STORY AND LINKS: 2012 Hollywood Bowl season announced

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Reflecting the economic reality of ticket sales, the 2012
Hollywood Bowl season, officially announced today, continues to add
non-classical programs to what will again be a 14-week season. The Cahuenga
Pass amphitheatre’s 91st season begins June 22 with the annual
Hollywood Bowl of Fame induction concert and concludes Sept. 22 with the
now-traditional Sing-A-Long Sound of
Music
screening of the iconic film.

 

All but one of the Friday-Saturday programs are in the
non-classical category (the exception is the annual “Tchaikovsky Spectacular”
programs on Sept. 7 and 8) and just two of the Sunday concerts are classically
oriented, both conducted by LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel.

 

There’s nothing nefarious about this slow creep. Proceeds
from Bowl ticket sales account for a significant portion of the Phil’s annual
income stream and “pops” fare sells better than classical. This year’s
non-classical concerts include jazz, world music, movie music and Broadway
shows and other popular genres; among the artists are Herbie Hancock, Barry
Manilow, and Liza Minnelli. Along with The
Sound of Music,
the movie evenings include a tribute to Paramount Pictures’
100th anniversary and an program of music from Pixar films (e.g., Toy Story).

 

The 10-week classical season of Tuesday and Thursday
concerts begins July 10 and has several big-name soloists on the agenda. As he
did last summer, Dudamel will conduct two weeks of concerts. The last two
people to hold the title of Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl — Leonard Slatkin and Bramwell Tovey — will
lead concerts along with the Phil’s Resident Conductor, Lionel Bringuier.

 

Returning guest maestros will be Ludovic Morlot, Rafael Frubeck
de Burgos, Stphane Denve, and Nicholas McGegan. The one debut conductor is 28-year-old
Krysztof Urbanski, who began this season as music director of the Indianapolis
Symphony.

 

Dudamel will reprise his “Americas and the Americans” concept that was part of his first Walt
Disney Concert Hall season in 2010 with concerts on Aug. 14 and 16. Thomas
Wilkins, principal guest conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the HBO
will appear as part of this survey on Aug. 17 and 18 and Dudamel will conclude
the “festival” and his two-week Bowl stint on Sunday, Aug. 19, leading the Phil
in a concert that will feature Plcido Domingo as soloist.

 

The week before, Dudamel will lead the Phil on Aug. 7 in a
program of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Schumann’s Cello Concerto, with
Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. The Aug. 9 concert will pair Tchaikovsky’s 4th and his
first piano concerto with Yuja Wang as soloist. The Aug. 12 “Sunday Sunset”
concert will be a concert performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto, with eljko Lui singing the title role.

 

You can get the complete schedule HERE (when you click on an
individual concert, you’ll see more details about each performance). There’s
also a print icon at the top of the page.

 

New season subscription sales begin today (renewals were
sent earlier); single tickets go on sale May 5. Season subscribers get first
crack at the non-subscription concerts before tickets to the latter are offered
to the general public. Information: 323/850-2000;
www.hollywoodbowl.com

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Simn Bolivr
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)

Sunday, January 22, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performance: Tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Mahler: Symphony No. 3; Dudamel and SBSOV

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

I doubt that words (at least my words) can adequately
describe what happened last night at Walt Disney Concert Hall … which won’t
prevent me from trying!

 

Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
has a way of rendering listeners speechless. Part of it is the sheer
audacity that one man could actually write such a monumental piece of music: 90
minutes (almost to the second last night), five movements dealing with death,
resurrection and plenty in between. Six years transpired between the time Mahler
began the piece and completed it. He struggled to find inspiration for every
movement beyond the first. He didn’t find his way in the final movement until
he attended the funeral of conductor Hans von Bulow.

 

Assembling the forces that Mahler called for is a huge
undertaking for any organization. Among other things, the score calls for 10
(!) horns, 6 trumpets, 2 harps, organ, a large percussion section that includes
three timpanists playing two sets of tympani, two soloists and a large chorus
(last night 92 members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale).

 

For this performance — part of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s “Mahler Project” — the Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of
Venezuela bulged the stage with more than 150 musicians, which included 12
basses (stretched to the back of the stage), 17 cellos and more violins and
violas than I could count. The percussionists were so crammed together that the
cymbals player had to be careful not to KO the bass drummer. In the midst of
all of them was a cameraman focusing on Gustavo Dudamel transmitting to an
offstage band that includes brass and timpani.

 

The SBSOV is the flagship ensemble of Venezuela’s “El
Sistema” music education program (it used to be called the SB “Youth” SOV but
many of the “youth” have stayed on to play as the orchestra has gained
international renown during the past decade). Nonetheless, most of the
musicians appeared to still be very young (the group’s bio says the ages are
between 18 and 28).

 

Dudamel has been the group’s music director for 13 years
(since age 18) and he clearly has a special relationship with the musicians.
For one thing, his conducting style seems different with the SBSOV than with
the LA Phil; the responses of the “kids” to his downbeats seemed almost delayed
although in nearly all cases they were razor-sharp. The strings had a lean
sound, the brass gleamed throughout the performance and the winds were
striking. When playing all out, they could storm heaven (there’s lots of that
in this symphony) but in the tender moments they could achieve breathtaking
pianissimos. Although not quite as polished as the Phil, this is an exemplary
orchestra, especially considering the age of its members.

 

Conducting without a score (an amazing feat in itself,
although he’s not the only conductor to do so), Dudamel began with stately
tempos that began to broaden out as the second pass at the opening statement
unfolded. At the end of the first movement, Dudamel ignored what program
annotator John Henken says are Mahler’s “firm instructions to pause for at
least five minutes before launching the Andante.”
Dudamel waited two minutes, just long enough for latecomers to climb into
their seats, the orchestra to retune, and the two soloists to come onstage.

 

Dudamel took the Andante,
which is cast in the form of an Austrian Lndler (folk dance), deliberately
in contrast to the third movement, which he led with a brisk, almost jaunty
air. Mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn sang the fourth movement, Urlicht (Primal Light), with rich tones
and great sensitivity, and her duet with the principal oboe was exquisite. The
marvelously soft ending made the transition to the final movement all the more
shattering.

 

Dudamel was at his most compelling leading the
40-minute-long final movement with its Gross
Appell (Great Call)
from offstage brass that eventually leads to the
chorus, which sang their hushed opening lines, Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n (Rise again, yet rise again), while
seated. Dudamel had all the men of the Master Chorale in the middle surrounded
by the female sections and the resultant tone had a deeply rich ring to it.
Soprano Miah Persson joined her radiant voice with Stotijn and, with the chorus
now on its feet and the Disney Hall organ adding impressive heft, the finale
was a majestic, glorious celebration of resurrection and eternal life.

 

In his erudite preconcert lecture, Gilbert Kaplan described
Mahler as a conductor who demanded that his orchestras treat every performance
as an unparalleled event, that everything be so compelling that the audience would
leave walking on air. Dudamel and the musicians did their parts and the
audience responded with an instant — and well deserved — standing ovation that
lasted 10 minutes and would have gone on longer if Dudamel had not led the
musicians off the stage. After all, in less than 48 hours, they will back for
Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, which is even longer than the second!

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Although it’s cold and flu season (and there was
occasional hacking to be heard) there were also many moments when the hall was
so silent that even breathing was muted,; it’s part of what makes the Disney
Hall acoustics so special.

Kaplan’s hour-long preconcert lecture was well attended;
there were many more people in the hall than for Friday night’s concert talk.
It was obvious many had not attended the Symphony No. 1+10 concert lecture
because Kaplan’s opening “Peanuts” cartoon and punch line that Peppermint Patty
had been “Mahlered” got a big laugh (again). Although some of the material was “resurrected”
from the earlier talk, this was another informative and well-delivered lecture,
with good graphics and musical selections.

Both Kaplan lectures had been open to those not attending
the concerts but the Phil’s management could not say how many people took
advantage of the offer.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Around Town/Music: Chamber music admidst Mahler

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.

 

In the midst of a busy month for orchestral concerts, a
couple of chamber music presentations are worth noting.

 

For more than a quarter-century, Pacific Serenades has
been known for (a) beginning its season after the New Year holiday and (b)
commissioning new works. The inaugural concert of its 2012 season — locally on
Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. in Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church — will feature its 103rd
commissioned work: the world premiere of Different
Lanes
for string quartet and iPad by Los Angeles native and Emmy-award
winning composer Laura Karpman (the title refers to five L.A. freeways) The
program will also include Beethoven’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3,
and Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello (2001).

 

Information:
www.pacser.org

 

Musica Angelica’s concerts next weekend will feature a
performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater,
a work at least as well known through its German version when J.S. Bach put
different German text atop Pergolesi’s music (composers during that time were
freer about “borrowing” music both from themselves and others). Martin Hasselbck
will lead his top-notch period-instrument ensemble along with soloists Dame
Emma Kirkby, soprano, and countertenor Daniel Taylor. Sacred arias by Bach and
Handel will fill out the program.

 

The Jan. 28 performance, at 8 p.m., will be the group’s first
time in the AT&T Center Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Old-timers will
recognize this as the old Transamerica Life headquarters. Radio station KUSC
95.1 FM recently moved to the AT&T Center. Originally used as a conference
hall, the performing space reportedly will be acoustically retrofitted by KUSC
to accommodate small- and medium-size musical groups.

The January 29 (3 p.m.) performance will be at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica.

 

Information:
www.musicaangelica.org

 

The Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela moves
into Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Mahler
Project” gets much busier during the next couple of weeks. Gustavo Dudamel,
music director of both the LAPO and SBSOV, will conduct all performances:

* Today at 7:30 p.m. Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) with the SBSOV, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and
soloists Miah Persson, soprano, and Christianne
Stotijn
, mezzo-soprano.

* Tuesday at 8 p.m., Symphony No. 3 with the SBSOV, women of
the L.A. Master Chorale, L.A. Children’s Chorus, and Stotijn.

* Thursday at 8 p.m., Symphony No. 5 with the SBSOV.

* Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with
the LAPO playing Symphony No. 6.

* Jan. 31 at 8 p.m., Symphony No. 7 with the SBSOV.

* Feb. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. and 5 at 2 p.m. Symphony No. 9 with
the LAPO.

* Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. at the Shrine Auditorium (near USC).
Dudamel will lead members of both orchestras, eight soloists, and more than 800
singers from 16 choruses in a performance of Symphony No. 8 that will live up
to its billing (appended not by Mahler but by a promoter) as”Symphony of a
Thousand.” Note, however, that at Friday night’s L.A. Phil performance of
Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, LAPO President announced that tickets for the
performance has sold out. Check the Phil’s box office (323/850-2000) for
returns and cancellations.

 

Information on the
“Mahler Project” concerts:
www.laphil.com

_______________________

 

My reviews of the LA Phil’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony
No. 4 and Songs of a Wayfarer on Jan.
13 is HERE. My review of the Phil’s performance of Symphony No. 1 is HERE. My
reviews of the upcoming performances will be posted the day after each concert.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Dudamel and L.A. Phil play Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 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

Mahler: Symphony No. 1

Friday, January 20, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performance:
Tonight at 8 (includes Adagio from
Symphony No. 10)

Preconcert lecture by Gilbert Kaplan at 6:30 p.m.

Information: www.laphil.com

  

Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Dudamel and Simn
Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Mahler: Symphony No.
2 (Resurrection)

Preconcert lecture by Gilbert Kaplan at 6:00 p.m.

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

Although it meant not hearing the Adagio from Symphony No. 10, I’m glad that the Los Angeles
Philharmonic elected to make last night’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.
1 part of its “Casual Friday” format.

 

The Phil was one of the first major orchestras — perhaps the
first — to adopt this method of reaching out to people who don’t ordinarily
attend concerts by providing more than music to the experience.

 

“Casual Friday” has obviously struck a chord. These concerts
always draw large crowds, many of whom are regular concertgoers who just like
the somewhat different approach while others match the original target
audience. Giving both groups a chance to experience Gustavo Dudamel’s affinity
for the Austrian composer/conductor who he calls Gustavo Mahler was a smart
move, IMHO.

 

Dudamel has a long history with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. It
was the first major piece he conducted (at the age of 16). Mahler’s first was
also on Dudamel’s inaugural Walt Disney Concert Hall program as the Phil’s 11th
music director on Oct. 8, 2009 and appeared on his first subscription programs
later that week. In 2010, Dudamel and the Phil played the work on a
cross-country U.S. tour.

 

Exciting as those 2009 concerts were, particularly the
inaugural gala concert, there was an edgy, nervous quality to the performances,
even though the orchestra played superbly. Last night, the nervousness was
gone, the feeling more cohesive, and the quality was even better. As cellist
Barry Gold said in the post-concert Q&A, “We [the Phil and Dudamel] know
each other better now after three years of playing and touring together. We’ve
gotten inside the music more.” And, one believes, inside themselves more, as
well.

 

Last night, that translated into both an exhilarating and
subtle performance of this symphony, an amazing composition for a composer
still in his 20s. In his preconcert lecture, Gilbert Kaplan said, “Everything
that would come to characterize Mahler is found in his first symphony.” Thus,
even novice concertgoers among last night’s audience could come away with an
understanding of why, 101 years after his death, Mahler remains a composer that
speaks directly to 21st century listeners and also why the Phil’s
“Mahler Project” has captured many (although not all) people’s imaginations.

 

This was one of those nights when to have a side or
straight-on view of Dudamel conducting was pure joy. As happens during his
finest moments, every conducting gesture Dudamel made — from the smallest
twitch to the largest swoop — had musical meaning, and he reveled in — indeed,
lingered over — even the smallest details. Yet the entire performance held
together as an organic whole, which wasn’t really the case three years ago, and
all sections of the orchestra were in top form.

 

Conducting without a score, Dudamel painted this 58-minute
tone poem with a multi-hued palette. He chose expansive tempos for nearly the
entire first movement, building gradually over the first 15 minutes to the
final two-minute thunderous climax. The second was a yin and yang of shifting
dynamics.

 

It was the third movement — with its fusion of a sardonic
funeral march and a klezmer-like street-band celebration — that really stood
out for me. Dudamel’s balancing of these seemingly disparate elements was
masterful and the orchestra’s principal soloists — including Christopher
Hanulik, bass; Ariana Ghez, oboe; David Buck, flute; Andrew Bain, horn and
Thomas Hooten, trumpet —  really
shone. There were two especially magical moments: just as the harp was setting
a mood, the violins floated in almost imperceptibly, and the stillness of the
concluding measures really made the opening of the final movement explode.

 

In that final movement, Dudamel bookended furiously urgent
passages around a tender, expansive middle section. Some may find those
extremes too jarring (some critics on that 2010 tour did) but for me it was
exactly the right way to conclude a superlative performance.

 

About half of the members of the Simn Bolivr Symphony
Orchestra of Venezuela were seated directly behind the Phil for the concert.
Dudamel and the Phil established what might be an impossibly high standard for
their young counterparts to aspire when they take the Disney Hall stage for
their portion of “The Mahler Project” beginning Sunday night. But, as those of
us who heard the Bolivars in 2007 recall, don’t bet against them coming really,
really close.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Gilbert Kaplan’s hour-long lecture proved to be an
excellent sketch of Mahler’s life and symphonies. Among the more interesting
points were that Mahler was age six when he composed his first work: a polka
with (what else) a funeral march! (Even at a young age, Mahler had plenty of
grief moments; five of his siblings died during infancy.)

During the Q&A, LAPO President Deborah Borda said that
all 5,000+ tickets for the performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 4
have been sold.

There are obviously a lot of “Casual Friday” concert
regulars for whom the musician’s talk to open the proceedings isn’t important.
At 8 p.m. (the alleged start time), the hall was only about three-quarters
full; most (but not everyone) had finally showed up by the downbeat of the
symphony at 8:17.

One of the interesting aspects of the Q&A is that
you’re never sure what will come from the audience. Borda smilingly ducked a
question from a New Yorker who asked why the L.A. Phil doesn’t offer tickets to
open rehearsals as happens at the New York Philharmonic. Although, as Borda
pointed out, the Phil does offer free seating at Hollywood Bowl rehearsals, it
has no program for Disney Hall concerts. The NYPO’s open rehearsals at Avery
Fisher Hall usually occur on Thursday mornings and cost $18 each, about a third
the price of the cheapest NYPO concert ticket. The Boston Symphony has a
similar program.

Thomas Hooten, currently principal trumpet of the Atlanta
Symphony, has returned for his second guest stint with the Phil. He alsop filled
in for Donald Green, who is on sabbatical, at the beginning of the season.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS AND LINK: Altadena resident Peter Boyer named Composer-in-Residence for Pasadena Symphony

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

The Pasadena Symphony has named Grammy-nominated composer
Peter Boyer as

Composer-in-Residence for the 2012-2013 season and has
commissioned the Altadena resident’s Symphony No. 1 to conclude the orchestra’s
85th season on April 27, 2013.

 

Boyer’s composition is being underwritten by contributions
from Trustees of the Claremont Graduate University, where Boyer is professor of
music. A newly formed PSO support group, the Fresh Ink Society, is raising
funds hoping to record the symphony on the Naxos label following the
performance, which Boyer will conduct.

 

One
of Boyer’s numerous compositions,
Ellis Island: The Dream of America, which was premiered in 2002, was
nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. The
work has been played more than 125 times by nearly 60 orchestras during the
past decade.

 

MORE

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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