NEWS: L.A. Phiilharmonic 2013-2014 season to fete Disney Hall’s 10th anniversary

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

Some orchestras struggle to find an overarching theme for their seasons but the Los Angeles Philharmonic has not experienced that problem for a decade. Its 2013-2014 season, announced Monday, predictably centers around the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall, Frank Gehry’ iconic building that is both an acoustical marvel and a world-famous landmark for Los Angeles.

The Phil’s upcoming season will be headlined by its celebration of Disney Hall entitled — Inside Out — (the title comes from Gehry’s own description of the hall, which he said was designed from the inside out — i.e., he started with the interior of the hall itself and then build the now-famous shell to surround it).

The season will begin not in the hall itself but in three neighborhood concerts — at venues yet to be named — on Sept. 25, 26 and 28. On Sunday, Sept. 29, Dudamel will conduct the Phil and the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) in a joint concert, the first official appearance by YOLA musicians in Disney Hall.

The “opening night” gala on Sept. 30 will feature cellist Yo-Yo Ma — he filled a similar role 10 years ago. Then come two weeks of subscription concerts led by Dudamel and two weeks of concerts led by the Phil’s conductor laureate, Esa-Pekka Salonen sandwiched around a “Green Umbrella” concert led by Salonen featuring the world premiere of Frank Zappa’ 200 Motels, which is described as —a combination of rock, jazz and orchestral music.—

As it continues to dedicate a healthy chunk of its programming to contemporary music, the Phil will present 11 world premieres, four U.S. premieres and four West-Coast premieres. Sprinkled into that group will be 13 LAPO commissions.

Beginning his fifth season as L.A. Phil music director, Dudamel will lead 13 weeks of subscription concerts and will take the Phil on a North American tour, with U.S. stops in San Francisco, Kansas City, New York City, Boston and Washington D.C., along with visits to Toronto and Montreal. The tour will alternate two programs: Tchaikovsky’ Symphony No. 5 with John Corigliano’ Symphony No. 1, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Yuja Wang as soloist) and a new work by Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason.

The Simùn Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel’s other music directorship, will return to Disney Hall in February and join with the Phil in “TchaikovskyFest,” a series that will present all six of the composer’ symphonies, the violin concerto and Variations on a Rococo Theme, and a reprise of the program from two years ago presenting with the Bolivars playing the Hamlet, Tempest and Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overtures accompanied by staging and narration. Both orchestras will join together in the final concert on March 2 in a program that will include the 1812 Overture.

Interestingly, “TchaikovskyFest” omits any of the piano concertos, although the ubiquitous first shows up in the first subscription concerts, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist.

Dudamel and the Phil will present a staged production of Mozart’ Cosi Fan Tutte in May to complete its triology of Mozart/DaPonte operas. Other —minifestivals— taking place during the upcoming season will include —Minimalist Jukebox,— a reprise of the concept first presented in the 2005-2006 season. Once again, John Adams is both curator and conductor. Among the programs will be the world premiere of an organ concerto by Terry Riley, with Cameron Carpenter as soloist, and a presentation of the Rome section of Philip Glass’ the CIVIL warS, with Grant Gershon leading the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Except for Manfred Honeck, all of the guest conductors have appeared at Disney Hall prior to next season and all are conducting for one week at a time. Notably absent from the list is Zubin Mehta.

You can get the complete season by clicking HERE. If you want to print the entire press kit, click HERE (but make sure you╒ve got lots of paper in your printer).
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Two conductors make big news

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

Two conductor announcements thousands of miles apart made news this past week. One has immediate implications for Los Angeles and the other might. One thing’s for sure: the year 2018 has just gained significance in the classical music world.

The immediate impact story
James Conlon has extended his tenure as music director of Los Angeles Opera through the 2017-2018 season. Conlon joined LA Opera in 2006, succeeding Kent Nagano. Among his many accomplishments, Conlon led the company’s first production of Wagner’s four-opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen in 2010.

During his tenure with LAO, Conlon has conducted a total of 33 different operas at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, including 18 company premieres and two U.S. premieres. To date, he has conducted 190 performances of mainstage LA Opera productions, more than any other conductor in the Company’s history. He returns to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion pit on March 9 to lead six performances of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and on March 23 to lead six performances of Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

It’s a measure of Conlon’s versatility that he could handle Wagner’s dramatic account of the sea captain doomed to wander the seas endlessly in his ghost ship and Rossini’s telling of the Cinderella story in the same month. In fact he conducts the two operas within 18 hours of each other on March 23 and 24.

He’s been a joy since he arrived and we’re lucky that this transplanted New Yorker has learned to love L.A. enough to sign on for another five years. Conlon’s commitment is also a reaffirmation of LAO’s continued rebound from the economic crash of 1998.

The longer-range story
Simon Rattle has announced that he will step down as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic when his contract expires in 2018. Sir Simon (he was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1994) will be 64 when he leaves the prestigious post; he was named to succeed Claudio Abbado in 1999 and began his tenure in 2002. When he retires, Rattle will have been in the post longer than all but two other conductors: Arthur Nikisch (1895-1922) and Herbert von Karajan (1954-1989).

In his announcement, Rattle said he gave a long lead-time to allow the orchestra time to name a successor. Most orchestras have a gap — sometimes a long gap — between the end of one tenure and the beginning of another; to cite one example, the Chicago Symphony went four years between the tine Daniel Barenboim left in 206 and Riccardo Muti arrived in 2012. Berlin has a chance to avoid what can be a major problem.

Speculation about Rattle’s successor will, inevitably, center on Gustavo Dudamel, whose contract with the Los Angeles Philharmonic currently runs through 2018-2019 (which will be the Phil’s centennial season). Rattle, of course, has a history with the LAPO. He made his North American debut in 1976, conducting the London Schools Symphony Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. He first conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1979 and was the Phil’s Principal Guest Conductor from 1981╨1994. How ironic it would be if Rattle and Dudamel swapped posts.

NEWS FROM AROUND THE MUSICAL WORLD
The Grand Rapid Symphony apparently sounded like Southern California transplants this weekend. David Lockington — the group’s music director who was in town last year to conduct the Pasadena Symphony — led his orchestra in performances of John Adams’ City Noir, the work he wrote three years ago for Gustavo Dudamel’s inaugural Disney Hall concerts as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music director. Also on the GRS program was The Great Swiftness by Andrew Norman, a Grand Rapids native who is the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s composer-in-residence. LACO played The Great Swirtnexx earlier this season. You can read what a local music critic had to say about the GRS performance HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

(Revised) AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Sat., Feb. 23 — Mark Your Calendars

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
The revision is a change of date in the Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts on March 7, 8 and 10.


The upcoming fortnight has several major orchestral concerts on the schedule and next Saturday (Feb. 23) is one of those occasional overflowing days in terms of classical music that seem to show up every year about this time.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra returns to Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena for its annual one-night “Discover” concert on Saturday at 8 p.m. During Ambassador’s heyday as an arts impresario organization, Ambassador was home to LACO for several concerts each season at the acoustically friendly auditorium (the orchestra now performs at the Alex Theatre in Glendale), but these days LACO returns for just one program annually.

On Saturday, Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will take the first half of the concert to delve deeply into Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with the orchestra on stage to illustrate his lecture. Following intermission, Kahane will lead the orchestra from the keyboard and perform as soloist in this landmark concerto.

Information: www.laco.org

There are several other Saturday evening concerts, as well, including:

Musica Angelica — one of the world’s premiere period-instrument ensembles — celebrates its 20th anniversary with performances of Handel’s Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and a suite from Handel’s Water Music, and Telemann’s Concerto for Three Trumpets led by Music Director Martin Hasselböck. The concert is at 8 p.m. at the AT&T Center Theatre in downtown Los Angeles and at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica. Information: www.musicaangelica.org

The La Mirada Symphony plays the third free concert in its 50th anniversary season at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts as Music Director Robert Frelly conducts Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, with Teresa de Jong Pombo as soloist. Information: www.lamiradasymphony.com

Organist Meaghan King makes her Southern California recital debut in a free concert Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. King, the church’s assistant organist, will play music by J.S. Bach, César Franck, Franz Joseph Haydn, Olivier Messiaen and Charles-Marie Widor on the church’s massive Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. Information: www.ppcmusic.org

The Los Angeles Philharmonic also plays Saturday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall but fortunately that’s just one of four opportunities to hear this week’s concert, which mark the return to L.A. of Gustavo after a four-month hiatus. He’ll be in town for a flurry of concerts during the next three weeks before he heads out again — this time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in tow for a tour of London, Paris, Lucerne and New York City.

Dudamel’s latest sojourn begins Tuesday night when he leads The Colburn Orchestra in Disney Hall in a program of Revueltas’ Sensemayá, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, with Colburn Conservatory student Sang Yoon Kim as soloist.

The program is noteworthy on several levels. First, since the concert is part of the Philharmonic’s “Sounds About L.A.” series (which presents student ensembles), tickets run from just $20.50 to $45. Second, Tchaikovsky’s fifth was the work with which Dudamel had his local debut, in 2005 at Hollywood Bowl.

Information: www.laphil.com

Dudamel returns to the L.A. Phil podium with concerts Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday that feature Siegfried’s Death and Funeral Music from Wagner’s Götterdämerung, along with Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish) and Brahms’ Violin Concerto, with Gil Shaham as soloist. Information: www.laphil.com

The Feb. 28, March 1, 2 and 3 will showcase Debussy’s La Mer and the complete Firebird by Stravinsky. All except the “Casual Friday” concert on March 1 will open with the first LAPO performances of Zipangu by French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier. Information: www.laphil.com

The whirlwind series of Dudamel concerts concludes March 7, 8 and 10 with the first staged performances of John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, with Dudamel conducting the L.A. Phil, L.A. Master Chorale, six singers and three dancers.

When the oratorio version of this work premiered last spring, I called it “a very important work, stunningly performed by all forces.” (LINK) It was also nearly three hours long and Adams was, reportedly, very late in delivering the piece to the Phil and others. So part of the intrigue will be whether Adams has trimmed the work in any way and if — or how — Sellars’ staging contributes to the work’s overall impact.

Information: www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS: Pasadena Symphony unveils 2013-2014 season

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

There are similarities between the current Pasadena Symphony season and the 2013-2014 schedule, but there are also some subtle differences. All five concerts will have performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium but, unlike the current season, which began with two concerts in late 2012, the upcoming schedule will begin November 2 and then conclude with four concerts in a five-month-span in 2014.

The orchestra continues to operate without a music director and is now sans a music advisor, as well, following the death last Friday James DePreist (LINK), who had held the latter title for three seasons.

Two of the five conductors will be returnees, including Nicholas McGegan, who appears for the third consecutive season on Jan. 11. His program includes Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with 12-year-old Uni Garrett as soloist (yes, you read that age right; actually, she will be 13 when she appears with the PSO — she becomes a teenager on Aug. 15).

David Lockington, music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony, appears for the second consecutive season when he leads the opening concerts on Nov. 2 that feature Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade, Anne Akiko Meyers as violin soloist. May 29, 2013 marks the centennial of the inaugural performance of the Stravinsky/Diaghilev that caused a riot when it opened in Paris.

Outside of McGeghan, the best known of the conductors is Jahja Ling, now in his ninth season as music director of the San Diego Symphony, who will conduct the final concert of the season on May 11, 2014. The blockbuster program will include Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Israeli-born Shai Wosner as soloist.

The other guest maestros are Indiana native Kazeem Abdullah, who will lead the PSO and Donald Brinegar Chorale in Morten Lauridsen’s Midwinter Songs and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Feb. 15, 2014; and Maryland native Andrew Grams, whose program on March 29, 2014 will include Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, William Bolcom’s Commedia for (Almost) 18th Century Orchestra, and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with another precocious teenager, Simone Porter, as soloist.

The annual holiday concert will be held Dec. 14 at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper returns to conduct the orchestra, vocalist Susan Egan, the Donald Brinegar Singers, Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and L.A. Bronze handbell choir.

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

REVIEW: Nicholas McGegan leads Pasadena Symphony in joyful concert

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
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Pasadena Symphony; Nicholar McGegan, conductor
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto (Donald Foster, soloist)
Mahler: No. 4
Saturday, February 9, 13 • Ambassador Auditorium
Next concert: April 27, 2013 • 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

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Few conductors in the world look as joyful when they’re on the podium as Nicholas McGegan, who returned for a second straight year last Saturday to conduct the Pasadena Symphony at Ambassador Auditorium. His beaming smile is infectious to the musicians and to the audience.

Consequently, even on a day that should have been a somber occasion for the orchestra (coming as it did a day after its music advisor, James DePreist, passed away — LINK), the afternoon was instead with suffused with joy and lightness and, oh yes, excellence.

Although McGegan has made his considerable reputation in the fields of Baroque and other genres of early music, in recent years he has been broadening his repertoire. Last season, he led the PSO in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) and he will return again for a third consecutive season next year to lead a program that concludes with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6.

Saturday afternoon he concluded proceedings with a light, transparent reading of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. Of all nine Mahler symphonies, the fourth seems best suited to McGegan’s ebullient style, and even though this wasn’t the most compelling rendition I’ve every heard, the orchestra played the 52-minute performance exquisitely.

Russian-American soprano Yulia Van Doren sang the fourth-movement text on heavenly light gracefully, employing creamy top tones and excellent diction. McGegan’s tempi seemed a little rushed but the movement concluded in a wonderfully wistful manner.

Prior to intermission, PSO Principal Clarinetist Donald Foster was an exemplary soloist in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. McGegan conducted with leisurely tempi — perhaps a shade too leisurely; a little bit more bite would have been welcome — but Foster played with elegance and superb breath control throughout. He’s one of the Southland’s premiere musicians and it was a pleasure to hear him in front of the orchestra, instead of the ensemble.
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Hemidemisemiquavers:
• Prior to the concert, the Women’s Committee of the Pasadena Symphony Association presented a check $100,000 to the association representing funds raised during their 2012 Holiday Look In Home Tour.
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS: Pasadena Symphony Artistic Advisor James DePreist dies at age 76

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

James DePreist, one of the most prominent African-American conductors who has served as artistic advisor of the Pasadena Symphony since 2010, died today at the age of 76 at his home in Scottsdale.

DePreist became the PSO’s artistic advisor in June 2010, after the orchestra severed ties with its long-time music director, Jorge Mester. DePreist helped the orchestra’s management choose a series of guest conductors during the next three seasons and conducted two concerts himself.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we mourn the passing of our dear friend and Artistic Advisor James DePreist,” states Paul Jan Zdunek, Chief Executive Officer of the Pasadena Symphony Association. “Maestro DePreist, or Jimmy as he preferred to be called, was not only a consummate musician and trailblazing conductor, but also the most thoughtful, loving and centered human being who touched us all so deeply.

The PSO will dedicated tomorrow’s concerts at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium to DePreist’s memory (LINK). “It is fitting,” says Zdunek, “that we remember his life and spirit this weekend with the previously scheduled Symphony No. 4 of Gustav Mahler which ends with an ethereal movement describing The Heavenly Life.’ ”

DePreist was both a noted conductor and a renowned teacher and was one of the first African-Americans to head a major symphony orchestra. At the time of his death, he was the Director Emeritus of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School and Laureate Music Director of the Oregon Symphony.

DePreist, who was born in Philadelphia, was the nephew of famed contralto Marian Anderson. He contracted polio in 1962 while on a State Department tour in Thailand. Although he was forced to conduct from a wheelchair, he went on to a notable career, including 24 years at the helm of the Oregon Symphony in Eugene.

A Pasadena Star-News story is HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: McGegan returns to conduct Pasadena Symphony; Hollywood Bowl season announced

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.

Most conductors gravitate to composers with whom they develop a special affinity. In my hearing, examples would include Zubin Mehta with Anton Bruckner, Carlo Maria Giulini with Giuseppe Verdi, André Previn with Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Esa-Pekka Salonen with Witold Lutoslawski.

In some cases, the tie is so strong that the conductor becomes pigeon-holed into a particular composer or era of music. One of those seemed to be Nicholas McGegan, the British-born harpsichordist and conductor who has been one of the major players in the fields of baroque and other early music, chiefly as music director of the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

However, in recent years McGegan has broadened his repertoire and the Pasadena Symphony has been one of the happy beneficiaries of that decision. Last year, McGegan made his PSO debut leading a concert that concluded with a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).

On Saturday, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., McGegan will take an even bigger repertoire step, leading the PSO in program that concludes with Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. The program opens with Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, with the orchestra’s long-time principal clarinetist, Donald Foster, as soloist.

The fourth is one of Mahler’s shortest symphonies (lasting about an hour) and is the most lyrical. The final movement features a soprano soloist (in this case, Russian Yulia Van Doren) singing texts from the poem Das himmlische Leben, a portion of Das Knaben Wunderhorn that Mahler also used in one of his great song cycles.

Even without the McGegan backstory, this concert would be worth attending for the pleasure of hearing Foster as soloist in the Copland Concerto, one of the pinnacles of the clarinet repertoire. Foster is principal clarinet of both the Pasadena Symphony and Santa Barbara Symphony and has been played on soundtracks for hundreds of film and television scores and commercials.

BTW: McGegan will also be the featured speaker at a dinner/conversation at Noor’s Restaurant in Pasadena on Tuesday beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m.

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

Details of the 2013 Hollywood Bowl season have been announced and “predictability” is the operating word. The 10-week classical season contains the usual assortment of popular symphonies and concertos, although there is the West Coast premiere of a new work by Adam Schoenberg (no relation to the famed composer Arnold Schoenberg although, ironically, he does teach at UCLA in the Schoenberg Music Building).

The opening classical event on July 9 will see Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection).

Music Director Gustavo Dudame will lead just one week this summer with only two programs, both of which pay homage to the bicentennial of Verdi’s birth: a concert performance of Aida on Aug. 11 and performances of Verdi’s Requiem on Aug. 13 and 15.

Other guest conductors beside MTT include McGegan, who will conduct programs on , Bramwell Tovey, Rafael Frubeck de Burgos, Bernard Labadie, James Gaffigan, Leon Bottstein, David Afkham, John Williams and Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Among the soloists will be pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Paul Lewis, Hélène Grimaud, and Katie and Marielle Labèque; and violinists Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, Jennifer Koh, Augustin Haedelich, LAPO Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour.

In one of the more intriguing programs, the Los Angeles-based dance group Diavolo will complete their triptych of works created especially for the Hollywood Bowl with Fluid Infinities, set to the music of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 3.

The entire 92nd season (67 performances), runs from June 22 through Sept. 22. Season tickets are now on sale; single-ticket sales begin in early May. Information: 323/850-2000; www.hollywoodbowl.com
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.