AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Four orchestras to begin their 2012-2013 seasons

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.

 

Four of the Southland’s orchestras kick off their seasons
this week:

 

The Rio Hondo
Symphony
opens its 80th season of free-admission concerts today
at 3 p.m. at the Vic Lopez Auditorium at Whittier High School. Music Director
Kimo Furumoto leads an Americana program with music by Copland, Leonard
Bernstein, Duke Ellington and noted local jazz master Bill Cunliffe.

 

Cunliffe, who won a Grammy Award in 2010 for “Best
Instrumental Arrangement” of Oscar Peterson‘s West Side Story Medley, will play an
orchestration of that arrangement, which was originally for big band. Cunliffe
will also play his own composition, To
Ruth,
and joins the orchestra in a medley from George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm. A link to Cunliffe’s Web
site is HERE. Actor and director Alan Hunt will be the narrator in Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait. Information: www.riohondosymphony.org

 

Mei-Ann Chen returns to the Pasadena Symphony podium after a rousing debut last season to lead
the PSO on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium. The program
is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with
17-year-old George Li as soloist.

 

The Chinese-American pianist has won medals in a number of
competitions and in 2011 became the youngest winner of the prestigious Gilmore
Young Artist Award (previous winners include Yuja Wang and Jonathan Bliss). A
link to Li’s Web site is HERE.

Born in Taiwan and a U.S. resident since 1989, the
39-year-old Chen is beginning her third season as music director of the Memphis
Symphony and second as head of the Chicago Sinfionetta. She burst onto the
musical scene in 2005 when she won the prestigious Malko Competition for
conductors in Sweden. A link to the story I wrote prior her PSO debut last year
is HERE.

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

The Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra
opens its 44th season on Saturday at 8 p.m. at
the Alex Theatre in Glendale and at 7 p.m. in UCLA’s Royce Hall with a
quintessential LACO program.

 

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will conduct two West-Coast
premieres: James Matheson’s True South along
with The Great Swiftness by Andrew
Norman, who begins a three-year tenure as LACO’s composer-in-residence.
Norman’s piece is his musical depiction of an Alexander Calder stabile in Grand
Rapids, Mich., where the composer was born. A link to Norman’s Web site is
HERE. Kevin Berger has a profile in the Los
Angeles Times
HERE.

 

The program begins with Kahane as conductor and soloist in
Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, and concludes with Beethoven’s Violin
Concerto, with 28-year-old German violinist Augustin Hadelich making his LACO
debut as soloist. Information: www.laco.org

The second Los
Angeles Philharmonic
subscription concerts of the season begin a three-year
cycle where Norwegian pianist Leif Oves Andsnes will play all five of
Beethoven’s piano concertos. Thursday evening and Friday morning, Andsnes will
play the first concerto (really, the second since it was composed after the
second but was the first one published). Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon
will bring the third concerto. Gustavo Dudamel conducts. All four concerts conclude
with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).
Information: www.laphil.com

 

The Long Beach
Symphony
opens its 77th season Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the
Terrace Theatre when Enrique Arturo Diemecke (beginning his 12 season as LBSO
music director) leads Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Prokofiev’s Piano
Concerto No. 3, with Haochen Zhang returning as soloist. The 22-year-old
Chinese pianist won the gold medal in the 2009 Van Cliburn Piano Competition. Information: www.lbso.org

_______________________

 

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

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PREVIEW: Unearthing A Hidden Britten Gem

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Kirk Choir and
Friends of Music Orchestra; Timothy Howard, conductor

Judith Siirila, soprano; Micheal Smith, tenor

Frances Nicholson and Ray Quiett, narrator

Saturday, September
29, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.; Preconcert lecture at 7 p.m.

Pasadena Presbyterian Church (MAP)

Free Admission (voluntary offering)

Information: www.ppcmusic.org

62410-Britten-Pears.jpg

Peter Pears (left) sings in a performance conducted by
Benjamin Britten. The cantata, The
Company of Heaven,
contains A
Thousand Thousand Gleaming Stars,
the first piece of music that the
composer wrote for the tenor who would become his life partner. Pasadena
Presbyterian Church will present The
Company of Heaven
on Saturday, which is the 75th anniversary to
the day of the work’s premiere on the BBC. Photo from the Britten-Pears
Foundation.

______________________

 

(Full disclosure: I’m
a member of Pasadena Presbyterian Church, sing in the Kirk Choir, and am giving
the preconcert lecture. Thus, as the late, great columnist Molly Ivins was wont
to say, you can take this post with a grain of salt or a pound of salt, if you
are so inclined.)

_____________________

 

Anniversaries are quite popular in the classical-music world
and the year 2013 shapes up as one of the biggest. The birth bicentennials of
Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner will receive the lion’s share of the focus
next year, but 2013 also marks 100 years since English composer Benjamin
Britten was born Lowesoft, Suffolk on Nov. 22, 1913.

 

Without discounting the stature of Wagner or Verdi, Britten
is at least equally as significant as those two because the Englishman’s
compositional genius stretched over many genres besides opera. In addition to Peter Grimes, Billy Budd and his other
operatic output, Britten also composed extraordinary song cycles, several
symphonies and other instrumental works, and a large body of exemplary choral
work, as well.

 

One of Britten’s earliest choral pieces was a cantata, The Company of Heaven, which was written
for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1937 — when the composer was
just 23 years old — and debuted on September 29, 1937.

 

On Saturday, September 29, 2012 — 75 years to the date of
that inaugural broadcast performance — Pasadena Presbyterian Church will again
perform this superb choral work on the subject of angels. The concert will take
place at 7:30 p.m. in the church’s striking neogothic sanctuary, located at
Colorado Blvd. at Madison Ave. in the Playhouse District of downtown Pasadena.

 

The Sept. 29 performance will be preceded at 7 p.m. by a
preconcert lecture delivered by Pasadena Star-News Music Critic Robert D.
Thomas (that would be yours truly). Admission is free; a voluntary offering
will be taken. Free parking is available and the church is accessible to the
mobility-impaired.

 

The concert will open with Britten’s Simple Symphony, which was written in 1934 but uses themes from
piano works that Britten composed when he was a child.

 

The Company of Heaven is
scored for choir, two soloists, multiple narrators, organ and string orchestra.
Timothy Howard (pictured left) will conduct the church’s Kirk Choir, soprano
Judith Siirila, tenor Micheal Smith, narrators Frances Nicholson and Ray
Quiett, and the Friends of Music Orchestra in Saturday’s performance.

 

In the era before television, the BBC often commissioned
music, theater plays and other works to be broadcast over its network, and The Company of Heaven was one of those
commissions. The date of its premiere (Sept. 29) was Michelmas Day on the
liturgical calendar in honor of the archangel Michael, so the texts that R.
Ellis Roberts compiled were particularly appropriate for that feast day.

 

Despite its unusual subject, innovative framework and
beautiful music, the cantata fell into obscurity after its inaugural broadcast.
A suite from the cantata was performed in 1956 but the entire work wasn’t
performed again until June 10, 1989 at The Maltings, Snape as part of the 1989
Aldeburgh Festival.

 

Philip Brunelle, who led that performance, conducted the
U.S. premiere on Dec. 8, 1989 in Minnesota. The Kirk Choir presented what was
probably the West Coast premiere of The
Company of Heaven
on Nov. 18, 1990.

 

Several of us who sang in that 1990 performance at PPC have
always wanted to bring it back to our repertoire. When I realized that the 75th
anniversary of the work would be a Saturday, which is the night when we perform
most of our concerts, it seemed like a natural fit and, fortunately, Dr. Howard
agreed.

 

This concert is one of nine events on the church’s “Friends
of Music” concert series, which runs through June 2013. Additional information
on the series and the church’s music program can be found at www.ppcmusic.org.

_______________________

 

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

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NEWS: L.A. Phil’s Mahler 8 telecast to be released tomorrow on DVD, Blu-Ray and iTunes

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

62421-Dudamel-Mahler.jpg

With the opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2012-2013
season upon us — the gala opening event is Thursday and the first subscription
seasons are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (LINK) — a final look at least season
has also popped up.

 

Last February’s concert telecast of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) from Caracas,
Venezuela will be released tomorrow by Deutsche Grammophon on standard DVD and
Blu-Ray, as well as on iTunes.

 

The performance featured Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Phil
and the Simn Bolvar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, along with eight
soloists and a massive choir of young Venezuelan singers.  The concert was
the culmination of last season’s “Mahler Project,” and was recorded live at the
Teatro Teresa Carreo in Caracas, Venezuela on February 18, 2012.  The performance was broadcast live in
high definition in hundreds of movie theaters across North and South America. The
DVD and Blu-Ray feature bonus pre-taped footage used in the simulcast.

 

This LINK has reviews of the telecast (they’re at the bottom
of the post).

One other note: The vagaries of Dudamel’s schedule for the
upcoming season (he’s conducting just 10 subscription weeks at Disney Hall,
plus a concert leading The Colburn Orchestra and a Green Umbrella appearance)
means he’s leading the firs three weeks of the subscription season and then
doesn’t return until Feb. 19 when he leads The Colburn Orchestra. So, if you
need a “Dude” fix, you’d best make plans now.

_______________________

 

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

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(Revised) AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: L.A. Philharmonic to begin season … also other upcoming concerts

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of this
article will run tomorrow in the above papers.

The revision is the addition of a link to David Ng’s story on Steven Stucky.

 

Seems like only yesterday when we were inaugurating Gustavo
Dudamel’s reign as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic but with
Thursday’s gala opener and this weekend’s first subscription weeks — both at
Walt Disney Concert Hall — the now-31-year-old Venezuelan begins his fourth
season at the Phil’s helm.

 

Thursday’s gala is unusual. It features Dudamel conducting
the orchestra as it accompanies various dance troupes in music by John Adams,
Stravinsky, Saint-Sans, Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein. Among the
selections is The Chairman Dances
from Adams’ opera, Nixon in China,
with Los Angeles’ “BodyTraffic” company dancing new choreography by Barak
Marshall.

 

Information: www.laphil.com

 

The weekend’s LAPO concerts spotlight one of the most famous
dances in history, Stravinsky’s ballet Le
Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring),
eight months shy of the centennial
of its historic/infamous premiere on May 29, 1913 in Paris.

 

Legend has it that the avant-garde music and choreography
caused a near-riot in the audience at the Thtre des Champs-lyses. Pierre
Lalo in Le Temps wrote in his review
of the premiere: “The most essential characteristic of Le Sacre du Printemps is that is the most dissonant and the most
discordant composition yet written. Never was the system and the cult of the
wrong note practiced with so much industry, zeal and fury. From the first
measure to the last, whatever note one expects, it is never the one that comes
…” A certain H. Moreno, in Paris’ Le
Mnestrel
a year after the premiere, summed up the work thusly: “One
recalls the scandalous spectacle of this Sacre
du Printemps,
or rather a Massacre du
Printemps ….”

 

Today audiences tend to take this work in stride but it
remains one of the 20th century’s most compelling compositions. It
was a signature piece for Dudamel’s predecessor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and this
will be the first time that Dudamel has conducted the work locally.

 

The weekend programs will also include the world premiere of
Steven Stucky’s Symphony, a 20-minute
work with four connected sections. Stucky has a 21-year-connection with the
Philharmonic. In 1988 then-Music Director Andr Previn appointed him
composer-in-residence; later he became the orchestra’s consulting composer for
new music, working closely with Esa-Pekka Salonen. Commissioned by the Phil,
Stucky’s “Second Concerto for Orchestra” won him the Pulitzer Prize in music in
2005. Read David Ng’s profile on Stucky in the Los Angeles Times HERE.

 

Incidentally, Stucky will be the “Upbeat Live” presenter an
hour before each concert. If you can’t be there, you can dial 1-605-475-4333 and
enter access code 184648 to listen on your cell phone (toll charges may apply).
Also, if you haven’t already signed up the Phil’s “FastNotes” email information,
click HERE for the details.

Concert Info:
323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

 

This weekend will be busy for local classical music lovers.
In addition to the Phil concerts and performances of I Due Foscari and Don
Giovanni
at LA Opera:

 

The Colburn
Orchestra
opens its 10th season at Ambassador Auditorium
Saturday night. Music Director Yehuda Gilad will conduct Shostakovich’s
Symphony No. 6 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the latter with Colburn
Conservatory student Beiyao Ji as soloist. Info:
 www.colburnschool.edu

 

Pasadena
Presbyterian Church
begins its “Friends of Music” season of nine
free-admission concerts on Saturday evening with Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony and The Company of Heaven. The latter is a cantata on the subject of
angels that will be presented on the 75th anniversary to the day of
its inaugural performance as a broadcast on England’s BBC Radio.

 

Timothy Howard will conduct the church’s Kirk Choir, soprano
Judith Siirila, tenor Micheal Smith, narrators Frances Nicholson and Ray
Quiett, and the Friends of Music Orchestra in Saturday’s performance.

 

A post on the entire “Friends of Music” season is HERE. Concert Info: www.ppcmusic.org

 

Pasadena Master
Chorale
opens its season Sunday afternoon at Altadena Community Church as
Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein leads a program of folk music from
Scotland, the U.S. and Japan. Info:
www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

 

Farther afield, the New
West Symphony
welcomes Marcelo Lehninger as
its new music director with concerts Friday in Oxnard, Saturday in Thousand
Oaks and Sunday in Santa Monica. The programs feature violinist Anne Akiko
Meyers as soloist in Barber’s Violin Concerto, along with Dvorak’s Symphony No.
8 and Wagner’s Prelude to Die
Meistersinger.
(Read a story that I wrote two years ago about Meyers and
her then “old/new” violin HERE).

 

The Brazilian-born Lehninger
will conduct four of the season’s six concerts. In addition to his New West
Symphony gig, he is also one of two assistant conductors of the Boston Symphony.
Info: www.newwestsymphony.org

 

The Pacific
Symphony,
which opened its season this weekend, has a one-performance
concert Thursday at the Rene and Henry Segersrtrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa
with Lang Lang as soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven’s Piano
Concerto No. 5 (Emperor). Carl
St.Clair conducts. Info: www.pacificsymphony.org

 

One additional note on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: the reviews quoted were cited in Nicolas Slonimsky’s
Lexicon of Musical Invective, a
collection of negative (or worse) reviews of classical compositions now
considered part of the standard repertoire (e.g., symphonies by Beethoven,
Brahms and Tchaikovsky). The book is available in soft cover although not,
alas, in Kindle or other electronic forms (at least that I could see). It
remains one of my favorite books.

_______________________

 

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

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ALERT: Sign up for L.A. Phil’s “FastNotes” now

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

I know it’s time for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s indoor
(aka Walt Disney Concert Hall) season to begin when the first edition of
“FastNotes” appears in my inbox. The Phil sends these out a few days before
each concert. “FastNotes” are a quick overview of the upcoming concert along
with links to program notes, ticket purchasing and other important and/or
interesting areas.

 

Even if you aren’t planning on attending a particular
program, “FastNotes” are worth perusing. I suppose there’s a significant amount
of Web site programming involved, but I wish other groups would do the same
thing.

 

To subscribe to “FastNotes,” click HERE to begin the
process. If you already have an account with the Phil, log in and click the
“view/edit settings” button. If you don’t have an account, follow the prompts
to create one. In either case, next click on the “Email Subscription
Preferences” link. “FastNotes” are split into seven different categories (e.g.,
L.A. Phil Concerts, Celebrity Recitals, organ recitals, etc.) so you just sign
up for whatever interests you.

 

BTW: It’s not easy to find this link on the Phil’s Web site.
You have to click the “Philpedia” button (a marginally cute but not
particularly intuitive header) on the home page and then find the link on the
bottom right of the next page. Just click HERE and save yourself the time.
Also, I wish there was a way to save “FastNotes” (or have then linked to the
individual program pages) so that they’d be easy to find for multiple readings.
I know … picky, picky, picky.

_______________________

 

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

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