minute piece.

 

That was a foretaste of what was to come with the first
symphony after intermission. Conducting without a score, Dudamel seemed to
shape every note and phrase, beginning the opening measures, which he took at an
ultra-luxurious tempo. Dudamel had a lot to say about this familiar work and
his concepts kept the audience fully involved throughout. He also took a few
seconds extra between the first and second and second and third movements to
let people exhale, although he moved almost without pause from the third
movement to the fourth.

 

The final two movements were typical Dudamel; you may not
have liked everything he had to say but what he elicited from the orchestra was
compelling. The third movement began lyrically, then moved forward with sense
of urgency. The final movement opened very slowly and softly but Dudamel never
relaxed the tension for an instant, so that the opening bars moved inexorably
toward the familiar main theme and from thence on to the dramatic, cathartic
ending.

 

Dudamel was in his element on the podium; although his
gestures weren’t as histrionic as they can be when he’s conducting Mahler, for
example, every movement meant something musically and both his smile and fierce
concentration were infectious. The orchestra played as it always seems to do
when the boss is at the helm: at the peak of their collective game and the
audience was, of course, on their feet at the end.

 

The original concept for “Brahms Unbound” was to pair the
major Brahms works with new pieces, including three world premieres and one
U.S. premieres. The U.S. premiere — Sofia Gubaidulina’s Glorious Percussion — remains scheduled for May 19-22 (along with
Brahms’ Symphony No. 2) but the other works have bitten the dust: Polish
composer Henryk Gorecki died last November before completing his Symphony No. 4
and Peter Lieberson passed away last month, apparently before finishing his
percussion concerto.

 

No such fate befell Osvaldo Golijov; unfortunately, as has
been the case too often of late, the Argentine composer simply failed to
complete his Violin Concerto in time for it to receive its world premiere this
week. Instead, Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos was the soloist in Henri
Dutilleux’s violin concerto L’arbre des
songes,
which is subtitled The Tree
of Dreams.

 

This was the first LAPO performance of this work, which was
completed in 1985 and written for Isaac Stern. It’s a brooding, mysterious,
complicated piece that has four movements tied together with three interludes (as
Dutilleux termed them), a structural device that he employed in his previous
cello concerto, according to the program note by John Henken.

 

Kavakos, who was to have been the soloist for the Golijov
concerto, brought his considerable talents to Dutilleux’s score, instead. That
included a rich tone and a thoughtful traversal of Dutilleux’s meanderings.
Dudamel and the orchestra accompanied sympathetically.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Dudamel continues to offer beautiful lessons on how to
accept audience following a successful performance, wading into the orchestra
to acknowledge individuals and entire sections, turning the orchestra around to
acknowledge applause from all sides, including the rear, and taking his own
bows from deep within the ensemble, arms around his musical colleagues.

After the final performance of this program tomorrow, next
up on the agenda is Ein Deutches Requiem
(A German Requiem)
next week (Thursday-Sunday), paired with another violin
concerto, the West Coast premiere of Steven Mackey’s Beautiful Passing. Leila Josefowicz will be the soloist in the
concerto (Mackey wrote the piece for her). The Los Angeles Master Chorale and
soloists Christine Schfer, soprano, and Matthias Goerne, baritone, will sing
in the Requiem.

Both pieces have in common the death of the composers’
mothers. Mackey’s mother died during the composition of his work in 2008; the
title comes from her last words, “Please tell everyone I had a beautiful
passing.” After Brahms’ mother died in 1865, he inserted the fifth movement
into A German Requiem, in which a
soprano soloist sings the prophet Isaiah’s words, “As one whom his own mother
comforteth, so I will comfort you.” Info: www.laphil.com

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on May 5, 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. It’s a “six pack” this week; that
makes up for listing only four last week. As usual, there’s one with no
admission charge.

 

This week’s grouping:

______________________

 

Today, tomorrow and
Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Mark Morris Dance
Group and Los Angeles Opera

One of America’s premiere terpsichorean
companies (this is its 30th anniversary season), the Mark Morris Dance Group
joins forces with Los Angeles Opera for the first time in four performances of L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,
a work that Morris first choreographed in 1988 to music of George Frederic
Handel and the poetry of John Milton.

 

The production features 24 dancers, and four soloists:
sopranos Hei-Kyung Hong and Sarah Coburn, tenor Barry Banks and bass-baritone
John Relyea. Grant Gershon conducts the LA Opera Orchestra. Alastair Macaulay
of the New York Times wrote one of the most glowing reviews I’ve ever read when
this production played in Manhattan last August as part of Lincoln Center’s
“Mostly Mozart Festival.” (LINK). INFO: www.laopera.com

 

Thursday and Friday
at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall

Gustavo Dudamel and
the Los Angeles Philharmonic open “Brahms Unbound”

Dudamel and the Phil conclude their 2010-2011 Disney Hall
season over the next five weeks with programs that pair major works by Brahms
with contemporary pieces. This week it’s the Symphony No. 1 in C Minor joined by
and Henri Dutileux’s 1985 work, L’arbre
des songes,
a violin concerto whose title translates The Tree of Dreams. Leonidas Kavakos will be the soloist in the
concerto. Brahms’ Academic Festival
Overture
opens each evening. INFO: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium

Psaadena Symphony;
Maximiano Valds, conductor; Chu-Fang Huang, piano

In the final concert of the PSO’s 82nd season, the
Chilean-born Valds conducts Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Liszt’s Piano
Concerto No. 2 in A minor, with young Chinese pianist Chu-Fang Huang as
soloist. INFO: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
in Pasadena Presbyterian Church; Sunday at 2 p.m. in First Presbyterian Church,
Santa Monica

Musica Angelica plays
Bach’s “Brandenburgs”

Music Director Martin Haselbck leads his early-music
ensemble in Nos. 3, 5 and 6 of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, along with the
Double Concerto for violin and oboe and Suite No. 2 for flute and orchestra.
Soloists will be oboist Gonzalo Xavier Ruiz, flutist Stephen Schultz, and
Musica Angelica’s concertmaster Ilia Korol. The orchestra will just have
returned from performing these works at the famed Musikverein in Vienna on
Monday. INFO: www. musicaangelica.org

 

Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
in Walt Disney Concert Hall

Cameron Carpenter,
organist

This is a great 24 hours for organ lovers. Cameron Carpenter
is either one of the most electrifying or exasperating organists playing today,
depending on your tastes. The dichotomy begins with his concert attire (usually
white sequined T-shirt with jeans) but it doesn’t stop there. If you’ve never
seen this young virtuoso perform before, you can view several performances via
YouTube HERE.

 

Typical of Carpenter, he doesn’t announce his “official”
program in advance. This concert was originally billed as part of the L.A.
Phil’s “Brahms Unbound” series and listed Carpenter’s transcriptions of the composer’s
Academic Festival Overture and
Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, WoO 10. Subsequent publicity is saying the
program will be drawn from “Jazz etudes by Nikolai Kapustin; piano encores by
Vladimir Horowitz, Arcadi Volodos, and Cyprien Katsaris; compositions by
Brahms, Bach, Carpenter, Chopin, Dupr, Grainger, Hanson, Honegger, Liszt, and
Ravel; as well as film scores by Gershwin, Hisaishi, and Williams.”

 

Whatever … it should all be a hoot on the Disney Hall organ,
or as Terry Riley dubbed it, “Hurricane Mama.” INFO: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program (actually, it’s
on Monday, who but who’s counting) …

 

Monday at 8 p.m. at Pasadena
Presbyterian Church

Chelsea Chen,
organist

When I heard the San Diego native in 2008 at Disney Hall, I
was highly impressed (LINK) and getting to hear her for free on PPC’s 112-rank
Aeolian-Skinner organ should be quite a treat. The program lists music by Dupr,
Debussy, Faur, Prokofiev (with guest violinist Lewis Wong), and Durufl. This
concert is co-sponsored by the Los Angeles and Orange County chapters of the
American Guild of Organists but it’s open to the public. INFO: www.laago.org

_______________________

 

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

 

 

NEWS AND LINKS: DGG boxed set of Carlo Maria Giulini recordings with Chicago Symphony to be released July 5

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Deutsche Grammophon’s new retrospective of recordings by
Carlo Maria Giulini with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to be
released in the U.S. on July 5. Here’s the rundown on what will be on this
five-CD boxed set.

 

CD 1

*SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D 417 “Tragic”

*DVORK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op.95 From the New World

 

CD 2

*SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944 “The Great”

*PROKOFIEV: Symphony No .1 in D major, op. 25 Symphonie classique

 

CD 3

*DVORK: Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op.88

*MUSSORGSKY/RAVEL: Pictures
at an Exhibition

 

CD 4

MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 (Movements I-III)

 

CD 5

MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 (Movement IV)

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759 “Unfinished”

*BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, op.31

Robert Tear, tenor / Dale Clevenger, horn

 

*Restored to the catalogue

 

As you can see by the asterisk, most of these recordings
have not been available for some time.

 

Last September, DGG released a boxed set of recordings that
the revered Italian conductor made while music director of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic (LINK). EMI Angel Classics has also issued a set of its recordings
with Giulini and the CSO (LINK). Giulini’s 97th birthday would have been May 9;
he died in 2005.

_______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: New Mexico Symphony shuts its doors

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Add the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra to the list of
ensembles that have fallen prey to financial troubles. The NMSO filed for
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy last week, a move that apparently spells the end of the
orchestra that began in 1932. The balance of the orchestra’s season was
cancelled and approximately 80 musicians and staff members lost their jobs.
Click HERE for the Albuquerque Journal
story.

It’s probably symptomatic of the orchestra’s problems that
it couldn’t even handle its demise successfully. Although the decision was
announced in the Albuquerque media on April 20, the orchestra posted no notice
on its Web site about the Chapter 7 filing or the concert cancellations. According
to several ticket holders, they received no information about the cancellations
or what to do about the tickets they had already purchased. (The Journal story says they will not receive
refunds and will be part of the bankruptcy claim.)

 

At least two-dozen people showed up at the National Hispanic
Cultural Center for the scheduled concert this afternoon, only to be told of
the news by an apologetic box office representative. I was one of them — my
wife and I are on a vacation trip and I had planned on attending the concert. I
talked to several of the people who showed up and, while all knew the orchestra
was in serious financial troubles, none knew of the cancellation or the Chapter
7 filing.

 

According to one story (LINK), orchestra musicians hope that
a new ensemble can be formed. Orchestra members played a final “thank you”
concert last night at the Popejoy Center, one of its two home halls (NHCC is
the other).

 

Last month, the Philadelphia Orchestra filed for
reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, but it is continuing to
perform concerts. The Louisville Orchestra is also in the midst of bankruptcy
proceedings. Orchestras in Honolulu and San Jose have gone under in recent
years and others, including the Pasadena Symphony, continue to battle through
serious financial difficulties.

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Pasadena Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic prepare to conclude seasons

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

This column was
originally printed today in the Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley
Tribune/Whittier Daily News

 

The phrase “The beginning of the end” takes on two quite
different meanings over the next month in Southern California’s classical music
scene.

 

Next Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium,
Chilean-born conductor Maximiano Valds will lead the Pasadena Symphony in the
final concert of its 82nd season, conducting Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and
Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major with Chinese pianist Chu-Fang Huang as
soloist.

 

Meanwhile on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall,
Gustavo Dudamel begins the final five weeks of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s
92nd season with a survey entitled “Brahms Unbound,” which will feature all
four Brahms symphonies and Ein Deutsches
Requiem (A German Requiem)
paired with other works, including a U.S.
premiere, a West Coast premiere and (this weekend) a rarely performed piece
that dates from 1985.

 

When the Pasadena Symphony was in long-range planning mode
for its 2010-2011 season, Music Director Jorge Mester had planned on leading
concerts in the orchestra’s long-time home, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Then
came the move to the smaller and acoustically superior Ambassador Auditorium.
However, Ambassador wasn’t available for the final concert’s original date and
Mester wasn’t free on May 7 so Valds was engaged.

 

Subsequently, Mester and the orchestra parted ways and Valds
– currently music director of the Puerto Rico Symphony and head of that
country’s prestigious Casals Festival — ended up becoming the last of five
guest conductors during the current season.

 

Huang, the soloist for the Liszt second concerto, epitomizes
one of the best aspects of Mester’s 25-year tenure as music director. Jorge had
an uncanny ability to uncover young, relatively unknown artists and present
them early in their career (e.g., Midori, Robert McDuffie, among others). The
25-year-old Huang would appear to fit in that category.

 

When Dudamel and the Philharmonic planned “Brahms Unbound”
as the conclusion to their 2010-2011 season, each of the Brahms works was to be
paired with a new work, including two world premieres. Two postponements and
the death of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki last fall put the kibosh on that
intriguing goal but the programs will, nonetheless, offer some interesting
counterpoints to the question of what interpretative ideas Dudamel will bring
to the ultra-familiar four symphonies and, in particular (to these ears, at any
rate) A German Requiem.

 

This weekend’s concerts (Thursday, Friday and Saturday
evenings and Sunday afternoon) will pair Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 with Henri
Dutileux’s 1985 work, L’arbre des songes,
a violin concerto whose title translates The
Tree of Dreams.
Leonidas Kavakos will be the soloist.

 

Next weekend (also Thursday-Sunday) brings the West Coast
premiere of another violin concerto: Steven Mackey’s Beautiful Passing, along with A
German Requiem.
The soloist in the Mackey work — which was inspired by the
death of his mother and was premiered in 2008 in Manchester England — will be
violinist Leila Josefowicz, for whom the concerto was written.

 

Next Sunday evening brings one of the most eagerly awaited
organ recitals in recent memory as Cameron Carpenter makes his first appearance
playing the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ at 7:30 p.m. Carpenter is one of the
most talented and flamboyant organist playing today; if you’ve never heard him,
and especially if organ recitals aren’t your standard concert fare, this is one
program you don’t want to miss.

 

Carpenter, who turns age 30 this year, rarely provides his
program ahead of time, but the Phil says the music will be drawn from the
following: Jazz etudes by Nikolai Kapustin; piano encores by Vladimir Horowitz,
Arcadi Volodos, and Cyprien Katsaris; compositions by Brahms, Bach, Carpenter,
Chopin, Dupr, Grainger, Hanson, Honegger, Liszt, and Ravel; as well as film
scores by Finzi, Gershwin, Hisaishi and Williams.

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