AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: A weekend of Requiems … and brass

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.

If you’re a lover of choral music — and, in particular, of Requiems, the musical setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead — then next weekend will have you in seventh heaven. Two of the landmark Requiem settings will be the centerpieces of local concerts; fortunately both the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale each scheduled two performances so you can hear both groups, if you’re over a mind to do so.

Nioted Bach specialist Helmuth Rilling will conduct LACO, the USC Thornton Chamber Singers, and soloists Stacey Tappan, soprano; Callista Hoffman, alto; Nicholas Phan, tenor; and Michael Dean, bass in performances of Mozart’s Requiem on Saturday at 8 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and next Sunday at 7 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The programs opens with Mozart’s Symphony No. 39; a preconcert talk will be held an hour before each performance.

Mozart died as he was writing what became his Requiem; both the death and the work itself remain shrouded in mystery. The composer actually completed only the first movement (“Kyrie”) of the Requiem before he died, although he left vocal parts for two other sections along with fragments of the orchestral accompaniments. Franz Xaver Süssmayr, Mozart’s assistant, completed the work in 1792, and while this is the version usually performed, Rilling and LACO will use an intriguing 1960s version by noted Mozart specialist Robert D. Levin, instead.

Information: 213.622-7001; www.laco.org

Meanwhile, Grant Gershon and his Los Angeles Master Chorale will pair Brahms’ A German Requiem with the West Coast premiere of Peter Lieberson’s The World in Flower Saturday at 2 p.m. and next Sunday at 7 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall. A preconcert talk will be held one hour in advance of each program.

The Lieberson work on the theme of tolerance was written for the New York Philharmonic and was to have been sung in 2006 with his wife, mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, as one of the soloists. She was too ill to perform (and later died) and the work was belatedly premiered in 2009 (the composer orchestrated the final version while in hospital battling lymphoma).

Soloists for The World in Flower will be mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor and baritone Brian Mulligan; Mulligan will be joined by soprano Yulia Van Doren for the Brahms Requiem. It will be a busy fortnight for Van Doren, who will also be the soloist in the Pasadena Symphony’s performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 on Feb. 9 at Ambassador Auditorium (INFO).

Master Chorale Concert information: 213/972-7282; www.lamc.org

For a complete change of pace from choral music, check out the Modern Brass Quintet in a free concert on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. The ensemble’s five members are among the Southland’s premiere brass instrumentalists; they’ve played hundreds of movie scores and all perform in orchestras across the region, including the Pasadena Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Opera. The concert celebrates 20 years for the MBQ as the church’s Ensemble-in-Residence.

The program will feature music by Jan and J.S. Bach, Aaron Copland, Alec Wilder, Witold Lutoslawski. There will also be world premieres by Anne McGinty and MBQ trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom.

Information: 626/793-2191; www.ppcmusic.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Muñoz makes another strong impression with Pasadena Symphony

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Pasadena Symphony; Tito Muñoz, conductor

Boyer “Apollo” from Three Olympians

Sibelius Violin Concerto; Caroline Goulding, violinist

Brahms Symphony No. 1

Saturday, January 12, 2012 • Ambassador Auditorium

Next concerts: February 9 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

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Some concerts are straightforward: a single theme or simply a collection of pieces. By contrast, Saturday afternoon’s concert by the Pasadena Symphony at Ambassador Auditorium  (which was repeated that evening) had a surfeit of threads that wove an enjoyable program.

 

Perhaps the most significant occurrence was the return of conductor Tito Muñoz to the PSO podium. Now age 29, Muñoz made a strong impression two years ago in his PSO debut during the orchestra’s first season without a music director, and he’s one of three conductors who have been invited back from appearances in the two past seasons.

 

As was the case before, Muñoz conducted confidently and authoritatively and the orchestra musicians responded with top-flight playing in all three of the afternoon’s selections, including Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, which concluded the program. Muñoz shaped phrases in this ultra-familiar work subtly, kept a sense of urgency throughout the piece, and finished with a somewhat supercharged chorale finale that included a sly grin and a baton flourish near the end. It was a performance mature beyond his years.

 

Even younger was the afternoon’s soloist, Caroline Goulding, who extended a tradition established by former music director Jorge Mester of discovering young, talented violinists (that list that includes Midori, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Robert McDuffie, among others). Now age 20 but already winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a Grammy nomination, Goulding’s local debut calling card was the Sibelius Violin Concerto.

 

She produced a lovely tone on a circa 1720 Stradivarius and clearly possesses a formidable technique. Although many in the audience were thrilled with her performance, I found her penchant for frequently pushing and pulling the texture of this work to be disconcerting. Muñoz conducted carefully, perhaps trying to make up for Goulding’s meanderings, and the orchestra delivered a rich accompaniment.

 

The program opened with “Apollo” a section from Three Olympians, written in 2000 for a conductors’ class by Peter Boyer, who this season became the PSO’s Composer-in-Residence .

 

The title refers not to athletes but to the residents of Mt. Olympus in ancient Greece and the six-minute piece for large string orchestra is classical in its makeup. Muñoz and Co. played it lushly and Boyer was on hand to share in the applause. Will this piece be a precursor to his Symphony No. 1, which Boyer is scheduled to conduct when the PSO debuts it in the season’s final concert on April 27? Stay tuned; Boyer said he’s about 2/3 finished with the new work.

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

• The third of the repeat conductors, Nicholas McGegan, the next concert on Feb. 9. The program will be Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, with Russian soprano Yulia Van Doren as soloist, and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, with the PSO’s principal clarinetist, Donald Foster, as soloist.

• Goulding was dressed in a stunning, fiery red gown for her performance. Her Strad is known as the “General Kyd.”

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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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