CLASS ACT: L.A. Phil readies for spring tour with Mahler’s Symphony No. 3

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

What an orchestra programs when it goes on tour offers a fascinating look into the psyche of the ensemble and its conductor. Dudamel-9-29-13Most groups elect to play very standard fare, albeit usually very well, but rarely with any any risk-taking. However, Gustavo Dudamel (right) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic almost never follow that pattern, as this spring’s upcoming tour indicates.

This week’s concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Sunday feature Dudamel conducting a single, massive work: Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, which will be one of two programs during the orchestra’s upcoming travels to New York City and Europe.

The other tour program is even more daring: “Music of the Americas,” including John Williams’ Soundings, which was written for the opening of Disney Hall in 2003; a new work, Play: Level 1, by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Andrew Norman, which received its world premiere in Disney Hall last week; Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Sergio Tempo as soloist; and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring suite.

Each program presents major challenges for a touring orchestra. The “Music of the Americas” concert — which will be played March 14 at David Geffen Hall in New York City, March 19 at the new Philharmonie in Paris, March 21 in Luxembourg, and March 22 in London’s Barbican Centre — features, as noted above a premiere and two other pieces rarely played, which would represent a challenge for promoters were it not for the fact that Dudamel is conducting.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 presents its own issues. It’s a 90-plus-minute, seven-movement work with much of that time taken up by its raucous opening movement and majestic final section. It has been a L.A. Phil specialty since the days of its former music director, Zubin Mehta. In this week’s Disney Hall performances patrons will have a chance to see how Dudamel’s concept has matured since he first conducted the symphony here during the orchestra’s “Mahler Project” in 2012 (my review is HERE).

In addition to an oversized orchestra, Mahler’s third calls for female chorus and children’s choir. In L.A. those duties will be dispatched by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, but when Dudamel conducts the work in NYC on March 13, Amsterdam on March 17, Paris on March 20 and London on March 24, he will be working with different choral ensembles each time. The mezzo-soprano soloist, Tamara Mumford, will sing in all concerts, including this week at Disney Hall.

For an added touch when Dudamel and the Phil are in London, they will reprise their performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoilles … (From the canyons to the stars …) played earlier this month in Disney Hall, complete with the multi-media presentation that debuted here.

Now that’s adventurous tour programming!

Information on the Disney Hall programs this week: 323/850-2000;

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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