NEWS: End of an era: Cal Phil announces final outdoor summer season

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

The California Philharmonic will end 20 years of summer outdoor concerts with a season of three performances beginning July 23 at Santa Anita Racetrack’s performing arts venue. The orchestra will also play four concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall beginning July 10. Music Director Victor Vener is scheduled to lead all performances.

The outdoor season represents a reduction from the five concerts that have been held since Cal Phil shifted from the Los Angeles County Arboretum to Santa Anita Racetrack five years ago. The orchestra’s media release offered no explanation as to why this would be the last outdoor season but did say that the orchestra would continue perform in the summer at Disney Hall.

One of the things that has made Vener unique is that he mixes classical and pops repertoire for each of his concerts; other groups tend to play one genre or the other in their programs. For example, the July 23 Cal Phil concert will meld Scheherazade and Haydn’s “Miracle” Symphony with music from Prince, Queen, David Bowie and Michael Jackson.

When the Cal Phil shifted from the Arboretum to Santa Anita five years it marked the sixth outdoor venue in which Vener had worked — others included Descanso Gardens in La Cañada, the Rose Bowl, Starlight Bowl in Burbank and the steps of the Pasadena City Hall. Vener and the Cal Phil have also performed at Disney Hall every summer since it opened more than a decade ago.

Details on the upcoming season: 626-304-0333; www.calphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Pasadena Symphony’s Bruce Kiesling named music director of Adrian Symphony in Michigan

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

KieslingBruce Kiesling (pictured left), who has served for the past two years as Assistant Conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and music director of the Pasadena Youth Symphony, has been named music director of the Adrian (MI) Symphony. His appointment takes effect July 1.

Kiesling succeeds John Thomas Dodson, who stepped down at the end of the ASO’s 2014-15 season after a 15-year-tenure. Kiesling is just the fourth music director in the orchestra’s 35-year-history. Kiesling’s appointment came after an extensive search and an appearance with the orchestra in April.

Adrian is a town of nearly 22,000 people near the southern border of the state, about 40 miles south of Ann Arbor and 75 miles southwest of Detroit. The orchestra’s concerts take place in Dawson Auditorium in the campus of Adrian College. For Kiesling, this is something of a homecoming; he holds a graduate degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Kiesling, who calls himself “schizo-musical,” will lead a season of four classical concerts. Last season the orchestra also played three Pops concerts had presented a brass ensemble recital, but the orchestra’s media release made no mention of those activities.

In addition to his Pasadena Symphony duties, Kiesling currently serves as Music Director of the Tulare County Symphony. For five years, he conducted the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he led multiple orchestras of different levels including most of the 700 students at YOLA’s three sites. YOLA is Gustavo Dudamel’s signature music education program, which brings free-of-charge musical opportunities to underserved youth in Los Angeles.

Kiesling also leads the Orchestra and Opera at the University of California Santa Cruz. In an Adrian Daily Telegram article, Kiesling said that he will be “dialing back” his other orchestral commitments in order to spend the kind of time with the ASO that he knows is vital. “It’s important to me to be there enough to really hear the community,” he said. What that means for Pasadena is unclear.

In addition to his conducting, one thing about Kiesling that the Adrian community will come to love is his pre-concert lectures. He’s one of the best I’ve heard about engaging audiences in this often-tricky art.

Read the Adrian Symphony Orchestra’s media release HERE.

Read the complete Daily Telegram article HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Yannick Nézet-Séguin to become the Met’s next music director

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

NZ
The Metropolitan Opera has announced that one of the hottest conductors working today, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (pictured right), will succeed James Levine as the Met’s music director. The Montreal-born Nézet-Séguin, 41, represents a generational shift from Levine, 72, who will become music director emeritus beginning with the 2016-2017 season in the fall.

The moves comes at a price, however. With a very busy schedule booked years in advance, Nézet-Séguin will become the Met’s music director-emeritus in 2017-2018, when he will conduct two productions per year. He becomes music director in the 2021-2022 season when he will lead five productions annually. According to a New York Times article, he plans on being involved in the Met’s management immediately, despite his limited conducting schedule.

Nézet-Séguin will continue to be music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra; in fact, he has extended his contract with that ensemble through the 2025-2026 season. He does plan on gradually cutting back on his commitments outside of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal, where he got his first conducting gig and with whom he has maintained a strong relationship. “Just select dates in Berlin, Vienna, and Munich,” he told Peter Dobrin in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and that’s pretty much it. So I made the choice to be a very much Northeast American.”

Read the New York Times article HERE.

Peter Dobrin in the Philadelphia Inquirer has good background HERE.

Alex Ross offers his lukewarm perspective in The New Yorker HERE. His comparison as to when Levine was named the Met’s music director in 1975 and Nézet-Séguin’s appointment is worth noting. Even though both were odds-on favorites to get the job, there was a great deal of uncertainty in 1975 as to how Levine would fit the new position; ditto for Nézet-Séguin. Only time will tell.
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(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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ON THE ROAD: Speeding through Switzerland’s Gotthard Pass Tunnel

Gothard tunnelAs we in California struggle to even begin building a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco — in part because of the “challenge” of tunneling under the Tehachapi Mountains —word comes via this Los Angeles Times story (LINK) that Switzerland has just opened the world’s longest rail train tunnel: 35.4 miles under the Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps connecting Switzerland and Italy.

http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-switzerland-rail-tunnel-20160601-snap-story.html

The new tunnel, which will carry both passenger and freight traffic at a maximum depth of 1.4 miles under the Alps, took 17 years to construct and cost 12.2 billion Swiss francs ($12 billion), but the project came in on time and under budget.

My wife and I have ridden through the older train tunnel (built in 1882) many times in our travels to Switzerland — there is also an auto tunnel constructed in 1980.

265px-Kirche_WassenThe old railway tunnel spiraled up and down inside the mountain, so much so that you pass a small church in Wassen (pictured left) three times during the circling maneuvers. However, the new tunnel is virtually a straight shot under the mountain and the trip will take about 20 minutes. When combined with two other new tunnels to open in December, the trip from Zurich to Milan will take about 2:40, an hour less than the current trip and the trip through the pass will reach speeds of more than 150 miles per hour.

Yes, California, it can be done!
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(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Michael Feinstein renews Pasadena Pops contract through 2019

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Michael Feinstein has renewed his contract as Principal Pops Conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops through the 2019 season. He was hired to replace the late Marvin Hamlisch in 2013 and his contract was renewed through 2016 after his highly successful Pops debut that year.

Read the full media release HERE.

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