Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 19, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events (six this week –
there could have been others) that pique my interest, including — ideally — at
least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets) . Here’s
today’s grouping:

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Adagio from Symphony No. 10

The L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project” kicks into high gear this
weekend beginning with these two works. Symphony No. 1 was the first major
piece that Dudamel conducted (at age 16). The Adagio from Symphony No. 10 is one of two Mahler symphonies for
which these will be inaugural Dudamel traversals. A couple of things to note:

Friday night is a “Casual Friday” concert, so only
the first symphony will be performed. If the Phil follows its normal “CF”
format, a musician will give a brief talk before the performance and a Q&A
will follow; Dudamel customarily appears at the Q&A when he conducts, but
considering his time commitment to the three-week long survey, no promises.
Then there’s a reception in the downstairs where audience members can meet with
the musicians.

Gilbert Kaplan is giving the preconcert lecture, which
will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the main hall. If you’ve never heard of Kaplan, a
writeup is HERE. Although he’s more known for his advocacy of Symphony No. 2,
I’m looking forward to hearing his insights on the first and 10th
symphonies.

 

Concert information: www.laphil.com

 

Tomorrow and Friday
at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School,
downtown Los Angeles)

James Conlon conducts
“forgotten’ operas

For several years, James Conlon, music director of Los
Angeles Opera, had led “Recovered Voices,” a series of operas written by
composers whose lives and music were suppressed by the Nazi regime. He has a
similar survey, “Breaking the Silence,” at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival (one of
that city’s major summer music festivals).

 

This weekend, Conlon revives this concept locally when he
conducts The Colburn Orchestra and singers from the Domingo-Thornton Young
Artists in a double-bill: Viktor Ulman’s The
Emperor of Atlantis
(which has was conducted at LAO) and Ernst Krenek’s The Secret Kingdom, which is receiving
its West Coast debut. Conlon will deliver a 45-minute lecture prior to each
concert.

 

Because Zipper Hall has a very small seating capacity,
tickets are extremely limited. Information:
213/621-1050; www.thecolburnschool.edu

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Alex Theatre, Glendale

Sunday at 7 p.m. at
Royce Hall, UCLA

Andrew Shulman
conducts LACO; Nigel Armstrong is soloist

Andrew Shulman, principal cellist of both the Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra and Pasadena Symphony, makes his Los Angeles conducting debut
leading a program of Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Violin Concerto No. 3 and
Walton’s Sonata for Strings. Nigel Armstrong, a former student at The Colburn
School who captured fourth place in last summer’s Tchaikovsky International
Violin Competition, will be the concerto soloist. My story on Shulman is HERE
it includes links to my stories on Armstrong’s strong showing last summer. Information: www.laco.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Royce Hall, UCLA

Kathleen Battle sings
spirituals

The former opera diva now focuses exclusively on recitals
and concerts and she appears on the “UCLA Live” series with something that
ought to be right in her wheelhouse: Underground
Railroad: An Evening of Spirituals. P
ianist Cyrus Chestnut and the Albert
McNeil Jubilee Singers are part of the show. Information: www.uclalive.org

 

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

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

Tuesday at 8 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Mahler’s Symphony No.
3

The Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela moves into
Walt Disney Concert Hall for its part in the L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project.” On
Sunday, Gustavo Dudamel leads the SBSOV, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and
soloists Miah Persson, soprano, and Christianne
Stotijn
, mezzo-soprano in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection). Dudamel comes back
Tuesday night to lead Symphony No. 3, featuring the SBSOV, women of the L.A.
Master Chorale, L.A. Children’s Chorus, and Stotijn

 

Two things to note:

Gilbert Kaplan’s preconcert lecture Sunday begins at 6
p.m. in the main auditorium. On Tuesday, somewhat controversial author and
commentator Norman Lebrecht lectures at 7 p.m. in BP Hall.

Both works are long (90-100 minutes each) and will be
presented without intermission.

 

Information: Symphony
No. 2: www.laphil.com

Symphony No. 3: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

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

Frances Nobert’s 75th
Birthday Concert

A fixture on the Southland organ scene for decades, Nobert
appears at PPC with a concert that includes her on the organ and as part of the
Haarlem Keyboard Duo (Nobert on piano and Steve Gentile on organ). After
intermission, Nobert will lead an alumni choir from Grant High School, where
she taught for many years. There’s even an audience-participation part. Information: www.ppc.net

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

Cleaning out the inbox, checking out other Blogs, etc.

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Cleaning out the inbox with items that you may or may not
have seen:

 

Andrew Norman will become the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence for a three-year term beginning in July. He
will succeed Derek Bermel and become the eighth person to hold the LACO post,
which includes funding for a new composition and an opportunity to work in
various educational opportunities. Norman, 32, was raised in central
California, studied at USC and Yale, and now lives in Brooklyn. A Los Angeles
Times story is HERE.

 

Los Angeles Opera has paid off half of the $14 million it
borrowed from Bank of America in 2009 during a liquidity crisis while it was
producing Wagner’s Ring cycle at the
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The loan was guaranteed — not made — by Los Angeles
County and the early repayment saves the company about $350,000 in interest
charges.

 

The financial crisis for arts organizations has apparently
struck Trinity Church in New York City. Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has the story HERE.
(Incidentally, it’s good to have Anne back on the “beat;” she was out on
maternity leave.).

 

You’ve undoubtedly heard about Alan Gilbert, music
director of the New York Philharmonic, who stopped a recent performance of
Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 because of a persistently ringing cell phone. Tim Smith
in the Baltimore Sun has a followup
on this story with threads back to the original story HERE.

 

A new opening on Broadway is The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which has drawn greatly mixed
reviews. You may remember this as the musical that was savaged by Steven
Sondheim in a letter to the New York
Times
last year (LINK). Martin Bernheimer’s review in London’s Financial Tines is HERE; predictably
pulls no punches.

 

I include this final story just because it’s so
beautifully crafted and poignant (LINK). Daniel J. Wakin in The New York Times writes about what
it’s like for a family to sell one of the world’s most famous cellos, the Countess of Stainlein, ex-Paganini of
1707,
played for 54 years by Bernard Greenhouse, a founding member of the
Beaux Arts Trio.

 

Perhaps the key paragraph is what follows:

 

“Through the optic of history, those in possession of these
instruments are caretakers, not owners. For their players, the transfer to the
next caretaker symbolizes the end of performing, the termination of an artistic
prime, the memories of which reside in long-used instruments. “The violin is
not only a friend,” said Aaron Rosand, 84, once a prominent soloist in the
tradition of the great Romantics like Oistrakh, Milstein and Heifetz. “It’s
something that you live with. Every day it becomes more dear to you. It’s
almost like a living thing. You treat it carefully; you treat it gently. It
talks to you,” he said. “You’re caressing your instrument all the time. Parting
with an instrument that has become such a wonderful friend is just like losing
a member of your family.”

 

I resonated to this story. My former wife was a concert
pianist and I was with her when she bought her Baldwin piano. She spent most of
a day trying out Steinways but never found one that made her sing. Late in the
day, we went into the Baldwin showroom (she was age 17 at the time) and when
she sat down at this Baldwin L, it was love at first sight, a love affair she
never let go.

 

P.S. The comments are worth reading, as well.

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Pasadena Symphony at Ambassador Auditorium

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Symphony;
David Lockington, conductor

Sawyers: The Gale of
Life.
Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 (Andrew Shulman, soloist).

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56, (Scottish)

Saturday, January 14, 2012 Ambassador Auditorium

Next concert: Feb. 18, 2012

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

______________________

 

There was a multiplicity of themes associated with the
Pasadena Symphony concert yesterday afternoon at Ambassador Auditorium (which
was repeated last night). The predominant theme was Britain: two of the three
composers were English, the guest conductor (David Lockington) and cello
soloist (Andrew Shulman) were born in England but now live in the U.S, and the
concluding work on the program was Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish).

 

Prior to the performance, Lockington — music director of the
Grand Rapids and Modesto Symphonies — described the program’s theme as “Looking
Back.” Mendelssohn, who began the symphony at age 21 and completed it 12 years
later, was recalling a trip he made to Scotland as a teenager in 1829. Elgar,
said Lockington, was looking back on the wreckage of World War I when he wrote
his Cello Concerto in 1919 (the program note by Joseph and Elizabeth Kahn said,
“It isn’t a requiem for the war dead, but rather for a lost way of life, the
end of a civilization”). Even Sawyers’ piece, which was composed in 2008, uses
as its text the poem On Wenlock Edge
from the 1896 cycle A Shropshire Lad by
A.E. Housman.

 

A third theme was friendship. Lockington and Shulman played
cello together in the National Youth Orchestra of Britain more than 30 years
ago, and Lockington and Sawyers are now friends. And a final theme was uniform
excellence, as in the performances Lockington, Shulman and the orchestra
delivered throughout the concert.

 

The program’s centerpiece — in placement, as well as in
performance — was Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Shulman captured the work’s aching
melancholy (the first three movements begin Adagio,
Lento
and Adagio) superbly with
his silky tone and expressive musicality, while Lockington and the orchestra
accompanied sensitively.

 

The opening work, The
Gale of Life
a 10-minute
concert overture that ends by alluding to the “Witches’ Sabbath” ending of
Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
received an exuberant reading from Lockington and the ensemble; they brought
out sympathetically all of Sawyers’ musical metaphors of the windy cliffs of
Wenlock’s Edge on the England coast.

 

Lockington displayed an assured feeling about Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, which concluded the
program. He had a score in front of him but rarely seemed to look at it, often
turning multiple pages at a time. His overall concept was to imbue the reading
with stately grandeur; call it “Mendelssohn a la Elgar.” The orchestra was in
top-notch form, playing with impressive rhythmic precision in the second
movement and displaying a lush sound from all sections — but particularly from
the strings — throughout the performance.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

One other tie in the concert concerns Lockington and Paul
Jan Zdunek, CEO of the Pasadena Symphony Association. Prior to coming to
Pasadena, Zdunek held a similar position with the Modesto Symphony where one of
his moves was to bring Lockington on board as that orchestra’s music director
in 2007.

With Shulman scheduled to conduct next weekend’s Los
Angeles Chamber Orchestra concerts (Jan. 21 at the Alex Theater and Jan. 22 at
UCLA’s Royce Hall), LACO and the PSO took the opportunity to do some cross-promotion
by inserting a flyer with a 20% ticket discount for the LACO concerts. Smart
move, IMHO. Shulman will lead LACO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Violin
Concerto No. 3, along with Walton’s Sonata for Strings. A link to my article on
Shulman and the PSO and LACO concerts is HERE.

Emulating LACO’s “Sound Investment” commissioning program,
the PSO has begun its “Fresh Ink Society,” which will commission and make
possible the performance of the Symphony No. 1 by Peter Boyer as part of the
opening concert on the PSO’s 2012-2013 season. 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. For more information on the “Fresh Ink
Society” or to make a contribution, call 626/793-7172.

Lockington’s “Looking Back” theme got me to recall the
first time I heard Elgar’s Cello Concerto in concert, in 1975, when the great
cellist Gregor Piatigorsky was scheduled as soloist in he concerto at a Los
Angeles Philharmonic concert. Zubin Mehta was the conductor, I think it was
opening night, and I believe the other work on the program was Mahler’s
Symphony No. 5. Ronald Leonard had just been named the Phil’s Principal Cellist
and when Piatigorsky had to cancel at the last minute, Leonard stepped in,
which meant his first notes in his new position were the opening lines of the
Cello Concerto (the soloist begins the piece). As I recall, Leonard played it
beautifully, but I’ll always remember it more for his ability to rise to an
unexpected challenge successfully.

_______________________

 

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

ALERT: Andrew Shulman and Pasadena Symphony at Ambassador Auditorium tonight

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

If you haven’t already bought tickets for something else
tonight, consider attending the 8 p.m. performance of the Pasadena Symphony at
Ambassador Auditorium. The centerpiece of a well-played program is Andrew
Shulman’s superb performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto — it’s definitely worth
seeing! I’ll post a full review later.

 

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Los Angeles Philharmonic opens “The Mahler Project” 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: Songs of a
Wayfarer;
Symphony No. 4

Friday, January 13, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances: Tonight at 8, tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Preconcert lectures one hour before each concert.

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Mahler Project,” which began
last night at Walt Disney Concert Hall, will ooze grandiose power during the
next 16 performances. Last night, however, Music Director Gustavo Dudamel
reminded everyone that there’s another, more lyrical side to the Austrian
composer/conductor, as well. One thing seems certain: if the quality of future
performances match last night’s, it’s going to be a very special three-plus
weeks in the City of the Angels.

 

Another interesting aspect of the “Project” is that — as is
the case when you experience Wagner’s Der
Ring des Nibelungen
as a cycle (i.e., four operas with the span of a week
or so) — hearing all of Mahler’s symphonies plus a song cycle in close
proximity to each other will help listeners link ties and themes (Wagner called
them leitmotivs) from one piece to
another.

 

Case in point was that song cycle – Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), or Songs of a Wayfaring Journeyman, as
preconcert lecturer Stephen Hefling called it — which opened the proceedings
last night. This was Mahler’s first mature work and many of its themes appear
in later pieces. For example, themes from the second song (I Went Over the Field This Morning) and the melancholy “funeral
march” of the final song, (The Two Blue
Eyes of My Beloved)
show up again in Symphony No. 1 (the funeral march was
the first of many that Mahler would write).

 

The cycle’s four poems (Mahler wrote both the texts and
music) are from a 23-year-old man experiencing his first passionate love (with
a soprano named Johanna Richter) and they depict the wide range of emotions
that would permeate all of Mahler’s later works. Baritone Thomas Hampson
matched Mahler’s moods with his sensitive singing that was notable both for its
shimmering quality and pathos. Dudamel and the orchestra accompanied
sensitively.

 

Symphony No. 4 is the closest that Mahler came to a standard
four-movement symphony format, although whether any work that begins with
sleigh bells and concludes with a song that references asparagus, a slain ox
and 11,000 martyred virgins can be called “standard” is, of course, open to
question.

 

Dudamel — who as was the case with Songs of a Wayfarer, conducted Symphony No. 4 without a score –
elicited a probing, urgent, scintillating performance from the Philharmonic. He
stretched tempos, but not overly so. The restatement of the opening-movement
theme was wonderfully majestic, and Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour’s
solos on his “other” violin (in the second movement, Mahler called for a solo
violin tuned higher than normal to simulate a country fiddler) were sparkling.

 

Dudamel was really in his element in the grand Adagio, building the section’s opening
theme beginning with cellos and then adding violas, second violins and first
violins, all while Principal Oboist Ariana Ghez and Principal Horn Andrew Bain
were inserting exquisite solos. (It’s worth noting that Dudamel’s seating
arrangement this season — with violas far right and all of the violins
clustered on the left really paid dividends in this movement.) The young
Venezuelan (he turns age 32 in a couple of weeks) also kept dynamics in check
so well that the big E-major chord really exploded off the stage.

 

Swedish soprano Miah Persson (who will also solo in the Jan.
22 performance of the Ressurection Symphony)
came onstage before the third movement last night and sat quietly within the
orchestra (in front of the winds). She then moved front and center for her fourth-movement
poem, Heavenly Life, which she sang
with opulent radiance. The ending was as wistfully quiet as I can remember
hearing, an effect that will show up again to conclude the Ninth Symphony in
early February. Between now and then, it looks like we’re in for quite a ride.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Hefling — professor of music at Case Western Reserve
University in Cleveland — delivered an excellent, albeit academic, lecture
before the concert. Unfortunately, many of his projections were unreadable from
the back of the room and the screen should have been higher (he kept
highlighting things at the bottom of the images that couldn’t be seen through
people’s heads). Nonetheless, it was an insightful lecture that had a real
bonus: selections of Mahler playing portions of his songs via 1905 piano rolls.

Considering that most of Mahler’s symphonies stretch more
than 75 minutes in length, the Phil’s decision to insert an intermission
between the 20-minute song cycle and the 59-minute symphony seemed a bit
strange going in. However, aside from allowing the Phil to rack up bucks with
booze sales, the decision also gave listeners a chance to savor the exquisite
performance from Hampson and the Phil before tackling the symphony.

The printed program, which covers all the “Mahler Project”
concerts, lists the Adagio from
Symphony No. 10 following Symphony No. 1 in next weekend’s concerts. That makes
sense from a bookend point of view but how this will play out in performance
will be one of the intriguing aspects of the concerts. Dudamel may not hold to
the printed schedule — in previous seasons, he has occasionally reordered works
after putting them into rehearsal.

Take note: Friday is a “Casual Friday” concert, which
means that the Adagio from Symphony
No. 10 will not be played. Usually this format includes a musician talking
before the performance, a Q&A (which often includes Dudamel), following the
performance, and a reception with musicians in the downstairs caf afterwards.

Next week’s Mahler No. 1 preconcert lectures by Gilbert
Kaplan begins at 6:30 p.m. (90 minutes before the concert). The
preconcert lecture by Kaplan in advance of Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) will begin at 6 p.m. on Jan. 22. Both lectures will
be in the main auditorium (not BP Hall) and can also be attended by those
without concert tickets. Reserve ahead of time (323/850-2000 or via email to information@laphil.org
with “Mahler Project RSVP” in the subject line) and plan on arriving at least
15 minutes before the lecture time.

 _______________________

 

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

PREVIEW AND LINKS: Andrew Shulman to solo with Pasadena, conduct L.A. Chamber Orchestra on consecutive weekends

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Symphony. David
Lockington, conductor; Andrew Shulman, cello

Philip Sawyers: The
Gale of Life
; Elgar: Cello Concerto; Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 (Scottish)

Saturday, Jan. 14; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Ambassador Auditorium; 300 W. Green St., Pasadena

Tickets: $35-$100; senior rush tickets (23) available for 2
p.m. concert. Student rush tickets ($10) available for both concerts

Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

  

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra. Andrew Shulman, conductor; Nigel Armstrong, violin

Mozart: Symphony No. 29, K. 201; Violin Concerto No. 3, K.
216. Walton: Sonata for Strings.

Sat., Jan. 21, 8 p.m. at Alex Theater, Glendale. Sun., Jan.
22, 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA

Tickets: $24-$105; student season passes available

Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

______________________

 

Andrew Shulman is going to be one very busy musician during
the next 10 days, but there’s nothing surprising about that.

 

Shulman, who is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony
and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will appear as soloist with the PSO Saturday
in two performances at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in
E Minor. David Lockington, music director of the Modesto Symphony and Grand
Rapids Symphony, will lead the programs, which will begin with The Gale of Life by English composer
Philip Sawyers and conclude with Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.

 

The following weekend Shulman will make his LACO conducting
debut leading a program of music by Mozart and William Walton. Nigel Armstrong
will be the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. The 21-year-old graduate
of The Colburn School will be making his first local appearance since placing
fourth in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition last
summer in Moscow (LINK).

 

There’s nothing unusual, says Shulman, about playing a titan
of the cello literature one weekend and conducting an entirely different program
the next. “What’s unusual,” he says with an infectious laugh, “is that they’re
both in the same city. Usually I’m playing here and then jetting off to England
to conduct an orchestra there.”

 

Now age 51, Shulman was born in London and studied both cello
and conducting at the Royal College of Music. “I first encountered the Elgar
concerto when I was 17 or 18,” he recalls. He studied with William Pleeth and
Pleeth’s most famous student, Jacqueline DuPre, who by then was suffering from
Multiple Sclerosis. “Jackie talked about things like fingering and bowing the
Elgar,” he remembers. “Despite the MS, she continued to be fully involved with
music up to her death; she was an inspiration.”

 

Although Shulman continued to conduct, he gained
international fame as a cellist. He served two terms as principal cellist of
London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, taking a break for 10 years to play in the
Britten Quartet. In 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen called him and asked, “Are you fed
up with London and looking for a change?” He and his wife came to Los Angeles
where he eventually became principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

 

That job lasted just two years. “With the Philharmonia,” he
explains, “we had co-principals and others as well, so I was playing perhaps 30
percent of the concerts, which left me time to conduct and do film work. Being
principal cellist at the L.A. Phil meant that I had to play about 80 percent of
the concerts, and I just found that too confining.”

 

Shulman has since carved out a busy career in film music and
conducting. He became LACO’s principal cellist in 2008 and assumed a similar
position with the PSO in 2010. “Both of those positions are great,” he says.
“Both orchestras have great musicians and both orchestras give me plenty of
freedom to maintain all of my professional lives.”

 

That includes conducting and Walton’s Sonata for Strings has
special resonance for Shulman and LACO. “It’s actually a transcription of
Walton’s second String Quartet,” explains Shulman (who recorded the original
version in the 1980s with the Britten String Quartet). In 1971, Sir Neville
Marriner commissioned the transcription for his Academy of St.
Martin-in-the-Fields, and two years later Marriner and LACO gave the U.S.
premiere of what by then was known as the Sonata for Strings. “It’s a virtuosic
piece,” explains Shulman, “and a terrific way to show off my string colleagues
in the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. They’ll love it, and so will the audiences.”

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 12, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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

______________________

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Royce Hall (UCLA)

Paul Jacobs, organist

Despite being just 34, Paul Jacobs is one of America’s
extraordinary organ talents, who came to international renown 11 years ago when
he performed the complete organ works of J.S. Bach in an 18-hour non-stop
marathon performance. Later he performed the complete organ works of Olivier
Messiaen in nine-hour marathon concerts around the country. At age 26, he was
named chairman of the organ department at The Juilliard School in New York
City, one of the youngest faculty appointments in that school’s history.

 

There’s no Bach on this Royce Hall program, but the
selections include music by Messiaen, Elgar, John Weaver and others.

 

Royce Hall’s E.M. Skinner organ was built in 1930. It was
restored and rebuilt after being damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
With 104 ranks and 6,600 pipes, it’s one of the larger instruments in Southern
California.

 

Concert information: www.uclalive.org

 

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: “The Mahler Project” begins

The Los Angeles Philharmonic begins its massive survey of
all of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies as Gustavo Dudamel leads the orchestra in
Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, with soprano Miah Persson as soloist, and Songs of a Wayfarer, featuring baritone
Thomas Hampson. Links to my articles on the cycle are HERE and HERE. The Phil’s
“Mahler Project” information site is HERE. Concert
information:
www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium (Pasadena)

Pasadena Symphony;
David Lockington, conductor

The PSO resumes its 2011-12 season as David Lockington,
music director of the Modesto and Grand Rapids Symphonies, become the latest in
a string of PSO guest conductors. He leads a program with a British theme: The Gale of Life by British composer
Philip Sawyers, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Andrew Shulman as soloist, and
Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish). In
addition to the compositional British tone, Lockington and Shulman are English.
A link to my preview story on this concert and next weekend’s L.A. Chamber
Orchestra concerts (Shulman is conducting the LACO programs) is HERE. Concert information: www.pasadenasymphony-org

 

Looking for a marketing edge, the PSO has joined forces with
Breakthru Fitness to sponsor a Yoga class tomorrow at 6 p.m. (As the late,
great British comedienne Anna Russell once famously said of Wagner’s Ring, “I’m not making this up, you
know!”) Lockington, an avid practitioner of yoga, will offer a brief
explanation on the influence yoga has made on his life and career as a
symphonic conductor. He will also play the cello during the class. Space is
extremely limited; contact Breakthru Fitness at 626/396-1700 to reserve a spot.

 

Sunday at 5 p.m. at
the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (Los Angeles)

Young Musician
Foundation’s 57th annual Gala Concert

Usually a YMF concert would be in the “free admission”
category, but this one is held yearly to raise funds for this important
training program. Legendary film composer John Williams will lead the YMF Debut
Orchestra in selections from The
Adventures of Tintin
and War Horse, the
first concert performance of this music. Williams will conclude the program by
conducting music from E.T. The
Extra-Terrestrial.

 

Michael Tilson Thomas, who was the YMF’s music director from
1963-67 while he was a student at USC, will return to conduct Ravel’s La Valse. Other pieces will be conducted
by David Kaufman, Joey Newman and Teddy Abrams. Information: www.ymf.org

 

Tuesday at 8 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Steve Reich;
Bang-on-a-Can All Stars; ref fish blue fish; percussionist David Cossin

Steve Reich, one of the greatest composers working today,
brings a program to the Phil’s Green
Umbrella
series that includes the West Coast premiere of the double-rock
quintet, 2 x 5,  and concludes with one of Reich’s
seminal works, Music for 18 Musicians.
Information: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts (La Mirada)

La Mirada Symphony;
Robert Frelly, conductor

For the second concert of its 48th season, this
community orchestra presents a Spanish-themed program with music by Fannin,
Chabrier, Bizet, Turnia, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Guitarist Jeff Cogan will be the
soloist in Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un
Gentilhombre.
Information: www.lamiradasymphony.com

_______________________

 

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

STORY AND LINK: Baritone Thomas Quasthoff retires at age 52

Norman Lebrecht is reporting on his Blog, Slipped Disc, that Thomas Quasthoff –
one of the great baritones of our generation — has decided to give up singing
at the age of 52 because of “persistent health reasons.” MORE

_______________________

 

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

Ten things you may not know about “The Mahler Project”

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

By now (certainly if you’re a regular reader of my Blog),
you know that the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Mahler Project” begins this
weekend in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Phil on Jan.
13, 14 and 15 in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, with Miah Persson as soloist, and Songs of a Wayfarer, with Thomas Hampson
as soloist.

 

Tickets are still on sale for all concerts, although some
performances have limited availability. Best bets are the Simn Bolivr
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela’s performances of Nos. 3, 5, and 7, the L.A.
Phil’s performance of No. 6 on Jan. 27, and the Toyota Symphony For Youth event
on Jan. 28. Information on the availability of senior and student rush tickets
for all concerts can be obtained beginning at noon on the day of each
performance by calling audience services (323/850-2000).

 

My column from last Sunday (HERE) detailed the basics of
this cycle, which will include 17 performances in 24 days in Los Angeles and a
complete re-do in Caracas, Venezuela immediately thereafter. However, here are
some things you may not know or realize about this effort:

 

1. Schedule juggling

The Phil will be playing the four weekend sets of concerts
(Symphony Nos. 4, 1, 6, 9 and the Adagio
from the 10th). The SBSOV will perform its four solo concerts (Nos. 2, 3, 5 and
7) within an eight-day period beginning Jan. 22. That means Dudamel will
occasionally be rehearsing one program in the daytime and conducting a
different one in the evening.

 

2. Conducting from
memory

According to an article by Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times (LINK), Dudamel is
planning on conducting the entire cycle without scores. That includes the two
pieces he’s never conducted in concert: Symphony No. 8 and the Adagio from the Symphony No. 10.

 

3. The Dudamel-Mahler
connection

Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 was on the first professional
program that Dudamel conducted (at age 16) with what was then called the The
Simn Bolivr Youth Symphony Orchestra. The work also concluded his inaugural
Disney Hall concert as the L.A. Phil’s music director in 2009. Mahler’s
Symphony No. 5 was the piece with which Dudamel won the Gustav Mahler
Conducting Competition in Bamberg, Germany in 2004. When the SBYSO made its
Disney Hall in 2007, Mahler’s 5th was on one of the programs;
Dudamel and the orchestra also recorded it.

 

4. Symphony of 1,600

Much has been made of the fact that, for one of the few
times in history, the performance of Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 4 at the Shrine
Auditorium will actually achieve its’ nickname, “Symphony of a Thousand” (both
orchestras and more than 800 singers from 16 Southern California choruses will
perform). Reports are that the Caracas concert on Feb. 18 will be even larger,
with perhaps 1,600 musicians performing. That is also the performance that will
be telecast into movie theaters throughout the United States as part of the LA
Phil LIVE” series. The Phil has just announced that John Lithgow will host the telecast.

 

5. Telecast encore

Speaking of that telecast, this will mark the first time
that one of the “LA Phil LIVE” telecasts will have an encore showing, on Wed.,
Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. (PST). Several Southland theaters are on board for both
telecasts.  Information: www.laphil.com

 

6. Lectures –
preconcert and otherwise

Each of the concerts (except the Mahler 8 performance on
Feb. 4) will have preconcert lectures. Among the presenters will be:

Stephen Heflig
(Jan. 13-15), professor of musicology at Case Western Reserve University, who
wrote his doctoral dissertation at Yale on Mahler and later rediscovered
Mahler’s manuscript version of Das Lied
von der Erde
for voices and piano.

Gilbert Kaplan
(Jan. 19-22), the founder of the Institutional
Investor
who eventually sold the magazine for $72 million and set out to
make himself THE authority on Mahler’s Resurrection
Symphony. Kaplan taught himself
to conduct and eventually led the symphony in several cities. His Kaplan
Foundation is dedicated to Mahler and Kaplan owns the autograph score of the
second symphony.

Norman Lebrecht
(Jan. 26-28), a controversial British author who now publishes his own Blog, Slipped Disc. Among his 12 books are Mahler Remembered and Why Mahler?

Marilyn McCoy
(Jan. 31, Feb. 2 and 3), another noted Mahler scholar, who teaches at Columbia
University.

 

Kaplan’s lectures are open to the public even if you’re not
planning on attending the concerts. They will be in the main Disney Hall
auditorium 90 minutes before the concerts on Jan. 19-22. Reserve ahead of time
(323/850-2000 or via email to information@laphil.org with “Mahler Project RSVP”
in the subject line) and plan on arriving at least 15 minutes before the
lecture time. The other lectures will be in BP Hall, the normal spot for L.A.
Phil preconcert talks, and are open to concert ticket holders.

 

The Phil is also sponsoring “Aloud at Central Library,” a
convocation featuring Lebrecht and L.A. Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda,
on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the downtown Central Library. Information: www.laphil..com

 

7. The “Project”
could have been larger

Mahler composed other symphonic works that aren’t being
included in the Phil’s survey. The most notable is Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), a lengthy
six-movement work that was written in 1908-09, two years after Mahler completed
his eighth symphony.

 

The title page calls it Eine
Symphonie fr eine Tenor- und eine Alt- (oder Bariton-) Stimme und Orchester
(nach Hans Bethges “Die chinesische Flte”) — A Symphony for Tenor
and Alto (or Baritone) Voice and Orchestra (after Hans Bethge‘s ‘The Chinese
Flute’”)
but Mahler did not call it his Symphony No. 9. One reason may
be that Mahler was unwilling to buck the “Curse of the Ninths” — no major
composer since Beethoven had successfully completed more than nine symphonies
before dying (Bruckner actually died while writing his ninth). Mahler
eventually went on to write a Symphony No. 9 but did, in fact, die before
completing his Symphony No. 10.

 

Another possibility for inclusion might have been Blumine (flower piece), which was originally
the second movement of Symphony No. 1. Mahler eventually discarded Blumine after the third performance of
the first symphony (in Weimar in 1894) and Blumine
lay undiscovered until 1966. Despite Mahler having discarded it, in recent
years a few conductors have played it as part of a Symphony No. 1 performance
and others have conducted it as a stand-alone piece.

 

8. “Bolivars” extras

In addition to their symphony performances, members of the
SBSOV will participate in Toyota Symphony for Youth concerts on Jan. 21 and 28,
in a chamber music performance on Jan. 29, and in a free Neighborhood Concert
on Jan. 25 at Cal State LA’s Luckman Fine Arts Complex.

 

9. YOLA concert

The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), the Phil’s first
effort at duplicating Venezuela’s “El Sistema” program of youth music education
in Los Angeles, will join with members of the SBSOV (the flagship ensemble of
“El Sistema”) in a family concert on Jan. 30 at Cathedral of Our Lady of the
Angeles in downtown Los Angeles.

 

10. And finally …

If all this is too much Mahler for you, Steve Reich, the
Bang-On-A-Can All Stars, and red fish blue fish will play a concert that’s
about as far from Mahler as you can get on Jan. 17 at Disney Hall. The program
includes one of Reich’s seminal works: Music
for 18 Musicians.
Information: www.laphil.com

_______________________

 

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

NEWS: L.A. Phil LIVE announces third telecast — March 18

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced its 2011-2012
“LA Phil LIVE” movie theater telecast schedule, the final telecast of the
troika was left as TBD. Now comes word that the “LIVE” portion of the title
will need to be taken with a grain of salt because the telecast — on Sunday,
March 18 at 2 p.m. (PST) — will be a showing of the gala concert that opened
the 2011-2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall season.

 

Gustavo Dudamel leads the L.A. Phil in an all-Gershwin
program includes An American in Paris and
Rhapsody in Blue. Noted jazz pianist
Herbie Hancock was the soloist in the Rhapsody
and also played improvisations on two Gershwin songs, Embraceable You and Someone
to Watch Over Me.
Unlike the truncated “Great Performances” television
broadcast last Friday, this in-movie theater telecast will feature the entire
concert, including the Cuban Overture
and both improvs, along a segment from Hancock’s home where he will talk about
his improv process.

 

The complete L.A. Phil media release follows:

 

LOS ANGELES
PHILHARMONIC PRESENTS

ALL-GERSHWIN CONCERT
EVENT FEATURING GRAMMY AWARD WINNER HERBIE HANCOCK

IN MOVIE THEATERS
THIS MARCH

 

February Brings
Performance Broadcast Live from Caracas, Venezuela,

Featuring Mahler 8,
“Symphony of a Thousand,” with more than 1,000 Musicians

on Stage Led by
Gustavo Dudamel and Hosted by John Lithgow

 

LA Phil LIVE is Made
Possible with the Proud Support of Rolex

 

Los Angeles & Centennial, Colo. – January 10, 2012 – The
Los Angeles Philharmonic (LA Phil) and NCM Fathom announced today the third and
final performance of the LA Phil LIVE
second season featuring world-renowned Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and the
LA Phil with jazz legend Herbie Hancock for a celebration of quintessential
American composer George Gershwin on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m. Pacific / 5
p.m. Eastern. LA Phil LIVE:
Gustavo Dudamel and Herbie Hancock Celebrate Gershwin
, pre-recorded
from the LA Phil’s 2011-12 season Opening Night Concert at Walt Disney Concert
Hall, includes some of the composer’s best-loved works including the Cuban Overture, An American in Paris,
and Rhapsody in Blue, as well as
intimate solo improvisations by Hancock on Embraceable
You
and Someone to Watch Over Me.
The event also features exclusive footage of Hancock – the LA Phil’s Creative
Chair for Jazz – in his home, playing Gershwin and providing insights into his
improvisational process.

 

Tickets for LA Phil LIVE in-theater events are available at
participating U.S. theater box offices and online at www.fathomevents.com. For a complete list
of theater locations and ticket prices, please visit the website (theaters and
participants are subject to change). LA Phil LIVE will be shown in select movie
theaters through NCM’s exclusive Digital
Broadcast Network
.

 

 

LA Phil LIVE’s second performance of the season, LA Phil
LIVE: Dudamel conducts Mahler 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” on Saturday,
February 18 at 2 p.m. Pacific / 5 p.m. Eastern will offer a never-before-seen
live broadcast from Caracas, Venezuela, featuring Dudamel leading the two
organizations that have been so prominent in his life, the LA Phil and the
Simn Bolvar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a dynamic performance of
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand.” The live broadcast
will be hosted by award-winning actor John Lithgow, who hosted his first LA
Phil LIVE performance in June 2011. Multiple soloists and choruses will also be
part of the performance. This exceptional presentation is the climactic
performance of The Mahler Project – one of the pillars of the LA Phil’s season
- which features Mahler’s complete symphonic cycle presented in both Los
Angeles and Caracas.

 

“This is a special moment for me, especially since the Los
Angeles Philharmonic coming to Venezuela is a beautiful homage to El Sistema,”
said Dudamel. “Bringing one of the world’s best orchestras together with the
Simn Bolvar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, a symbol of El Sistema, sends a
message of hope for the musical youth of the country. Playing the Mahler 8th
Symphony together will be historic.”

 

Fathom and the LA Phil will present an encore of LA Phil
LIVE: Dudamel conducts Mahler 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” in select theaters
on Wednesday, February 29, at 7 p.m. local time.

 

“The LA Phil LIVE concert from Caracas will mark the first
time that we have broadcast live to cinemas from anywhere except Walt Disney Concert
Hall,” said LA Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda. “For this extraordinary
event, we’ll see Gustavo Dudamel in his home town, leading his two musical
families in a performance of Mahler’s legendary ‘Symphony of a Thousand.’ It
promises to be a momentous occasion. The final broadcast for this season will
be the transmission of our Opening Night Gala featuring soloist Herbie Hancock,
at Walt Disney Concert Hall, from last October. We are both thrilled and
honored to be able to share these remarkable concerts with viewers across North
America.”

 

LA Phil LIVE offers an enriching and unique concert
experience in which the orchestra’s performance is broadcast to theaters in
high definition and 5.1 digital surround sound, featuring top talent and
behind-the-scenes segments. Led by vibrant Dudamel, the LA Phil LIVE series
transports audiences to the conductor’s podium and places them inside the
music. Each broadcast includes an insider’s look via the Backstage Pass feature
with live behind-the-scenes interviews with Dudamel, soloists and LA Phil
musicians and exclusive rehearsal footage.

 

“The in-theater event on February 18 will transport
audiences to Caracas to see the spectacle of 1,000 musicians performing
together in this amazing performance,” said Dan Diamond, senior vice president
of NCM Fathom. “And fans of Gershwin won’t want to miss this must-see event
featuring Oscar and Grammy-award-winning musician Herbie Hancock this
March.  Seeing Gustavo Dudamel bring symphony to life on the silver screen
is an experience fans have to see to believe.”

 

The LA Phil is offering fans an opportunity to win a chance
to see Dudamel perform live at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in May,
2012. One grand prize winner, chosen at random, will receive two tickets to a
Los Angeles Philharmonic performance with Gustavo Dudamel, a two-night hotel
stay and free round-trip airfare for two, along with LA Phil merchandise. For
contest details and entry requirements, please visit LAPhil.com/win.

 

# # #

 

About National CineMedia
(NCM)

NCM
operates NCM Media Networks, a leading integrated media company reaching U.S.
consumers in movie theaters, online and through mobile technology.  The NCM Cinema Network and NCM Fathom present cinema
advertising and events across the nation’s largest digital in-theater network,
comprised of theaters owned by AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark Holdings, Inc.
(NYSE: CNK), Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) and other leading regional
theater circuits. NCM’s theater advertising network covers 176 Designated
Market Areas (49 of the top 50) and includes over 18,300 screens (17,300
digital). During 2010, approximately 700 million patrons attended movies shown
in theaters in which NCM currently has exclusive, cinema advertising agreements
in place.  The NCM Fathom
Events
broadcast network is comprised of nearly 700 locations in 165
Designated Market Areas (all of the top 50). The NCM
Interactive Network
offers 360-degree integrated marketing
opportunities in combination with cinema, encompassing 42 entertainment-related
websites, online widgets and mobile applications.  National CineMedia,
Inc. (NASDAQ: NCMI) owns a 48.7% interest in and is the managing member of
National CineMedia LLC. For more information, visit www.ncm.com
or www.FathomEvents.com.

 

About the Los Angeles
Philharmonic Association

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, under the vibrant
leadership of Gustavo Dudamel, presents the finest in orchestral and chamber music,
recitals, new music, jazz, world music and holiday concerts at two of the most
remarkable locations anywhere to experience music – Walt Disney Concert Hall
and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition to a 30-week winter subscription season at
Walt Disney Concert Hall, the LA Phil presents a 12-week summer festival at the
legendary Hollywood Bowl, summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and home
of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. In fulfilling its commitment to the community,
the Association’s involvement with Los Angeles extends to educational concerts,
children’s programming and community concerts, ever seeking to provide
inspiration and delight to the broadest possible audience. For more
information, visit www.laphil.com/LAPhilLive.

_______________________

 

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