(Revised) Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 29, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Each Thursday, I list five events 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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Tomorrow at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert HallNOTE: THE SATURDAY TIME IS 2 P.M., NOT 8 P.M. AS ORIGINALLY STATED

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gaffigan and Watts

James Gaffigan makes his Disney Hall debut leading a program
of Respighi, Bartok and Grieg. Pianist Andr Watts will be soloist in the Grieg
Piano Concerto. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Friday at 8 p.m. at
Shady Canyon Golf Club; Irvine

Charles Castronovo in
recital

This young American tenor, who was terrific in the lead role
of Daniel Catn’s Il Postino for LA
Opera a couple of seasons ago, joins with Taso Comanescu, guitar, and Austin
Grant, guitar/mandolin, in an intimate recital/reception/dinner at one of
Southern California’s most exclusive country clubs. The program, sponsored by
Orange County Philhuarmonic Society, will feature a selection of Neapolitan
songs. You must RSVP ahead of time for this program and I suggest you do so via
phone: (949) 553-2422: Information: www.philharmonicsociety.org

 

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

Pasadena Symphony:
Nicholas McGegan conducts

In large measure because of his work leading the
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan is best known as an early
music specialist, but this weekend he leads the Pasadena Symphony in a program
that concludes with a much larger work: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). Armenian pianist Nareh
Arghamanyan will be the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale: Bach’s St. John Passion

Grant Gershon leads 40 members of his chorale, soloists and
Musica Angelica’s baroque orchestra in a performance one of Bach’s finest
works, St. John Passion. Information: www.lamc.org

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pasadena

Pipe Organs Inspire
Recital

Three downtown Pasadena churches — First Church of Christ,
Scientist, Pasadena Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church — and
their organists — David Wolfe (FCCSP), Timothy Howard (PPC) and Ae-Kyong Kim
(FUMC) — are collaborating on this three-recital series that features different
programs at each venue. Information: www.pipeorgansinspire.org

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

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on February 22, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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

______________________

 

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic, Osmo Vnsk, conductor

Finnish conductor Osmo Vnsk makes his Disney Hall leading
the Philharmonic in Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier
Suite
and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 6. Friday is a “Casual Friday” concert.
The Saturday and Sunday programs include Kalevi Aho’s 2005 Clarinet Concerto,
with Martin Frst (for whom it was written) as soloist. Information: www.laphil.com

 

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

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

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor

The latest LACO “Sound Investment” commission, Old Keys by Timothy Andres, will receive
its first performances at this concert. Also on the agenda are Andres’
“reconstruction” of Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto and Mozart’s Symphony No.
40. My preview story is HERE. Information:
www.laco.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

Angeles Chorale; John
Sutton, conductor

“American Experience: Spirituals, Gospel and Jazz” will
feature Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass as
the centerpiece of what should be a rocking evening. Information: www.angeleschorale.org

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

Isabelle Demers,
organist

The Canadian organist makes her Disney Hall debut with a
program that opens with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major (St. Anne) and includes her
transcriptions of Wagner’s Prelude to Die
Meistersinger
and music from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. Information:
www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Sunday at 4 at First
United Methodist Church, Glendale

Cathedral Choir and
Orchestra: Lenten concert

Nancy Sulahian leads her choir, soloist and an orchestra in
a concert that concludes with the Faur Requiem. Other pieces on the program
are works by Bruckner, Roger-Ducasse, Stanford and Faur, some sung by the full
choir and others by a chamber ensemble. Information:
www.glendalemethodist.org

 

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

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PREVIEW AND LINKS: Sound Investment: LACO to premiere Timothy Andres piece this weekend

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor; Timothy Andres, pianist

Andres: Old Keys (world
premiere); Mozart/Andres: “Coronation Concerto (recomposition for piano and
orchestra; Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550

Saturday, March 24, 8 p.m. Alex Theatre, Glendale

Sunday, March 25, 7 p.m. Royce Hall, UCLA

Information: www.laco.org

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Although the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was founded
nearly half a century ago to focus on the Baroque and Classical music genres,
LACO has also carved an impressive niche in the field of contemporary music,
especially since Jeffrey Kahane took over as music director 15 years ago.

 

One of those endeavors has been with a
composer-in-residence; Andrew Norman assumes this important role beginning in
July, the eighth person to hold the title (and the fifth appointed since Kahane
assumed the LACO reins).

 

59250-Andres.jpg

Another important venture has been the orchestra’s “Sound
Investment” series, which is now in its second decade of commissioning a new
piece each season. This year’s commission highlights this weekend’s LACO
programs: Old Keys by Palo Alto-born
composer Timothy Andres (pictured). In addition Andres performs the West Coast
premiere of his reconstruction of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K.
537, popularly known as the “Coronation” concerto. The concert concludes with
Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

 

An oddity about the concerto is that Mozart wrote down
almost none of the left-hand notes. The program notes by Christine Gengaro,
PhD, relate: “The first 18 measures of the opening passage for the piano
soloist in the first movement, for example, are blank. In the first published edition,
which came out in 1794, three years after Mozart’s death, the missing parts
were filled in, probably by publisher Johann Andr. But why did Mozart leave
them blank in the first place? Judging from the types of parts he wrote in –
the more involved and virtuosic portions — we assume that Mozart left blank the
parts that were easiest to improvise on the spot.”

 

For Andres (who was born in 1985), the puzzle presented a
challenge. “I approached the piece…as a sprawling playground for pianistic
invention and virtuosity,” he says, “taking cues from the composer-pianist
tradition Mozart helped crystallize.”

 

The concerto’s other oddity is its “Coronation” nickname.
Gengaro writes, “Mozart composed the Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major in early
1788, but he did not give it the name ‘Coronation,’ nor was it specifically
written for a coronation. However, he did play it more than two years after he
composed the piece — a year after its premiere — at the coronation of Leopold
II (as Holy Roman Emperor), hence the nickname.”

 

Brian in his Blog “Out West Arts” has posted one of his
informative “Ten Questions” interviews with Andres HERE. Timo (as he calls himself)
also has his own unique Web site; check out the whacky rendition of “At the
River” on the home-page video (LINK)

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

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NEWS: Cat lives

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Two Los Angeles Philharmonic performances appear to have
more lives than the proverbial feline.

 

A video of the Phil’s performance of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris from last October’s
gala concert is now available for free on iTunes through March 26. This piece
is from the concert that was telecast into movie theaters last Sunday; a
truncated version of the program was shown on PBS stations late last year.
Gustavo Dudamel conducted the orchestra.

 

Meanwhile, the “LA Phil Live” performance of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8, which was telecast on Feb. 18 into U.S., Canadian and South
American movie theaters, is crossing the Atlantic. It will be shown in six UK
theaters beginning April 16.

 

Speaking of the Phil, Esa-Pekka Salonen, the orchestra’s
former music director, will be one of 8,000 runners to carry the Olympic torch
en route to London for this summer’s Olympic Games. Salonen, who is now
principal conductor and artistic advisor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra
(and the Phil’s music director laureate), will make his one-mile run on July
26, the penultamate day before the Games begin. (MORE)

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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Worby and Muse-ique open season with piano fest

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Muse-ique; Rachael
Worby, host/conductor

Monday, March 19, 2012 Pasadena Civic Auditorium

Next event: April 9 at Autry National Center (Griffith Park)

Information: www.muse-ique.com

59226-Muse-ique 2.jpg

Three pianos (and six pianists were at the center

of Muse-ique’s program last night at the

Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

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Rachael Worby’s new organization, Muse-ique, began its first
full season last night. This summer they will play three outdoor concerts
(including two at the Olive Garden at Caltech) but the four “Uncorked” events
are the heart of what Worby hoped to accomplish when she founded this new
program last year.

 

Each of these events (don’t call them concerts) will be in a
different, unusual location; last night, everyone — performers and the audience
– was on stage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. With tables and chairs grouped
around three grand pianos, the venue felt like a nightclub or perhaps a large
living room of a century ago. Worby even encouraged people to turn ON their
cell phones to Tweet or provide Facebook updates and take pictures (she even
announced a video contest) — this is definitely not your standard concert or
recital.

 

Each of the “Uncorked” programs lasts about 90 minutes; last
night began with 30 minutes of cocktails and schmoozing and the musical portion
of the program lasted 75 minutes. Worby (who for 10 years was music director of
the Pasadena Pops Orchestra) acted as host, raconteur (something she does
exceedingly well) and musical guide through snippets of the history about the
piano (thus the title, “Ebony Meets Ivory”).

 

She was joined by six local pianists who performed
individually, in two-piano settings, and using four-hand and even six-hand
arrangements. For the grand finale, all six played on the three pianos in Stars and Stripes Forever.

 

The evening began with writer-actress-pop culture analyst
Sandra Tsing Loh reading Ogden Nash’s sardonic poem Piano Tuner: Untune me that Tune, which morphed (naturally) into
Worby and a youngster playing Chopsticks (if you don’t know why that would be
“natural,” you can read the poem HERE). From there, Worby began with Bach and took the
audience through a quick history lesson, touching on piano music through the
centuries.

 

None of the selections in Worby’s eclectic format are
lengthy but there were pleasures aplenty. Joanne Pearce Martin, principal
keyboardist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and her husband, Gavin, began with
a pristine, graceful two-piano arrangement of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Joanne returned for a spritely
rendition of Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song.

 

Markus Pawlik played the first movement of Beethoven’s
“Moonlight” Sonata with gentle sonority, and Caltech professor Julia Greer
reprised her performance from last summer, playing Bach while trying to explain
what exactly it is that she does in the laboratory. It’s hard to decide which
is more difficult, although Greer demonstrated anew that she is quite an
accomplished pianist. Pawlik and Greer then joined for a four-hand arrangement
of music by Ravel.

 

Bryan Pezzone and Kirk Wilson offered different styles of
improvisation. Pezzone created his version of We Shall Overcome through the lens of Beethoven with an occasional
foray into jazz, while Wilson played jazz riffs while Loh read Carl Sandburg’s Jazz Fantasia.

 

The highlight of the evening came when the Martins offered a
gripping rendition of Lutoslawski’s Paganini
Variations.
Both Worby and Gavin Martin provided the backstory.

 

To
earn a living during World War II, Lutoslawski played piano-duos in cabarets
with fellow composer Andrzej Panufnik. One of their arrangements was of
Paganini’s famous 24th Caprice (far better known for its inclusion
in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of
Paganini).
When Lutoslawski fled Warsaw just before the 1944 uprising, this
was his only piece that survived the destruction.
Unlike
Rachmaninoff’s dreamy arrangement, Lutoslawski’s version is more jagged and
angular; the Martins played it superbly. Pasadena Symphony concertmaster Aimee
Kreston introduced the tune on her violin, which helped people understand from
the variations came.

 

To conclude the evening, Martin & Martin joined with the
other four pianists for a splashy rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, which — if nothing else — proved that
Sousa’s piece is indestructible.

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

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