OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Kahane bids a fond farewell to LACO

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Saturday at Alex Theatre; Glendale
Next performances: Tonight at 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA
Information: www.laco.org

Jeffrey Kahane is conducting his final concerts after a 20-year reign as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra music director. This image was the printed program cover; a framed copy, signed by the orchestra members, was presented to Kahane last night.
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During the last eight days local classical music organizations have performed three farewell concerts. Last Saturday John Alexander bid goodbye to the Pacific Chorale after 45 years as its Music Director (REVIEW LINK). On Thursday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic honored Deborah Borda, who is stepping down as its President and CEO (REVIEW LINK)

This weekend, Jeffrey Kahane is bidding the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra adieu after 20 years as its Music Director, although he will remain as Conductor Laureate. Based on last night’s performance at the Alex Theatre in Gledane, he’s doing it with what might be called a quintessential Kahane program — a first and two lasts: a world premiere, Mozart’s final piano concerto, and concluding with a work that some might consider beyond the scope of a chamber orchestra: Schubert’s Symphony No. 9. It might also be thought of as two firsts and a last, since this weekend marks LACO’s initial performances of Schubert’s “Great C-Major” Symphony.

Originally the program called for Christopher Cerrone’s premiere and the concerto to be the first half with the Schubert as the sole post-intermission work. However, as is often the case with today’s young composers, Cerrone’s 12-minute work — Will There Be Singing — came loaded with percussion instruments, so Kahane elected to open with the concerto and save Cerrone’s new piece until the second half. The idea was to make for more seamless logistics, but it didn’t work; Kahane had to wait a few moments while the final percussion instruments were removed and the trombones came scurrying onstage.

The only real problem was that this decision unbalanced the program from a timing point of view. The concerto lasted just under 30 minutes while the second half, including 10 minutes of congratulatory speeches and a bubbly encore, Johann Strauss Jr.’s Overture to Die Fledermaus, ran three times that long.

At any rate, the concerto — No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595, the final piano concerto Mozart wrote and also the last one he played in public — proved to be the evening’s highlight, at least to this critic. Conducting from the keyboard, Kahane balanced his orchestral forces expertly and delivered a pristinely elegant performance of the solo part, reminding us all that he began his career as a prize-winning pianist and continues to play beyond that level.

Among Kahane’s many achievements Kahane has commissioned 30 new works, including 16 through LACO’s “Sound Investment” program. The 30th was Cerrone’s new piece, Will There Be Singing — in response to an email query as to why there was no question mark, he wrote: “I liked the slight ambiguity and rather don’t like punctuation in titles.”

It began with five minutes of ringing chords, continued with five minutes of minimalistic-style music that would have been appropriate for a movie sound track, and concluded with a couple of minutes that fused the two concepts together smartly. Kahane conducted the piece with vigor, the orchestra played it stylishly, and the audience gave the composer a warm reception when he came on stage.

During the past two weeks, Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have led audiences through the first six Schubert symphonies (the last two are being played this weekend), showing how Schubert matured as a symphony composer even in just a few years.

Schubert’s early symphonies honor the music of Haydn, Mozart and, to a lesser extent, Beethoven, while Nos. 8 and 9 are more forward looking. In her program notes for last night’s concerts, Dr. Christine Lee Gengaro wrote of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9: “The grandeur of the [first] movement … prefigures the Symphony as it would be by later composers — Brahms, Bruckner and even Mahler.”

Kahane elected to emphasize Schubert’s looking-backward element last night, delivering a performance would have sounded perfect in a Viennese salon but which offered little (to these ears) that looked ahead to the Romantic-era composers spelled out by Gengaro. That’s a perfectly acceptable way of performing this work and, indeed, it seemed to accentuate appropriately the DNA of LACO’s 49-year existence.

Kahane was fully in command throughout last night — oddly enough, he used a score during the second and third movements but not in the first and fourth — delivering brisk tempos that brought the performance in at 48 minutes. The orchestra was at the top if its collective game, playing with elegant refinement that began with the wistful horn solos by Gabriel Kovach to open the work.

In the media release about this concert, Kahane said, “It is the hope of every music director to leave an orchestra in better shape than it was when he inherited it, and I believe that anyone who has known and loved LACO over the last few decades would resoundingly agree that this hope has come to fruition.”

It has, and we all have much for which to be grateful, not least is that Jeffrey will be staying in the area, maintaining ties with the ensemble and mentoring new artists as Professor of Keyboard Studies at the USC Thornton School of Music.

Hemidemisemiquavers:
• This was the seventh LACO performance of Mozart’s K. 495 concerto. Others performances were led by Sir Neville Marriner in 1977, Gerard Schwarz in 1985, Christof Perick in 1989, Ignat Solzhenitsyn in 2007, and Kahane in 2008 as part of his cycle of all 27 concerti played during the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.
• The printed program noted that since he became music director on July 19, 1997 Kahane has conducted 519 distinct musical works (172 from the keyboard), led 430 individual concerts, and given 154 chamber-music performances. That’s a tough legacy for his successor to follow (the search is ongoing).
• In his first concert as Conductor Laureate next March, Kahane will lead the orchestra, leading the orchestra in a program that includes the West Coast premiere of Pierre Jalbert’s Violin Concerto, with Concertmaster Margaret Batjer as soloist. The concerto is a LACC co-commission. Information: www.laco.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 17-22, 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.

It’s not unusual to have the same piece show up on two different ensembles’ programs within the same season. Last month we had Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 played a week apart by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Pasadena Symphony. However, this weekend we have two ensembles playing the same major work on the same days!

MAY 18 AND 19: L.A. PHIL’S SCHUBERT SERIES CONTINUES
8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Gustavo Dudamel concludes his Schubert/Mahler cycle with two different programs this week. Thursday and Friday, it’s Schubert’s fifth and sixth symphonies paired with Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as soloist (she’s a powerhouse replacement for Elīna Garanča, who withdrew for “personal reasons”).

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

MAY 18, 19 AND 20: MOZART MEETS “DON QUXIOTE”
8 p.m. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa
Carl St.Clair leads the Pacific Symphony in a program that features Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, with Orli Shaham as soloist, and Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Quixote, with Timothy Landauer, the orchestra’s principal cellist, as soloist.

BONUS: Timothy Mangan, the orchestra’s new writer-in-residence, has a thoughtful article on Strauss’ piece HERE.

Information: www.pacificsymphony.org

MAY 20: DRUM SUMMIT: MUSIC OF STEVE REICH
8 p.m. First Presbyterian Church; Santa Monica
Jacaranda’s Percussion Ensemble honors the 80th birthday of Steve Reich with a performance of Reich’s Drumming; Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ.

BONUS: The church is about a 10-minute walk from the downtown Santa Monica stop on Metro’s Expo Line (the line’s final stop). If you arrive early, there are plenty of places to eat in the Third St. Promenade, which is one route to the church.

Information: www.jacarandamusic.org

MAY 20 AND 21: JEFFREY KAHANE’S FINAL CONCERTS AS LACO MUSIC DIRECTOR
8 p.m. Saturday at Alex Theatre; Glendale
7 p.m. Sunday at UCLA’s Royce Hall
With these concerts Jeffrey Kahane concludes his 20-year reign as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s music director. The program contains a first and two lasts: the world premiere of Christopher Cerrone’s Will There Be Singing, Schubert’s final symphony, No 9 (“The Great C-Major”) and Mozart’s final piano concerto, No. 27 n B-flat major, K.595, with Kahane as soloist and conducting from the keyboard.

Information: www.laco.org

MAY 20 AND 21: DUDAMEL AND L.A. PHIL’S CONCLUDE SCHUBERT/MAHLER SERIES
8 p.m. Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
If you’re really into compare and contrast, this is your weekend! You can either catch Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 played by LACO on Saturday and the L.A. Phil on Sunday, or you’ve even got time to hear both ensembles on Sunday.

Dudamel’s program also includes Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and Mahler’s Songs from Das Knaben Wunderhorn, with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as soloist (again, as Thursday and Friday, she is serving as a great sub for Elīna Garanča, who withdrew for “personal reasons”).

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

MAY 22: IVETA APKALNA, ORGANIST
7:30 p.m. Saturday at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna will make her Disney Hall debut in the final recital of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2016-2017 organ series. Apkalna — titular organist of the Klais organ at the newly opened Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg — will play music by Aivars Kalējs, Thierry Escaich, Philip Glass, Johann Sebastian Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, Franz Liszt, and George Thalben-Ball.

Apkalna will also appear next weekend with Dudamel and the LAPO in a performance of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass. Information: www.laphil.com

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 for May 22: 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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FIVE-SPOT: April 20-23, 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. Once again, Saturday will be a VERY busy day.

APRIL 20, 22, 23: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC
8 p.m. April 20 and 22; 2 p.m. April 23
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
David Robertson, music director of the St. Louis Symphony, returns “home” (he’s a Santa Monica native) to lead the Phil in a program that features the west coast premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto, with Paul Jacobs as soloist. The concerto is bookended by Charles Ives’ Three Places in New England and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (“from the New World”). The Rouse concerto, a L.A. Phil co-commission, debuted last fall in Philadelphia.

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

APRIL 21: HIGH SCHOOL CHORAL FESTIVAL
1 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles (see “Additional Concert” below)
1,000 high school students from 30 Southland schools can be heard in a free concert when the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents the 28th Annual High School Choir Festival. The Festival choir will be led by LAMC Artistic Director Grant Gershon in a varied program that features works by this year’s guest artist singer/composer Moira Smiley. Smiley will also teach the massive choir body percussion to accompany one of her songs.

BONUS: Free admission, first come, first served (which means it’s a great — and cost effective — opportunity to hear choral music in Disney Hall).

ADDITIONAL CONCERT: Assistant conductor Jenny Wong will lead 16 members of the Chorale in a concert at 11 a.m. This one is also free but tickets must be arranged through the Master Chorale Web Site (see below).

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

APRIL 21: THE COLBURN ORCHESTRA
7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Guest Conductor Christian Arming (music director of the Liège Royal Philharmonic) leads this top-notch conservatory orchestra in a program that features a collection of songs by Irving Berlin sung by tenor Joshua Wheeker and danced by The Colburn Dance Academy. The songs are bookended by Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet.

BONUS: This concert is part of the L.A. Phil’s “Sounds About Town” series, which means that tickets are very reasonably priced ($15-$44). So, if you’ve never heard a concert in Disney Hall, this is a great opportunity.

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

APRIL 21: “WEST SIDE STORY”
8 p.m. at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts; La Mirada
The McCoy-Rigby mounting of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, his iconic retelling of Romeo and Juliet, moves to La Mirada for an extended run that lasts through May 14.

BONUS: Nice ticket prices: $14-$70.

Information: lamirdadatheatre.com

APRIL 22 AND 23: LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
8 p.m. April 22 at Alex Theatre; Glendale
7 p.m. April 23 at Royce Hall, UCLA; Westwood
In his penultimate concert as LACO Music Director, Jeffrey Kahane leads the orchestra, soloists and members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Information: www.laco.org

APRIL 22: BACH’S “GOLDBERG VARIATIONS”
3 p.m. at The Huntington Library; San Marino
Harpsichordist Paolo Bordignon will play one of Bach’s most famous keyboard works as part of Camerata Pacifica’s 27th season.

Information: www.cameratapacifica.org

APRIL 22: AMERICAN YOUTH SYMPHONY
6 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA; Westwood
Music Director Carlos Izcaray leads his young musicians in a performance of Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, and Korngold’s Violin Concerto, with Rachel Ostler as soloist.

BONUS: Tickets are free but should be reserved in advance (the concert is nearly sold out). The concert is followed by a ticketed gala dinner; reservations are required.

Information: aysymphony.org

APRIL 22: PUCCINI’S “TOSCA”
7:30 p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; Los Angeles
Sondra Radvanovsky returns to L.A. to reprise her role in Puccini’s tear jerker. James Conlon conducts and John Caird oversees his original LA Opera staging. Other performances are April 27, May 2, 5 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and April 30 and May 7 at 2 p.m.

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 west up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laopera.org

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

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(Rev.) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Jeffrey Kahane, LACO open 46th season with “world tour”

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
The revision includes the name of the encore.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at Glendale’s Alex Theatre
Patrick: Lines of the Southern Cross
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian); Juho Pohjonen, soloist
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor.
Next performance: Tonight at 7 p.m. UCLA’s Royce Hall. Concert preview at 6 p.m.
Information: www.laco.org
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Jeffrey Kahane took his audience on an around-the-world tour for the opening concert of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s 46th season last night in Glendale’s Alex Theatre. The itinerary included Australia by way of Southern California, Egypt via France and Finland, and Germany-Austria.

Kahane, beginning his 18th season as LACO’s music director, opened the program with the LACO-commissioned world premiere of Lines of the Southern Cross by 46-year-old Australia native Cameron Patrick, who now lives in Los Angeles.

The 15-minute, five-movement work for strings and percussion used sounds that replicated Aboriginal instruments — in his preconcert talk, Patrick explained that importing actual instruments would have been too difficult legally.

Patrick also employed “songline,” an aural map that describes geographical features, to paint evocative pictures of the wide-open Outback spaces (Lake Cootharaba, K’gari Coast and Nullabor Plain). The jazz-infused final section added a joyous counterpoint to the mystery. The audience responded with a thunderous standing ovation.

Prior to intermission, Kahane, the orchestra and Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen offered a scintillating performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5. The only other time that LACO had programmed this last of the composer’s piano concertos was in 1985 when Gerard Schwarz was music director, Kahane was three years shy of making his conducting debut, and Pohjonen was age four.

Now a rising star in the piano firmament, Pohjonen displayed impeccable technique throughout Saturday night, particularly in his ultra-clean runs and trills. However what made this performance special were his exquisite shadings and musicality, especially in the second movement that gives the concerto its nickname, “Egyptian” (reportedly the composer heard that movement’s main theme being sung by boatmen while cruising down the Nile River). Kahane and the orchestra offered supple accompaniment throughout the performance. Pohjonen encored with Les chinois by François Couperin from Pieces de Clavecin, Book 4: 27th Ordre in B minor.

After intermission, Kahane and his orchestra a brisk account of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Like the concerto, this was just the second time that LACO has played this most familiar of Beethoven symphonies (the other time was in 2009) but Kahane conducted it from memory.

This performance also demonstrated Kahane’s savvy programming in broadening LACO’s repertory to include “larger” symphonies (as opposed to those of Mozart and Haydn, to name but two composers). Saturday night wasn’t a note-perfect performance but the 53 players approximated the size Beethoven would have used and, compared to a “full-sized” orchestra of 90 or so, played with a transparency that allowed many of the inner voices to shine through clearly.

HEMIDEMISEMIQUAVERS:
• Prior to the performance, Kahane took the opportunity to salute Andrea Laguni, who has retired after 19 years as the orchestra’s general manager.
• In the preconcert talk, in addition to Kahane interviewing Patrick about Lines of the Southern Cross, Principal Oboeist Alan Vogel played Saint-Saëns’ Oboe Sonata, with Kahane accompanying at the keyboard.
• Most interesting item gleaned from Dr. Christine Lee Gengaro’s music notes: There was a 20-year-gap between Saint-Saëns fourth and fifth piano concertos. He wrote the Egyptian concerto in 1896 for the 50th anniversary of his debut at Paris’ Salle Pleyel when he was age 11.
• The next LACO orchestra concerts are Oct. 18 (at the Alex) and 19 (at UCLA’s Royce Hall). Douglas Boyd leads a program of George Benjamin’s At First Light; Mozart’s “Haffner” March and “Haffner” Serenade; and Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2, with Steven Isserlis as soloist. Information: www.laco.org
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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PREVIEW: Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra 2012-2013 season features premieres and Kahane

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

Although summer seasons are now in full swing, it’s not too
soon to be thinking about the upcoming indoor programs. The Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s 44th season offers a rich schedule that includes 28
performances in Glendale’s Alex Theatre, UCLA’s Royce Hall, The Colburn
School’s Zipper Hall, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, and Pasadena’s
Ambassador Auditorium.

 

55422-Kahane.jpg

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, now in his 16th
season as LACO’s musical chief, will conduct five of the seven orchestral
concerts beginning Oct. 6 at the Alex and Oct. 7 at Royce Hall. The program
will include Kahane soloing and conducting in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G
major; Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with Augustin Hadelich (in his LACO debut) as soloist; and two
west coast premieres: The Great Swiftness
by Andrew Norman and James Matheson’s — True
South.

 

Kahane will also conduct and play on two other programs: the
original 1924 of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody
in Blue
on Dec. 8 and 9 and Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto on March 23
and 24. He will also dissect and then play and conduct Beethoven’s fourth piano
concerto on Feb. 23 at Ambassador as LACO’s annual “Discover” program.

 

Norman, who begins a three-year stint as LACO’s
Composer-in-Residence, will have his commission played on the orchestra’s
“Sound Investment” program played on 20 and 21. The season also includes an
appearance by noted choral conductor Helmuth Rilling, who will lead the
orchestra and USC Thornton Chamber Singers in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem
on Jan. 26 and 27.

 

In addition to the orchestra series, LACO will also offer
its Westside Connections series at The Broad Theatre, Baroque Conversations
series at Zipper Hall, and its annual Silent Film Festival on June 8 at Royce
Hall, featuring Buster Keaton’s Our
Hospitality.

 

Information:
213/622-7001. Read the full media release HERE. The chronological schedule is
HERE.

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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