PREVIEW: Peter Boyer’s “Ellis Island: The Dream of America” highlights Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival

Paul Hodgins of the Orange County Register has a fine interview with composer Peter Boyer, whose work Ellis Island: The Dream of America will be the centerpiece of the Pacific Symphony’s American Composers Festival April 6-8 at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. The concert is being taped for a future edition of PBS’ “Great Performnances” series, a first for the orchestra. Read his preview story HERE.

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FIVE-SPOT: March 31-April 2, 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 31: ACADEMY OF ST. MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS
7:30 p.m. at The Broad Stage; Santa Monica
One of many versions of this top-flight performing ensemble plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, K. 271, and Piano Concerto No. 2 (“The Haunted Ebb”) by Scottish composer Alasdair Nicolson, with pianist Inon Barnatan as soloist. The Nicolson concerto was premiered by the Academy earlier this month in New York City. The program also includes Copland’s Quiet City and Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A Major, K201 (186a).

BONUS: The Broad Stage can be reached by Metro’s Expo Line. Exit at the 17th St./SMCC station and it’s about a 10-minute walk from there.
Information: www.broadstage.com

MARCH 31, APRIL 1 AND 2: MIRGA CONDUCTS THE PHIL
March 31 and April 1 at 8 p.m. April 2 at 2 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Los Angeles Philharmonic Associate Conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be lead a program that includes Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, K. 491, with Stephen Kovacevich as soloist; Haydn’s Symphony No. 31, “Hornsignal;” and the U.S. premiere of Georg Frederich Haas’s Concerto grosso No. 1 for 4 alphorns and orchestra, with the hornroh modern alphorn quartet as soloists. Because March 31 is a “Casual Friday” concert, the Haas work will be omitted.

Alphorns are long, curved wooden horns that were used in the Alps and Carpathian mountains as communication devices between isolated villages. Most people know them through the commercials for Ricola cough drops.

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via the 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: www.laphil.org

APRIL 1: LA OPERA GALA
8 p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; Los Angeles
Plácido Domingo, Sondra Radvanovsky, Diana Damrau and Nicolas Testé join together for a this concert that features favorite arias, duets and ensembles. The program celebrates the 10 anniversary of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. In addition to singing, Domingo will also conduct the LA Opera Orchestra in a performance that showcases the training program’s current members and alumni.

BONUS: 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 up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laopera.org

APRIL 2: MORTEN LAURIDSEN’S LUX AETERNA
4 p.m. at Church of the Good Shepherd; San Gabriel
Dr. Peter Green conducts his 50-voice choir in one of the seminal works of the late 20th century.

BONUS: Free Admission (freewill offering)

Information: www.cgsum.org

APRIL 2: FELIX HELL, ORGANIST
7:30 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
German organist Felix Hell (who now lives in the U.S.) presents his transcriptions of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via the 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: www.laphil.org

BONUS: It’s not a live concert but PBS SoCal has back-to-back telecasts on Friday March 31 of Gustavo Dudamel leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of PBS’s “Great Performances” series. At 9 p.m. is last summer’s “Tangos Under the Stars” concert at Hollywood followed at 10:30 p.m. by a Disney Hall gala performance of Dudamel conducting the music of John Williams. Information: www.pbssocal.org
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Gail Samuel appointed LAPO acting President/CEO

Moving forward swiftly from the announcement earlier this month that Deborah Borda is leaving the Los Angeles Philharmonic as its President and Chief Executive Officer, the LAPO board has appointed Gail Samuel (pictured right) as acting President/CEO, effective immediately.

Borda, who will remain as an advisor to the board until June 1, will become the New York Philharmonic’s President and CEO on Sept. 15 (LINK and LINK).

Samuel has been the orchestra’s executive director since March 2015, She previously served as Acting President and CEO while Borda was on sabbatical at Harvard University in the Fall of 2015.

Samuel has worked at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association for 25 years, beginning as Orchestra Manager and rising through the organization, holding a variety of critical positions during that time. She was promoted from Vice President and General Manager, Philharmonic and Production to Chief Operating Officer in 2012. Previously, Samuel has held positions with the Minnesota Orchestra, Yale University, Tanglewood Music Festival and the Young Musicians Foundation.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Samuel studied violin and earned undergraduate degrees in music and psychology as well as an MBA from the University of Southern California. Samuel has served on the Board of Councilors for the USC Thornton School of Music since 2009.

As the board previously announced, a search committee headed by Board Chair Jay Rasulo has been formed to search for Borda’s successor. One would presume that Samuel will be high on the list of candidates.

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FIVE SPOT: March 23-29, 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. As you can see, Saturday will be a very busy day (and night).

MARCH 25: HOLLYWOOD MASTER CHORALE
4 p.m. at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, Beverly Hills
Stephen Pu leads the chorale in a peace-oriented program that includes Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei, and Nick Strimple’s Psalm 133, let the sweet sounds delight!

Information: www.hollywoodmasterchorale.org

MARCH 25: LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE
7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Grant Gershon leads his chorale in Stravinsky’s Les Noces and several choruses by John Adams.

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via 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: www.lamasterchorale.org

MARCH 25: LOS ANGELES OPERA: THE TALES OF HOFFMAN
7:30 p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Plácido Domingo is in the pit for this LAO revival of Marta Domingo’s production of Offenbach’s famed tale about poet E.T.A. Hoffman’s boozy recollections of the four women he has loved and lost. Vittorio Grigolo sings the title role and Diana Damrau portrays two of the women (Kate Lindsey and So Young Park are the other two heroines). There are five other performances (Grant Gershon conducts on April 6).

BONUS: The Pavilion is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Temple St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station, walk north to Temple and then and walk up two blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laopera.org

MARCH 25: JACARANDA AND TRANSCENDENTAL MUSIC
8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church Santa Monica
Pianist Stephen Vanhauwaert performs Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes and wildUp French horn Allen Fogel plays Massiaen’s Interstellar Call (a portion of From the Canyons to the Stars).

BONUS: First Pres, Santa Monica, is within shouting distance of the west end of the Metro Expo Line, especially if the weather is good. Walk north three long blocks and west to the church.

Information: www.jacarandamusic.org

MARCH 26: PITTANCE CHAMBER MUSIC AT THE PAVILION
3 p.m. at The Founders Room of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
The Pittance Chamber Music Ensemble, featuring members of the LA Opera Orchestra, join with tenor Arnold Livingston Geis and pianist Paul Floyd in this free concert that is part of L.A. Opera’s Open House program. Music by Britten, Korngold and Vaughan Williams.

BONUS: General seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are approximately 150 available seats. The performance will be about 90 minutes and will take place without intermission.

The Pavilion is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Temple St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station, walk north to Temple and then and walk up two blocks to reach the hall.

Information: pittancechambermusic.org

MARCH 29: COLBURN AT THE WALLIS
8 p.m. at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Beverly Hills
Colburn School Artist-in-Residence Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet joins pianists in the Colburn’s Conservatory of Music, Music Academy, and Community School in a program of solos and chamber music.

Information: www.colburnschool.edu
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Back to school with the L.A. Philharmonic

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (pictured at Hollywood Bowl) conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic yesterday in a free Neighborhood Concert at Rosemead High School. (Photo by Los Angeles Times)

Since 1991 the Los Angeles Philharmonic has sponsored “Neighborhood Concerts,” free programs that range from chamber music to youth orchestras to the full L.A. Phil to what it terms “neighborhoods underrepresented in our audiences.” What that translates to is, “attending concerts in Walt Disney Concert Hall (and, to a lesser extent, Hollywood Bowl) are too expensive for many people to afford.”

Some of these events are held in churches. Some take place in areas where the Phil has a presence through its Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA). However, yesterday’s concert at Rosemead High School was somewhat of a departure since neither part of that first sentence applies. Instead, kudos to L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, the El Monte Union High School District, the high school and the Phil for making yesterday’s event possible.

In truth, it was a massive amount of logistical work for 35 minutes or so of music, but no one in the large, exuberant crowd seemed to mind the short program. The orchestra certainly took the afternoon seriously: the dress standards were what one normally sees for a Sunday program at Disney Hall (black suits for the men, black outfits for the women), many of the orchestra’s first-chair players were onstage (including Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour) and the playing was first rate.

Moreover, the afternoon’s leader was the Phil’s associate conductor, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who last year was named music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England, a prestigious position previously held by Sir Simon Rattle and then Andris Nelsons.

The musical selections seemed a bit curious for the Rosemead audience, many whom had obviously never attended a Phil concert before. The afternoon opened with a crackling rendition of Johann Strauss Jr.’s Overture to ZZZDie Fledermaus, and continued with sparkling performances of Strauss Jr.’s ZZZOn the Beautiful Blue Danube, The Gypsy Baron Overture and ZZZPizzacata Polka.

Gražinytė-Tyla was in her element as a conductor and bubbly as she briefly introduced the music, acknowledging that it was more in tune with a New Year’s Eve program in Vienna — the school could have made hearing easier had it provided her with a microphone, although she was audible and understandable to most, even in the mezzanine where I sat.

With her flowing arms and hands and her penchant for bouncing and dancing on the podium, Gražinytė-Tyla was in her element in this dance-oriented program. She shaped phrases lovingly and played with the tempos expertly during the first five pieces. More importantly, she continues to impress with her ability to elicit top-quality music making from the Phil.

During the program’s final piece — Johann Strauss Sr.’s ZZZRadetsky March — Gražinytė-Tyla had the audience (literally) in the palm of her hand as she choreographed the beginning and cessation of clapping with gusto. It may well be that in the decades to come those in attendance will realize they were able to see this young, dynamic conductor near the beginning of what most in the business believe will be an important career.

The next Neighborhood concert is scheduled for Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 2760 West Pico Blvd. (at Mariposa) in Los Angeles, CA. Program details have yet to be announced.

Gražinytė-Tyla will be on the podium at Disney Hall on March 31, April 1 and 2 leading a program that includes Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, K. 491, with Stephen Kovacevich as soloist; Haydn’s Symphony No. 31, “Hornsignal,” and the U.S. premiere of Georg Frederich Haas’s Concerto grosso No. 1 for 4 alphorns and orchestra, with the hornroh modern alphorn quartet as soloists. Because March 31 is a “Casual Friday” concert, the Haas work will be omitted. Information: www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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