NEWS: Deborah Borda implores Curtis Institute grads to be “soldiers for music”

Peter Dobrin, music critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, spotlighted an important speech that Deborah Borda, outgoing President and CEO, of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, made to graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (LINK).

http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/peter_dobrin/philharmonic-honcha-to-curtis-grads-you-are-the-elite-of-the-micro-kingdom-of-classical-music-20170515.html

As Dobrin reports, “Borda, … told Saturday’s audience of students, parents, faculty, and guests that ‘everything I took for granted as a musician first and then managing America’s great orchestras has changed.

“‘Orchestras can no longer rely on old-fashioned subscription models,’ she said. ‘Music education is not guaranteed in public schools, and in a positive sense the entire history of classical music can all be streamed online for free. So the world I knew, and have worked in, and will continue to work in will not be the one you move through in your careers.’”

Borda, who received an honorary doctorate from the prestigious institution, spoke to about three dozen Curtis grads, calling them the elite of … the micro-kingdom of classical music,” but challenging them by asking: “How much time have you spent on your life rather than on your technique?”

She noted how LAPO Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel has influenced her and the orchestra not just as a conductor but through his championing of and involvement in the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), part of the Phil’s program that emulates Venezuela’s “El Sistema” music education program that nurtured Dudanmel.

She recalled Yo-Yo Ma’s description of citizen musicians before using Mstislav Rostropovich’s phrase, “soldiers of music,” as her challenge to the Curtis grads.

Borda leaves the Phil to become President and CEO of the New York Philharmonic on Sept. 15.

Norman Lebrecht also reported on Dobrin’s story in his Blog, “Slipped Disc.”

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: John Alexander sails away from the Pacific Chorale gloriously

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

My review of last night’s performance by the Pacific Chorale in Costa Mesa has been published on the Orange County Register’s Web site HERE (the story will appear in print editions tomorrow). The concert marked the conclusion of Artistic Director John Alexander’s 45-year tenure with the Chorale and their performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 (“A Sea Symphony”) was a masterful conclusion to a long, illustrious career.

One more thought after a night’s reflection: we often fail to give credit to those in charge of picking soloists for a particular evening. I assume that Alexander selected Layla Claire and Baritone Brian Mulligan for last night’s performance of “A Sea Symphony” and they proved to be exemplary choices for these difficult, taxing roles.
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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: Dudamel, L.A. Phil continue Schubert/Mahler cycle at Disney Hall

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conducting
Schubert: Symphony No. 3 and No. 4.
Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder; Matthias Goerne, baritone, soloist
Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Next performances: May 12 and 13 at 8 p.m.
Information: www.laphil.com

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced that it would play all eight of Schubert’s published symphonies over a two-week cycle this month — two symphonies paired with a Mahler song cycle in each concert — I wondered how the Schubert works, particularly his early efforts, would fare against the better-known Mahler groupings. I should have had more faith in Gustavo Dudamel.

As is often the case, I have underestimated the Phil’s music and artistic director, who has — with the orchestra playing beautifully — made each of the first four symphonies both a jewel and a perfect complement to the Mahler song cycles.

The angst emanating from Dudamel’s release of a letter imploring Venezuela’s government to find a way to end the violence in his native country seemed to have dissipated by last night at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Unlike last week, Dudamel was his normally animated, fully involved self on the podium last night, conducting the Schubert symphonies, which — as last week — he led from memory, with easy assurance.

Symphony No. 3 in D Major, D. 200 showed how Schubert was continuing to evolve as a composer even beyond his first two efforts. Written in 1815, when Schubert was age 18, the work continues to show the influences of Haydn and Mozart, but also of Beethoven — who was writing his seventh and eighth symphonies at the same time — and also of Rossini.

Like his first two symphonies, Schubert continues to spotlight the wind sections in this sunny work, which plays to the Phil’s strengths, with particular kudos to Principal Clarinet Boris Allakhverdyan and Associate Principal Flute Catherine Ransom Karoly.

Baritone Matthias Goerne was the soloist in Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder (extra points if you can name the television show in which this work was featured — answer below). Although the part was sung by a contralto when the Phil first played the work in 1942, Dudamel gets plaudits for programming Goerne to sing these “Songs on the Death of Children,” while choosing mezzo-sopranos to sing the other three cycles during this series.

Goerne brought extreme gravitas to the texts by Friederich Rückert, floating higher pianissimos lovingly while delivering deeply impassioned pathos in the lower parts, although his penchant for stooping and wandering around the podium was occasionally disconcerting. Dudamel and the Phil offered rich accompaniment and the final measures were so mesmerizing as to have the audience wait for nearly a minute after the final notes faded before Dudamel relaxed his arms and applause rained down on the performers.

Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 was his first to be written in a minor key (C minor, the same as Beethoven’s fifth); not until his eighth symphony would Schubert return to a minor key. Although Schubert appended the title, “Tragic,” to the work, there’s little of that word in the music. In this music, Schubert moves beyond his early symphonies to a style that is more fully developed. Dudamel and the Phil made the work sparkle with Viennese grace.

HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVERS:
• I don’t normally attend Thursday concerts because the church choir in which I sing practices that night, but with a couple of weeks off I got to hear this Thursday performance. Compared to weekend audiences, last night’s crowd was quite a bit more raucous but Dudamel took it all in stride, even giving a brief fist pump to the shouts after the first movement of Schubert’s Symphony No. 4.
• On May 18 and 19, Dudamel will lead Schubert’s fifth and sixth symphonies with Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, with mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča as soloist. The series concludes on May 20 and 21 with Schubert’s best-known symphonies, Nos. 8 (“Unfinished”) and 9 (“The Great C-Major”), with Garanča soloing in Mahler’s Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn on both concerts. Information on all of these is at www.laphil.com
• Answer to the question above: Kindertotenlieder appeared “Friends and Enemies,” an episode in the last season of M*A*S*H.
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: LeAnn Rimes to open “Live at the Arboretum” series on July 6

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

A consortium of presenters, headed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, is launching a new venture entitled “Live at the Arboretum” with Grammy-award winning artist LeAnn Rimes (pictured right) appearing July 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

Barger is being joined by the Pasadena Pops, Los Angeles County Department of Parks & Recreation and the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation in presenting the event. As is the case with Pops events, the Rimes concert will feature circular tables along with lawn seating. Tickets are reasonably priced — $10, $25 and $35 — and are available through the Pops box office: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org or 626/623-9472. Patrons may bring their own food and drink or purchase items from numerous food trucks. Gates will open at 5 p.m.

Rimes is an internationally acclaimed singer and ASCAP award-winning songwriter. Globally, she has sold more than 44 million units, won two Grammy® Awards; 12 Billboard Music Awards; two World Music Awards; three Academy of Country Music Awards; one Country Music Association Award and one Dove Award. At 14, Rimes won “Best New Artist” making her the youngest recipient of a Grammy® Award.

Pasadena Symphony Association CEO Laura Unger hopes this will be the first of many such events at the Pops’ outdoor venue. “When we moved into the Arboretum several years,” she explains, “both we and the Arboretum hoped that our presence there would help attract other events, as well. When Supervisor Barger was elected and installed, she moved quickly to set the train in motion that made this happen.”

Rimes’ concert comes midway between the first two Pasadena Pops concert. On June 17, Principal Pops Conductor Michael Feinstein will open the orchestra’s summer season with a tribute to Broadway’s “Golden Age.” “Actually,” says Unger, “as Michael will make clear during the concert he is talking about multiple golden ages of Broadway, from the early 20th century up to the presence.”

Joel Grey, Storm Large and Alex Getlin will be the soloists for the evening and Liza Minnelli will take time to reminisce with Feinstein not only about her “golden age” but also that of her mother, Judy Garland.

A week after Rimes’ concert, on July 13, the Midtown Men — four stars from the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys — will present an evening of music from that musical, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Motown and more. The Pops Resident Conductor, Larry Blank, will lead the orchestra.

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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FIVE SPOT: May 11-14, 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 11, 12, 13: NEW WEST SYMPHONY WITH GARRICK OHLSSON
7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Broad Stage; Santa Monica
8 p.m. Friday at Oxnard Performing Arts Center; Oxnard
8 p.m Saturday at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza; Thousand Oaks
Garrick Ohlsson, one of the country’s finest pianists, will be the featured performer when the New West Symphony concludes its 2017-2018 season. Ohlsson will be soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major (“Emperor”). Chicago native Fawzi Haimor, (presumably) the last of the candidates to become the NWS’s next music director, will also lead Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 and Rossini’s Overture to La Scala di Seta.

BONUS: The Broad Stage is easily about a 15-minute walk from the 17th St./SMC stop on Metro’s Expo Line.

Information: www.newwestsymphony.org

MARCH 11, 12, 13: L.A. PHIL PLAYS SCHUBERT, MAHLER
8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel continues his two-week series pairing the symphonies of Franz Schubert with song cycles by Gustav Mahler. This week it’s the third and fourth symphonies and Kindertotenlieder, with baritone Matthias Goerne as soloist in the Mahler.

Of the fourth symphony, Herbert Glass writes: “[Because Schubert] sought academic advancement, a friend suggesting he apply for a music-teaching position at a reputable German-language school in Laibach (today’s Ljubljana, in Slovenia). He didn’t get the job. And while it might be fanciful to hear in this C-minor Symphony anger at the rejection of his application, some other demons may have been exorcised here. It was surely written for personal reasons, being too emotionally exposed and technically demanding to be put into the trembling hands of the “family” orchestra. He would write nothing at all like it again.”

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.laphil.com

MARCH 11: CAMERATA PACIFICA
8 p.m. at Zipper Hall; Los Angeles
For its final local recital of the 2016-2017 season, Camerata Pacifica members play music by Haydn, Mozart and Dohnanyi.

BONUS: BONUS: Zipper Hall (on the campus of The Colburn School) is 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 Grand Ave. and left one block to the school.

Information: cameratapacifica.org

MARCH 13: PACIFIC CHORALE
7:30 p.m. at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa
Music Director John Alexander bids farewell to the Pacific Chorale after a 45-year tenure with a program that opens with several of his anthem favorites and concludes with Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 (“A Sea Symphony”). The Pacific Symphony and soloists Layla Claire, soprano, and Brian Mulligan, baritone, will perform in the Vaughan Williams work.

A preview by Paul Hodgins in the Orange County Register is HERE. My column from last Sunday is HERE.

Information: www.pacificchorale.org

MARCH 13: MARTHA GRAHAM AND WILDUP
8 p.m. at Valley Performing Arts Center; Northridge
The Martha Graham Dance Company joins with Christopher Rountree and his ensemble wild Up in a program of American dance music that includes Scott Joplin’s ZZZMaple Leaf Rag.ZXZ

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

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