FOLLOWUP: “Porgy and Bess” — opera or musical?

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Last Saturday in the Pasadena Pops concert, the orchestra’s
new principal conductor, Marvin Hamlisch, alluded to a new production of Porgy and Bess now being prepared back
east, declaring that he was pleased that it was being produced as a Broadway
musical instead of an opera In my review (HERE), I responded, “I do, however,
take issue with Hamlish’s contention that Porgy
and Bess
is a musical. I realize that director Diane Paulus is
working on a new production of what she calls The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which is supposed to recast
the work as a musical, but, in the words of Ira Gershwin, ‘It Ain’t Necessarily
So’ — i.e., it’s an opera.”

 

I’m not the only one who doesn’t agree with the production.
An article by composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim in today’s New York Times castigating the concept
is HERE (it also appears in a number of other media outlets).

 

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/stephen-sondheim-takes-issue-with-plan-for-revamped-porgy-and-bess/?ref=music

 

_______________________

 

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

(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Marvin Hamlisch and Pasadena Pops at the Rose Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Pops; Marvin
Hamlisch, conductor

“Marvin Does Broadway”

Saturday, August 6, 2011 The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose
Bowl

Next concert: August 27, 2011 “Marvin Does Movies”

Info: www.pasadena-symphony.org

______________________

 

54366-Hamlisch-thumb-216x171-54365.jpg

There may have been more important ways to spend a Saturday
night but few, if any, could have been more pleasurable than spending last night
with Marvin Hamlisch, the Pasadena Pops and an array of soloists under balmy
skies and a bright half-moon at The Lawn Adjacent to the Rose Bowl.

 

A good-sized crowd turned out (particularly impressive
considering there was competition from the California Philharmonic’s Rodgers
and Hammerstein program at the Arboretum and from the staged production of Hairspray at Hollywood Bowl) to hear
Hamlisch and friends work their way through a couple of dozen selections from
Broadway, the place where Hamlisch quipped “tickets cost $150 and parking is
$900.”

 

That sort of witty, yet gentle repartee is part of what
makes a Hamlisch concert go down so easily. His banter ranged from the
downgrading of the nation’s credit rating from AAA to AA+ to joking with KABC
weatherman Dallas Raines about the region’s relentlessly constantly good weather.
Mid-show he dashed off a spunky set of piano variations on Happy Birthday in the styles of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven — shades
of Victor Borge!

 

More than anything, however, Hamlisch succeeds by connecting
with all ages in the audience in part because his comments on the music are
intelligent even when they’re brief. For example, he and the orchestra opened
with two Rodgers and Hammerstein overtures, with Hamlisch explaining that the Oklahoma overture was the traditional, “Hey,
come on in” collection of song that would appear in the show, while the Carousel Waltz was radically different
because the music never reappears and the curtain is open at the beginning, not
closed.

 

(I do, however, take issue with Hamlish’s contention that Porgy and Bess is a musical. I realize
that director Diane Paulus is working on a new production of what she calls The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which is
supposed to recast the work as a musical, but, in the words of Ira Gershwin, “It
Ain’t Necessarily So” — i.e., it’s an opera).

 

One of things that make Hamlisch’s programs succeed is that
they are really a descriptive phrase of the former Pops music director, Rachael
Worby, programming for the iPod mentality). About the only thing he didn’t do
was to identify all the shows from whence the music came (although there was a
list of the shows in the program).

 

In addition to his commentary, Hamlisch conducted decently,
if not with great flair (he does seem to bury his head in the score quite a
bit), played the piano (sometimes doing both at the same time), and even sang a
duet with Cady Huffman for one his own tunes, They’re Playing Our Song, which Huffman informed people was the
show with which she made her professional debut at the La Mirada Theater. Apart
from a few rough patches, the Pops orchestra playing was typically first-rate.

 

Individually and as ensembles the three soloists provided
many of the evening’s high points (there was actually a fourth soloist at the
conclusion of the first act: Steven Brinberg, who did a neat takeoff on
Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond — my original review didn’t identify him by name).

 

As a trio, Huffman, Anne Runolfsson and Gary Mauer offered a
poignant rendition of Send in the Clowns,
while Runolfsson and Mauer played Anything
You Can Do I Can Do Better
with typical over-the-top foolishness (although she
did display the requisite amount of impressive power).

 

Huffman vamped a slinky Ulla from The Producers while Mauer offered a winsome rendition of Begin the Beguine and later had the
evening’s funniest moment with another witty Cole Porter song, The Tale of the Oyster.

 

To conclude the evening, Mauer joined with Runolfsson,
Hamlisch and the orchestra to finish the evening on the highest and most
powerful of notes as they reprised their roles in The Phantom of the Opera, a performance that should have impressed
even the most ardent “Phantom” haters and did bring forth a thunderous standing
ovation from the others.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Although the Pops uses video screens on both sides of the
stages, the camera work remains mediocre and the lighting continues to have
problem, rendering people’s faces much redder than they really are (Huffman and
Runolfsson looked like they had Rosacea).

Hamlisch listens to his audience. After hearing reports
that some people (not everyone, I hasten to add) were upset that the first
concert didn’t begin with The Star
Spangled Banner,
Hamlisch opened with the National Anthem last night, then
quipped that the balance of the program would be SSBs from countries around the world.

One thing I’m going to miss when the Pops moves to the
Arboretum is the convenient parking adjacent to the Rose Bowl venue and the
fast getaways that patrons have.

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Cleaning out the inbox

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of this
article was first published today in the above papers.

 

THE PASADENA POPS
AND THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY ARBORETUM
have finalized a contract for the
orchestra to appear at the Arcadia facility beginning next summer. The
three-year agreement with an "evergreen" clause will also see the Pops become
the Arboretum's presenting partner. Dates for the Pops' concerts in 2012 are
June 26, July 21, August 18 and September 8. Happily for fans of both the Pops
and the California Philharmonic -- which shifts from the Arboretum to next-door Santa
Anita Racetrack next summer -- that means the two organizations will not
conflict on dates, a good thing from a parking and traffic point of view. The
Pops also envisions "family concerts, outdoor theatre, silent films, as well as
Asian-influenced performances, to name a few," according to Paul Jan
Zdunek, CEO of the Pasadena Symphony Association; programming details will follow
in the coming weeks. MORE

 

MUSE-IQUE, the
new ensemble headed by former Pops music director Rachael Worby, will appear in
a free concert of American music on the steps of Pasadena's City Hall at 6 p.m.
on Sept. 11 commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

 

THE LOS ANGELES
PHILHARMONIC
has promoted outgoing associate conductor Lionel Bringuier to
the new post of resident conductor through the 2012/2013 season. MORE

 

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL,
music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be featured on a new DGG box
set of CDs next month conducting the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra of Sweden
(one of three orchestras he currently helms) in Bruckner's Symphony No. 9,
Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 and Nielsen's Symphonies No. 5 and. 4 (The Inextinguishable).

 

Gramophone Magazine
(which is published in England) devotes its cover story for the August 2011
issue to Dudamel and this new recording. It's an interesting article but not
easy to find. The print edition costs $10 (U.S.) and the only way to find it
online at this point is to subscribe ($63.14 per year or $16.21 for three
months). Like other digital magazines, you get the full pages and have to
scroll through them (i.e., they're not converted to easily readable text).
However, the publication does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not
satisfied.

 

Los Angeles Times
Music Critic Mark Swed dwells on Dudamel's upcoming DGG release, which Dudamel
recorded at the beginning of his tenure with the Swedish orchestra (he became
that ensemble's music director in 2007; next season will be his sixth and last
in that capacity, although he will continue to work with the ensemble as its "honorary
conductor").

 

Two things make this upcoming recording intriguing, as Swed
points out in the article. First, the works are pieces that Dudamel has yet to
conduct in Los Angeles. Second, the performances show him at a very young age
(he was 26 when he came to Sweden) and he talks with Swed about how his
concepts have changed -- and are changing -- even in just a few years. The
article shows us a different side of Dudamel than we've seen so far in L.A.
BTW: there's a great photo of young Gustavo -- wearing glasses and with short
hair. You might not recognize him without the caption!

 

THE L.A. PHIL has
announced the 2011-2012 participants in the Dudamel Fellowship Program: Joshua Dos Santos of Venezuela, Mihaela Cesa-Goje of Romania (the first
woman ever selected for the fellowship), Courtney
Lewis
of Northern Ireland and Boston, and Santtu Rouvali of Finland.

 

Each of the four conductors spends 4-6 weeks working with
Dudamel, Phil musicians and with students in LAPO education programs. During
their time (Santos, Lewis and Rouvali will have two time blocks), the fellows
will both observe and gain hands-on experience. The Dudamel Fellowship was
instituted in 2009. One of the inaugural class, Perry So, is leading Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings on Tuesday's Hollywood Bowl program and a
member of last year's class, Joshua
Weilerstein,
was recently named as one of two assistant conductors at the
New York Philharmonic (MORE). Details on the new class are HERE.

 

JOANN FALLETTA,
who once headed up the Long Beach Symphony, has renewed her contracts with the
Buffalo Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony and been named principal conductor
of the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

 

The Buffalo Philharmonic contract takes her through the
2015-2016 season; she was the first woman to head a major orchestra when she
took over that position in 1999 at the age of 45. The Virginia Symphony
contract is for another three years with an option for an additional two years.
She becomes the first American and first woman to serve with the Ulster
Orchestra.

 

Violinist JOSHUA
BELL,
who is appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic next week at
Hollywood Bowl (DETAILS), has been named music director of the

Academy of
St.-Martin-in-the-Fields in London. According to Gramophone, Bell will conduct performances from the violin chair as
opposed to standing on a podium (at the Bowl he will lead the Phil in Vivaldi's
The Four Seasons while playing the
solo parts). Kenneth Sillito remains as the ASMF artistic director and will
also conduct. Pianist Murray Perahia has been the group's principal guest conductor
for several years.

 

THE L.A. PHIL has
announced the 2011-2012 participants in the Dudamel Fellowship Program: Joshua Dos Santos of Venezuela, Mihaela Cesa-Goje of Romania, Courtney Lewis of Northern Ireland and
Boston, and Santtu Rouvali of
Finland.

 

Each of the four conductors spends 4-6 weeks working with
Dudamel, Phil musicians and with students in LAPO education programs. During
their time (Santos, Lewis and Rouvali will have two time blocks), the fellows
will both observe and gain hands-on experience. The Dudamel Fellowship was
instituted in 2009. One of the inaugural class, Perry So, is leading
Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings on
Tuesday's Hollywood Bowl program and a member of last year's class, Joshua
Weilerstein, was recently named as one of two assistant conductors at the New
York Philharmonic (MORE). Details on the new class are HERE.

 

UPCOMING NOTABLE
CONCERTS:
The Cal Phil plays
today at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall and concludes its 2011 summer
season on Aug. 21 at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and 22 at Disney Hall
(DETAILS)

 

Southwest Chamber
Music
concludes its summer festival at The Huntington Library tonight at
7:30 p.m. and August 20-21, also at 7:30 p.m. (DETAILS)

 

John Mauceri returns to conduct the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, which he founded 20 years ago, on Aug.
19, 20 and 21, playing the score to Walt Disney's 1940 movie classic "Fantasia"
while the movie is shown on the Bowl's large screens. (DETAILS). This is one of
my "don't miss" concerts of the Bowl season.

_____________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: 9/11 Concerts beginning to appear on schedule

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

The question about how classical music will commemorate the
10th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks isn’t really “how” but “how many?” Because
9/11 falls on a Sunday this year, most churches will likely pay tribute in
their worship services. However, details of special musical events are also
beginning to emerge.

 

The Pasadena Master
Chorale
will honor the day with a performance of Faur’s Requiem at 4 p.m.
at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church. Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein will
lead the concert, which will open with four a cappella American works: a
traditional setting of Psalm 137, By The
Waters of Babylon;
Virgil Thompson’s My
Shepherd Will Supply My Need
; Words
To Be Spoken
, by Ross Lee Finney; and Bernstein’s own arrangement of America the Beautiful.

 

The Faur Requiem is a logical choice for this type of
concert. As Bernstein notes, “Perhaps the lightest of the well-known Requiem
settings, Faure’s Requiem is tuneful and direct, ending with music of ethereal
beauty and promise.” Soprano Krystle Casey and Baritone Cedric Berry will be
the soloists in the Requiem, which will be accompanied by Edward Murray on the
church’s pipe organ. DETAILS

 

Incidentally, the PMC will present a summer concert entitled
“My Spirit Sang All Day” on Aug. 14 at 4 p.m. at La Crescenta Pres. Bernstein
will conduct music ranging from Purcell, Elgar, William Billings and Ralph
Vaughan Williams to Ernst Krenek and Matthew Harris. DETAILS

 

The first group out of the block on 9/11 commemorations
was the Los Angeles Philharmonic,
which will use its Hollywood Bowl concert on Tuesday, Sept. 13, as a tribute to
those who died in the attack. The program will include the other “most obvious”
musical choice — Mozart’s Requiem — and pair it with Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. Bramwell Tovey, who
for the past two seasons was the Phil’s principal guest conductor at the Bowl,
will lead the orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists Heidi Stober, soprano;
Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano; Nicholas Phan, tenor; and Matthew
Rose, bass-baritone. Chichester
Psalms
calls for a boy treble but he hasn’t been named yet (at least the
name isn’t on the Web site). DETAILS

 

BTW: the Bowl’s concert on 9/11 will be a rock concert
featuring The National;

Neko Case,
with special guest T Bone Burnett
; and Sharon Van
Etten
in what the HB Web site describes as “an evening of
triumphant, powerful and poetic American rock music [celebrating] our spirit
and resolve under the stars of the summer sky.” DETAILS

 

Muse-ique, Rachael
Worby’s new ensemble, has announced it will participate in a free concert of
American music at 6 p.m. on the steps of Pasadena’s City Hall, but no details
have been forthcoming.

 

More will surely arrive in the in-box during the weeks
ahead.

_______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: Jorge Mester named artistic director of Young Musicians Foundation

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

The revision is to correct the location of the Nov. 6 concert.

 

54337-MesterImage-thumb-160x240-54336.jpg

Jorge Mester, who for 25 years was music director of the Pasadena
Symphony, has been named artistic director of the Young Musicians Foundation and
its Debut Orchestra. The 76-year-old Mester will continue in his current
positions as Music Director of the Louisville Symphony and Naples (Fla.)
Philharmonic, although the Louisville ensemble is embroiled in a major
financial struggle at the moment.

 

Founded in 1955 and based in Los Angeles, the YMF is one of
the nation’s top pre-professional training orchestras. Its list of former music
directors includes such illustrious names as Andr Previn, Myung-Whun Chung and
Michael Tilson Thomas.

 

Last week, the its most recent maestro, Case Scaglione, was
named an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, joining Joshua
Weilerstein, who was a Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic last
year, in that post assisting Music Director Alan Gilbert (MORE).

 

Scaglione’s YMF predecessor, Sean Newhouse, is now assistant
conductor of the Boston Symphony. Last season he won praise from audiences and
critics alike when he stepped in on two hours notice to replace James Levine
and conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 with the BSO (MORE).

 

Thus, Mester (who has served on the YMF Advisory Board for
12 years) takes his new position at a propitious time for the organization. He
will help select and mentor the YMF’s next music director (it’s usually a
three-year appointment) and is preparing an expanded conductor program where he
will serve as a mentor for those people, as well. He will also supervise
auditions for the orchestra’s new musicians next month.

 

It’s a role for which Mester is eminently suited. He headed
the conducting program at The Juilliard School in New York City in the 1980s, taught
conducting at the USC Thornton School of Music, and was the Aspen Festival’s
artistic director for many years (he is now conductor laureate there). Several
conductors heading orchestras today, including JoAnn Falletta (Buffalo
Philharmonic) count Mester as a mentor. During his time with the Pasadena
Symphony, he also introduced to local audiences a number of young artists who
have gone on to major careers, perhaps most notably the violinist Midori.

 

In addition to his shepherding and teaching work, Mester
will conduct one of the YMF’s six free concerts during the upcoming season,
leading the orchestra in John Adams’ Shaker
Loops
and Bizet’s Symphony in C Major at 6 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the Los Angeles County Art Museum’s Bing Theater.

 

Read Janette Williams’ article in the Pasadena Star-News HERE.

The YMF media release is HERE.

The 2011-2012 YMF Debut Orchestra season is HERE.

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Joana Carneiro and the L.A. Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Joana Carneiro, conductor

Nielsen: “Maskarade” Overture;
Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto; Copland: Clarinet Concerto; Copland: “Appalachian
Spring”
Suite

Thursday, August 4, 2011 Hollywood Bowl

______________________

 

Tuesday and Thursday have been alumni week on the Hollywood
Bowl podium. Tuesday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s outgoing associate
conductor, Lionel Bringuier (now sporting a new title: resident conductor) led
the orchestra in a program of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky (with a major assist
from pianist Yuja Wang — LINK). Last night, Portugal-born conductor Joana
Carneiro, who preceded Bringuier as LAPO associate conductor, led a more
innovative program at the venerable Cahuenga Pass amphitheatre.

 

The “reunion” theme continues next weekend (August 12 and 13
when Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who served as the Phiul’s associate conductor from
1999-2004, returns to lead a Latin-themed program.

 

After Carneiro finished her tenure with the LAPO, she moved
north to the Bay area to become music director of the Berkeley Symphony, where
she replaced Kent Nagano (now heading the Montreal Symphony), who retired from
that innovative ensemble after an impressive 30-year tenure.

 

The 34-year-old Carneiro is a strikingly beautiful woman
whose podium style leans heavily to heart-on-the-sleeve exuberance. She employs
sometimes grand, sometimes fussy, sweeping gestures that seem difficult for
musicians to follow and sometime get in the way of the music rather than
encourage it. Consequently, while there were many positive moments in last
night’s concert there were also others that left us wanting more.

 

The evening opened with a boisterous account of Neilsen’s “Maskarade” Overture followed by what
turned out to be the evening’s highlight: Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg’s
Clarinet Concerto, written in 2002 for his countryman, Kari Kriikku, who was
the soloist last night.

 

This 26-minute, single-movement work is a tour-de-force for
the soloist; in fact, one wonders whether anyone beside Kriikku would attempt
it … or want to. (Amazon.com lists in its catalogue only the original recording
that Kriikku made following the premiere with the Finnish Radio Symphony
Orchestra, conducted by Jukka-Pekka Sarasate.)

 

Kriikku bobs and weaves all over the place as he plays but
that fits the style of the piece, which opens with a jazzy, bluesy solo and
then has the soloist skittering up and down the keyboard, with the orchestra
answering with occasionally dark, ominous chords.

 

There are several cadenzas written into the work; the most
extensive requires the soloist to create multi-phonic sounds (think
double-stops on the violin) that resemble bird sounds, sort of a Finn’s take on
the music of Olivier Messiaen. For all of that, the ending is surprisingly
tonal and majestic. Carneiro led the Philharmonic joyfully through the
accompaniment. The audience responded with a vigorous standing ovation,
particularly for the soloist.

 

After intermission, Paul Meyer was the soloist in a somewhat
subdued reading of Aaron Copland’s 1947 Clarinet Concerto, which sounded tame
when compared with Lindberg’s piece. Meyer played the melancholy first movement
diffidently and sailed gracefully through the cadenza that acts as a bridge to
the concluding, jazzy, upbeat movement. The accompaniment has plenty of
quintessential Copland harmonies and Meyer handled all of them with aplomb.
Carneiro’s reading was carefully couched with Joanne Pearce Martin’s work on
the piano a highlight. Compared to its response to the Lindberg, the audience’s
applause was restrained.

 

Concluding the concert with Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” Suite made sense on several layers. The
original ballet was written two years before the Clarinet Concerto (Appalachian Spring won Copland a
Pulitzer Prize) and there are overtones of that ballet and other familiar
Copland dance pieces in the concerto. Moreover, the orchestral suite leans
heavily on the orchestra’s wind sections and the Phil’s principals — Lorin
Levee, clarinet; Marion Arthur Kuszyk, oboe; Catherine Ransom Karoly, flute;
and Whitney Crockett, bassoon — performed with sensitivity and grace throughout
the evening.

 

Carneiro tended to emphasize speed in the rhythmic, quick
portions and lingered luxuriantly over the slower sections. One suspects that
most of the limited rehearsal time was devoted to the concertos, particularly
the Lindberg, which may have accounted for some ragged rhythmic moments, but
the wistful end was exquisite, fading away into the nighttime air.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

The attendance was 7,501, eight more than Tuesday and
about the average for the past four (i.e., non-Gustavo) weekday crowds.
Considering that the soloists were not big market and the presence of a very
contemporary concerto on the agenda, the number was quite healthy.

There were also fewer aerial intrusions than in past
concerts; one even had the good luck to fly over during intermission. Ask not
why the respite; just be grateful.

______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: L.A. Phil offers “Create Your Own Season” ticket packages

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Summer music seasons are still going strong but upcoming
2011-2012 indoor seasons are just around the corner and the Los Angeles
Philharmonic is offering a chance to secure the best remaining seats at Walt
Disney Concert Hall with its “Create Your Own Season” packages.

 

You buy a minimum of five concerts under this program but
everything is in play (except the gala opening event), including the
performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 at the Shrine Auditorium (LINK). In
fact, if you’re so inclined, you could create a package of only the Mahler
symphonies being performed by the L.A. Phil and the Simn Bolivr Symphony
Orchestra of Venezuela in January and February 2012.

 

You don’t save on ticket prices with this program but you do
get exchange privileges (helpful if you find you have to miss a concert) and
save on handling fees, as well. 

 

INFO: www.laphil.com

 

Single tickets go on sale Aug. 21

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Lionel Bringuier, Yuja Wang and the L.A. Phil at Hollywood Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Lionel Bringuier, conductor; Yuja Wang, piano

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3; Tchaikovsky: Symphony
No. 5

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 Hollywood Bowl

Next concert: Tomorrow at 8 p.m. (Joana Carneiro, conductor

Info: www.hollywoodbowl.com

______________________

 

54215-Bringuier.jpg

Last night’s Hollywood Bowl concert was supposed to have
been tinged with sadness because it was to be the final concert in Lionel
Bringuier’s four-year tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the first as two
assistant conductor and the last two as associate conductor. However, earlier
in the day the Phil announced that Bringuier (pictured right) had been promoted to a new
position, resident conductor, for the next two seasons (LINK).

It’s unclear whether his duties will be any different than
those of associate conductor but, based on last night (and what we have been
hearing for the past four years), it’s a savvy move by the Phil’s management to
keep Bringuier connected with the orchestra.

 

That wasn’t the only reason for celebration last night,
because the soloist for the evening was Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, who — like
Bringuier — is just 24 years old. She’s becoming a regular on LAPO schedules
and with good reason: she’s a pianist with a formidable technique who also
happens to exude a great deal of musicianship in her playing. It also may (or
may not) be worth mentioning that she came on stage last night wearing the
shortest dress I’ve ever seen a female pianist wear, an orange sheath that elicited
gasps from the audience.

 

Her vehicle last night was Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.
3 and her performance also took everyone’s breath away. Like her more
celebrated compatriot, Lang Lang, she played the fast sections VERY fast, so
much so that her hands were a blur on the large video screens on either side of
the stage. Unlike Lang, however, she often sat quietly at the keyboard except
for the requisite power needed to sail through Rach 3′s bravura sections.

 

Yet for me, what I also take away from the performance were
the quiet sections, particularly a few measures in the first movement that
became an exquisite example of musical collaboration between Wang, Clarinetist
Lorin Levee, Flutist Catherine Ransom Karoly and Oboist Marion Arthur Kuszyk.

 

Bringuier kept his eyes focused on Wang throughout the
traversal as he and the orchestra did their best to bend to her tempo changes (the
shifts weren’t particularly willful; they’re just Rachmaninoff). Overall, it
was an invigorating performance; the concerto’s whiz-bang ending always elicits
an instant standing ovation but this time the crowd, which numbered 7,493 was remarkably
– and deservedly — vociferous.

 

Wang returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall November 4, 5 and 6
when her vehicle is Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (James Conlon will conduct
INFO) When individual tickets go on sale Aug. 21, you would be well advised
to lock in your ducats before they sell out.

 

After intermission, Bringuier led the Phil in Tchaikovsky’s
Symphony No. 5. There was more than a little irony in the fact that Bringuier’s
final Phil concert was supposed to conclude with this piece, because it was
with this symphony that Gustavo Dudamel made his LAPO debut in 2005 at the Bowl
(click HERE for Alan Rich’s prescient review from that September evening).

 

Alan (who died in 2010) was also very bullish on Bringuier;
one wonders what he would have thought of the young Frenchman’s brash take on
this familiar work. If you like your Tchaikovsky grandiose, then this wasn’t a
night for you. Instead, Bringuier stripped away the pomposity and led a bracing,
thought-provoking performance.

 

Even with the Bowl’s limited rehearsal schedule, Bringuier
got the strings to play with a lean sound that allowed the many wind solos to
come through clearly (it helped that the amplification was on good behavior
last night). The opening was somber, highlighted by Lorin Levee’s clarinet
solos, one of many times for the Phil’s veteran Principal Clarinetist to shine.
Moreover, Bringuier dared to draw out the silences in that opening section, not
easy amid rolling bottles and chirping crickets.

 

Conducting without a score, Bringuier essentially played the
symphony in two large movements, taking almost no time between the first and
second movement or between the final two sections. His tempos reflected their
descriptions to the max; after the first-movement opening, the Allegro con anima section was, indeed,
animated, and in the final movement the Allegro
vivace
really emphasized the vivace appellation.
Even the third movement, while having some lilting qualities, propelled forward
a real sense of urgency.

 

Overall, this was (no surprise) a young person’s guide to
the symphony. With it came an amazing amount of thought for someone who is
still learning his art. It also demonstrated exciting prospects for what the
future holds for him … and, hopefull, for us, as well.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

With temperatures having soared over the century mark in
the afternoon, nearly all of the men elected not to wear white dinner jackets,
although a couple donned them after intermission. The balmy evening actually
was one of the most pleasant in recent memory.

Among my memories from the Tchaikovsky were the unusually
tender horn solo at the beginning of the second movement, played by Eric
Overholt, and the sharp brass section attacks that echoed off the nearby
hillsides — quite an interesting effect.

With Principal Concermaster Martin Chalifour off for the
evening, Nathan Cole — the orchestra’s new First Associate Concertmaster (and
holder of the Ernest Fleischmann Chair) slid over into the first chair.

It’s amazing to consider that 50 years from now there will
undoubtedly be people who will listen to Bringuier conduct and Wang play … or
maybe not so amazing. Fifty years ago, Zubin Mehta was named the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s assistant conductor (he was 25 at the time); less than a year
later, he became the orchestra’s music director. And I can still visualize
sitting spellbound in front of my black-and-white television watching
16-year-old Andre Watts as soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Leonard
Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic on a Young People’s Concert on Jan. 15, 1963. Both Mehta and Watts are still going strong (in fact, Watts will
appear the Phil at the Bowl on August 23 as soloist in Liszt’s second piano
concerto — INFO).

_______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: L.A. Philharmonic names Lionel Bringuier as Resident Conductor

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

54215-Bringuier.jpg

In what is either a prudent or remarkably forward-looking
decision, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has named Lionel Bringuier as its Resident
Conductor, an appointment extending through the 2012-2013 season. He’s the
first person to hold this title in the Phil’s nearly century-long history.

 

The 24-year-old Bringuier joined the Phil four years ago as its
youngest-ever assistant conductor. Tonight he concludes his two-year stint as
associate conductor when he leads the orchestra in a Hollywood Bowl program of
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Yuja
Wang as soloist (INFO).

 

Exactly what this new appointment means is unclear, i.e., is
this merely a continuation of Bringuier’s associate conductor role with a new
title and, presumably, a raise or does it portend a more significant long-term
relationship? At a minimum, it gives the Phil a major talent as a backup to
Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. On the other hand, conductors holding this title
in other orchestras often lead several weeks of concerts each year. Orchestral
musicians love this because they enjoy working with conductors on more than a
one-week or even two-week a year basis and, based on results, the Phil
musicians respond beautifully to Bringuier’s podium style.

 

Tonight is Bringuier’s only scheduled concert at the Bowl
this summer and he’s not on the schedule for the upcoming Walt Disney Concert
Hall season — although, since soloists, conductors and programs are always
subject to change — he might make an unscheduled appearance. Given the timing
of the announcement, we won’t know what the long-term ramifications will be until
future seasons are unveiled.

 

Nonetheless, the appointment continues a relationship between
Bringuier and the Philharmonic that has blossomed wonderfully in the four
years. HERE’S my review of his concert last February at Disney Hall; it’s
typical of what the young conductor has accomplished during his four years with
the Phil.

 

Bringuier’s most famous moment came in May 2010 when he took
over mid-concert from an injured Gustavo Dudamel and led an inspired account of
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (here’s a LINK to Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review of that night
and one written by Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register is HERE). BTW:
I was scheduled to review the next morning’s performance; by then, Gustavo was
back on the podium.

At a minimum, today’s appointment gives Bringuier a chance
to continue growing professionally while he continues in his role as music
director of the Orquesta Sinfnica de Castilla y Len in Valladolid, Spain,
where he conducted 10 weeks during the past season. The two-year term also
gives him the freedom to see what unfolds in the near future.

 

Today’s media release said all the predictably correct
things. Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who recently announced his own contract
extension with the organization through the 2018/19 centennial season of the
orchestra, said, “It’s a very exciting time for our Los Angeles Philharmonic
family, and to have Lionel continue with us in his new role makes me very
happy. He is a wonderful colleague and creative partner.”

 

LAPO President and CEO Deborah Borda added, “We first met
Lionel when he was 19, and we knew we’d come across a very special musician.
He’s developed into an extraordinary artist, and is now in demand all over the
world. In recognition of this, we are delighted that he will continue with us
in this specially created new position of Resident Conductor.”

 

Bringuier stated, “The Los Angeles Philharmonic has allowed
me to grow and develop as a musician and it’s a pleasure to extend that
relationship in a place that I consider home. I’m also honored to continue to
be able to work with Gustavo, and be able to learn from him.”

 

Now let’s see what the future will bring.

_______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINK: Rio Hondo Symphony announces 79th season

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

The Rio Hondo Symphony will open its 79th season
of free Sunday afternoon concerts on Sept. 25 when Music Director Kimo Furumoto
leads a program of Rossini’s William Tell
Overture, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica)
and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Alison Edwards as soloist. The Eroica is the third segment in
Furumoto’s plan to perform all nine Beethoven symphonies with the RHS. The year
2011 marks the bicentennial of Liszt’s death.

 

Other concerts in the series:

Oct. 30:
Mozart: Overture to Don Giovanni; Bartok:
Romanian Folk Dances; Dvorak: Czech Suite.

Feb. 5, 2012:
Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little
Night Music);
Bach: Air on the G
String;
Vivaldi: Winter from
The Four Seasons; Holst: St. Paul Suite; Tchaikovsky: Serenade
for Strings.

May 6: Richard
Rogers: selections from Victory at Sea; Reinhold
Gliere: Russian Sailor’s Dance; Debussy:
La Mer. This program will also
present the winners of the orchestra’s Young Artists Competition held in Feb.
2012.

 

All concerts are in Whittier High School’s Vic Lopez
Auditorium.

 

Information: www.riohondosymphony.org 

_______________________

 

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