PREVIEW: L.A. Philharmonic to open 2011-2012 season with gala concert Tuesday

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Herbie Hancock, piano

Gershwin: Cuban
Overture, Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris

Tuesday, Sept. 27; 7 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall




Gustavo Dudamel (L) will conduct the Los Angeles
Philharmonic and Herbie Hancock will be the soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue during Tuesday night’s
gala concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.



Many major American symphony orchestras open their seasons
with splashy gala concerts. Tickets are pricer than normal since the event
usually raises money for a good cause (in this case the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s musicians pension fund and educational programs). Attire is
dressier than normal, even in laid back Los Angeles. Grand Avenue will be
closed off for a post-concert party (which accounts for the 7 p.m. concert


Often these types of concerts are frothy affairs in terms of
music but, as with most everything else he does, Gustavo Dudamel doesn’t follow
standard conventions for his galas. Two years ago in his first Walt Disney Hall
concert as LAPO music director, Dudamel and Co. opened with Mahler’s Symphony
No. 1 and the world premiere of John Adams’ City
Last year’s gala brought Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez to the
Disney Hall stage for a scintillating collection of opera arias and songs, while
“the Dude” and his orchestra danced their way through several overtures and
Latin American numbers (although I’m still waiting for a performance of
Rossini’s William Tell Overture that
got dumped at the last minute).


For Gala No. 3 Tuesday night, Dudamel has planned a program
that seems like it belongs up the freeway at Hollywood Bowl. That, of course,
is one of its charms: the opportunity to hear George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris played indoors in
Disney Hall’s marvelous, natural (i.e., unamplified) acoustics with no wine
bottles or circling helicopters to spoil the music.


However, the most intriguing part of the program is the
soloist for Rhapsody in Blue: 71-year-old jazz legend Herbie Hancock. It will be
interesting to hear (a) whether Hancock plays the concerto “straight” or with
improvisatory twists and (b) what, if anything, extra he’ll do as encores on
Tuesday evening.


Hancock’s fame comes from his work in electronic and
acoustic jazz, along with Rhythm and Blues (his official bio is HERE). In 2010,
he was appointed the LAPO’s Creative Chair for Jazz, but it’s worth noting that
he was a child prodigy who performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago
Symphony at the age of 11.

In addition to his Disney Hall performance, Hancock will
also play Rhapsody in Blue with the
Calgary Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and Oregon Symphony next month.


The L.A. Phil’s 2011-2012 subscription season opens Sept.
30, Oct. 1 and 2 with an all-orchestral (i.e., no soloist) concert that
includes Adams’ Tromba Iontana (a
four-minute-long fanfare), the U.S.
premiere of Rituales Amerindios by
Argentinean composer Esteban Benzecry, and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.


Benzecry wrote Rituales
Amerindios (Amerindian Rituals)
in 2008 on a commission from the Gothenburg
Symphony Orchestra and dedicated it to Dudamel, who first performed it with his
Swedish band in 2010. It’s a 25-minute piece in three movements: I. Ehcatl (Azteca wind god) II. Chaac (Maya water god) III. Illapa (Incan
thunderclap god).



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

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