FIVE-SPOT: March 9-16, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each week about this time I list five (more or less) classical-music programs in Southern California (more or less) during the next seven days (more or less) that might be worth attending.

8 p.m. in The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills

Kirshbaum and Wosner play Beethoven’s complete cello sonatas over the course of two nights, along with music by Mozart and Handel. Kirshbaum is chair of the strings department at the USC Thornton School of Music and holds the school’s Gregor Piatigorsky Chair for Violincello.

BONUS: Kirshbaum and Wosner recently issued a CD of this music.


7:30 p.m. in Bovard Auditorium (USC); Los Angeles

Guest conductor Uriel Segal leads the USC Thornton Symphony in Mahler’s Sixth Symphony.

BONUS: Free Admission. Bovard Auditorium is easily accessible via Metro’s Expo Line. Exit at the Expo Park/USC line and walk north through the USC campus to reach Bovard (adjacent to the Tommy Trojan statue).


March 10 at 8 p.m. March 11 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. March 12 at 3 p.m.
In Valley Performing Arts Center (Cal State Northridge); Northridge

As we close in on the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth (Aug. 15, 2018), McCoy Rigby Entertainment brings its production of the composer’s best-known work to VPAC. Next month it begins a run at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (INFO).

BONUS: The Sunday show will be a sign-language interpreted performance. Also, check Goldstar for potential discount tickets HERE.


March 10 at 11 a.m. March 11 at 8 p.m. March 12 at 2 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles

Guest conductor Jaap van Zweden, incoming music director of the New York Philharmonic and continuing in the same role at the Hong Kong Philharmonic, conducts the LAPO in the fifth symphonies of Beethoven and Shostakovich.

BONUS: This represents a chance to compare and contrast the LAPO performance of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic on March 16 at VPAC (see below).


Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa
Thursday at 8 p.m. in Valley Performing Arts Center (Cal State Northridge); Northridge

The St. Petersburg Philharmonic and its longtime conductor, Yuri Temirkanov, are ending a cross-country U.S. tour with concerts in California. The OC concert is Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2, selections from Prokofiev’s ballet score Romeo and Juliet, and the Russian composer’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with Japanese violinist Sayaka Shoji as soloist.

The VPAC concert is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Garrick Ohlsson as the soloist. So, as noted above, this concert gives us a chance to compare the L.A. Phil with the folks from St. Petersburg who have Shostakovich in their collective DNA.

Costa Mesa information:
VPAC information:

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Boston-Leipzig orchestra partnership — one off or the start of a trend?

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

The Boston Symphony and Lepizig Gewandhaus Orchestra have announced a five-year program of exchanges between the two orchestras, both of which have Andris Nelsons as their music director. See the New York Times article HERE. The question is, “Is this a one-off sort of relationship or could it be the start of something bigger?”

The article doesn’t make it clear whether either of the orchestra’s audiences will actually hear their music director more, only that the musicians will apparently benefit from more contact with their leader and the audiences will get to hear both orchestras during the same season. It will be cool for the Bostonians to be able to play in the Thomaskirche, where Bach was once organist and music director, and — presumably — will enjoy spending part of their summer at Tanglewood, the BSO’s summer home in the Berkshires.

In today’s world, music directors often direct 1/3 of their orchestra’s subscription concerts or less, and they often lead more than one orchestra.

For example, next season Gustavo Dudamel will conduct 12 of the orchestra’s subscription 31 weeks of subscription concerts Disney Hall. The number of performances is actually a bit more because several weeks have multiple programs. Moreover, Dudamel is leading an opening gala concert, taking the orchestra on its annual tour, and will conduct three of the 10 weeks of classical concerts during the summer Hollywood Bowl season.

In addition to the L.A. Phil, Dudamel is music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, the flagship ensemble of Venezuela’s El Sistema music education program. When Dudamel conducted all of the Mahler symphonies several years ago, both orchestras played — sometimes separately and together for the Symphony No. 8 — and the festival was held both in Los Angeles and Caracas.

However, the extent of the Boston-Leipzig sharing is unique. Part of what makes it possible is that both ensembles are traditionally thought of as among the world’s best. It would be interesting to see whether other orchestras will try to adapt something similar. Could, for example, the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonics, both of whom will be led by Jaap von Zweden beginning next year, adopt a similar policy? We may need to see how the five years plays out in Boston and Leipzig to have a better understanding.

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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FIVE SPOT: March 2-5, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each week about this time I list five (more or less) classical-music programs in Southern California (more or less) during the next seven days (more or less) that might be worth attending.

March 2 at 7:30 p.m. March 5 at 2 p.m.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles

This revival of LAO’s 1986 production stars Patricia Racette as the Biblical princess who wants only to get a-head. James Conlon conducts the LAO orchestra. See my review HERE. Other reviews are on the “Learn More” tab at the LAO Web site HERE. Other performances March 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 19 at 2 p.m.

BONUS: The LAO Web says that the March 2 performance has lowest prices and best available. Also, the Pavilion is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via the Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Temple St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk west two blocks to reach the hall. Information:


March 3 at 8 p.m. March 5 at 2 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles

As part of the L.A. Phil’s season-long celebration of the 70th birthday of composer John Adams, who also serves as the orchestra’s Creative Chair, the Phil presents Adams’ best-known (if not necessarily his best) full-length opera, about President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. Adams will conduct the Phil, Elkhanah Pulitzer directs and Bill Morrison is the video designer. Extensive music notes by the composer/conductor are HERE.

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via the Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the 1st and Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk up two steep blocks to reach the hall. Information:


8 p.m. at Terrace Theatre; Long Beach

Paul Polivnick conducts the LBSO in Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, and Lebrun’s Oboe Concerto No. 2, with Rong-Huey Liu as soloist. Polivnick was originally one of the candidates for LBSO music director before Eckhart Preu was chosen late last year.

BONUS: Easily reachable via Metro’s Blue Line (exit at 1st St. and walk two blocks south to the theatre). Check to make sure there aren’t construction activities that might foul up the trip. Information:


8 p.m. at Musco Center for the Performing Arts (Chapman University); Fullerton

If he doesn’t get caught in a traffic jam coming from LA Opera’s performance of Salome, LAO Music Director James Conlon will lead this top-notch ensemble — Colburn is the west coast equivalent of The Juilliard School or Curtis Institute of Music on the east coast. The program is Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Jongyun Kim as soloist.

BONUS: The concert is a chance to hear the newly opened Musco Center, which has earned high praise for its acoustics and ambience.


7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Jensen, a well-known organist and former of organ at Indiana University, and Bye, who has performed often with Jensen, perform music by composers ranging from Handel to Hurwitz (Audition from LaLa Land). The church’s Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ is one of the largest and most important instruments in Southern California.

BONUS: Free admission (freewill offering) and free parking nearby.


(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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ON THE ROAD: Angels Flight to reopen by Labor Day?

Occasional posts on public transit and related stories …

According to a story on today’s Los Angeles Times Web site HERE, Angels Flight — the funicular railway that connects Bunker Hill with Hill St. — is scheduled to be operating by Labor Day. The 298-foot rail line has been shut down since a derailment in 2003. The railway first opened in 1901, albeit in a slight different location.

The story is particularly good news for those visiting the museums, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Colburn School and the Music Center atop Bunker Hill. Because the lower entrance to Angels Flight is just steps away from the northwest portal of the Metro Red and Purple Line’s Pershing Square entrance, it was easy for Metro passengers to ride Angels Flight to the California Plaza exit atop Bunker Hill and then have a short, flat walk down Grand Ave. to MOCA, Colburn, and Disney Hall and, after crossing 1st St., to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum of the Music Center. Since Angels Flight shut down, The Broad Museum has opened on Grand Ave., as well.

All of these are accessible from the 1st and Hill St. portal from the Civic Center/Grand Park station, but it’s a steep, uphill walk to get to the top of Bunker Hill. Since the railway shut down, pedestrians have been forced to use a 153-step, steep walkway to ascend the grade.

Laura J. Nelson’s article does a good job of explaining the history and recent travails of Angels Flight. I, for one, had hoped that Metro would actually take Angels Flight over. Instead, Bunker Hill will be accessible via the Grand Av Arts/Bunker Hill stop at 2nd and Hope on the under-construction Regional Connector, which is scheduled to open in 2021. Patrons will ride elevators to get to the top of Bunker Hill, although whether — and if so, how — those elevators can handle a crowd exiting Disney Hall and other facilities at one time is open to question.

The Regional Connector will have the current Gold Line from Pasadena running through the connector from the Little Tokyo/Arts District station to the 7th/Metro station where it will become the Blue Line to Long Beach, while the Gold Line from East Los Angeles will run through the Regional Connector and become the Expo Line to Santa Monica (line names and colors will, undoubtedly, change when this all comes to pass).

Until then a reopened Angels Flight will be a boon to the area.

To see a 3-D video of Angels Flight, click HERE.

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NEWS: Parsing the L.A. Phil’s 2017-2018 season — Part 2

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” will be part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2017-2018 season. The above image is the first page of the work, which is subtitled “A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers.”

In PART 1 of this post, I discussed some of the people and ensembles who will be performing in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2017-2018 season, the orchestra’s 99th. In this portion, let’s unpack some of the programming that will take place during the season’s nine months, which as I said in Part I, “is the most exciting, interesting collection of programs that I can ever remember from an orchestra.”

There’s enough familiar music sprinkled throughout the season to keep even the most dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist from revolting. The season will begin with a gala concert on Sept. 26 and two weeks of subscription concerts beginning Sept. 29 featuring music written by Mozart in 1791, the last year of his life. This is, apparently, a Mozart year for LAPO Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, who will also conduct Mozart’s Requiem this summer in Hollywood Bowl.

The season will conclude with Dudamel leading a three-week cycle of music by Robert Schumann, including all four symphonies, and the piano and cello concertos. The final concert will be the rarely performed oratorio Das Paradies und Die Pierl. Peter Sellars and video artist Refik Anadol will stage the oratorio in a production inspired by China’s Dunhuang Caves, which reportedly were Schumann’s inspiration in writing this work.

In between the beginning and ending concerts will be three Beethoven symphonies (Nos. 2, 7 and 9), Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, plenty of Brahms, three Mahler symphonies and other familiar works.

BTW: this is an unusually strong year for choral works. In addition to the Schumann oratorio, the season includes Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus; Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Mass; a world premiere by Andrew Norman; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

However, this is a season that skews heavily toward music written in the 20th century and later. Lisa Hirsch writes on her Blog, “Iron Tongue of Midnight,” that among the 81 composers on the schedule for the various components of the Phil’s season, 31 of them are alive and at least 17 others were composing in the 20th century.

The LAPO’s media release lists 23 commissions, 22 world premieres, six U.S. premieres and two west coast premieres during next season. Obviously, some of those will appear in the “Green Umbrella” series and five of the premieres will take place during a reprise of this seasons’ “Noon to Midnight” on Nov. 18, but contemporary works abound throughout the season.

The Phil’s conductor laureate, Esa-Pekka Salonen, will be spotlighted not just as a conductor but also for his compositions. On Feb. 8 he will conduct the west coast premiere of his Cello Concerto, with Yo-Yo-Ma. The Feb. 9 and 10 programs will feature Salonen’s Piano Concerto, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, and the Feb. 11 will feature violinist Leila Josefowicz as soloist in Salonen’s Violin Concerto. All three of the concerts will conclude with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

The following weekend, Salonen will conduct the revised version of his Wing on Wing, which was written for Disney Hall, along with selections from Mozart’s The Impresario, K. 486 and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Since 2018 is the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, it should be no surprise that his music will be well represented: Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium”), Chichester Psalms, (paired with Beethoven’s Ninth), and Mass, which is subtitled “A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” and was written in 1971 for the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. All of these, except for Serenade, will be conducted by Dudamel.

The performances of Mass present an interesting scheduling conumdrum because the dates (Feb. 1, 2 3 and 4) overlap LA Opera’s performances of Bernstein’s Candide. In fact, on Saturday, Feb. 3, while Candide is playing in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mass will be performed across 1st St. at Disney Hall. Fortunately, Candide has enough dates so that Bernstein lovers can work around the conflict.

Screenings of the 1961 movie of Bernstein’s West Side Story on Nov. 24 and 26 will round out the Bernstein celebration. This will be one of several movies that will appear on the schedule as part of the Phil’s inSIGHT series. Another in that series will take place on Feb. 28 (the Wednesday before the Oscars) when Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, will lead the Phil as it plays portions of the the nominated scores accompanied by videos.

Yet another screening, last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, The Birdman, will be part of a 10-day festival entitled “CDMX: Music from Mexico City, which will be presented as part of “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” held in conjunction with The Getty and other arts institutions across Southern California. L.A.

As L.A. Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda explains: “Among the 2017/18 season goals is to bring communities together through the shared experience of live music, building bridges and dissolving borders, and to find common threads and musical moments.:

The Phil’s Artist-Collaborator Yuval Sharon will be active on several fronts including a staging of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde; and a new work by Annie Gosfield, War of the Worlds, which will be based on the 1898 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells and the infamous 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Wells and his Mercury Theatre Players. The Gosfield work will take place not only in Disney Hall but at various sites around Los Angeles.

Dudamel will conduct the world premiere of Ted Hearne’s opera, Place, produced in conjunction with Beth Morrison Projects, which will not only play at Disney Hall but will be taken on the road during the orchestra’s spring tour.

I know I’ve left out a few things, but you get the idea. You can read all the details in the complete 2017-2018 media kit HERE. The chronological listing of programs is HERE.

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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