OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, American Youth Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Children’s Chorus; American Youth Symphony

James Conlon, Anne
Tomlinson, Alexander Treger, conductors

Music by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Beam, Wilcocks and
Bjarnason

March 4 at 7:30 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall.

 

NOTE: With this
review, I come violate one of my cardinal rules, which is to not review people
for whom I’ve sung or with whom I am well acquainted. Anne Tomlinson fits in
the latter category and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus is housed at my
church [Pasadena Presbyterian]. Thus, you can — as the late, great Molly Ivins
was often wont to say, take this review with “a grain of salt or a pound of
salt,” if you are so inclined.

______________________

 

We’ve just come off of six weeks that, among other things,
focused attention on Venezuela’s “El Sistema” music education system and the
Los Angeles Philharmonic’s attempt to reproduce — in some fashion — the success
of that endeavor locally.

 

Lost amid the Mahler, hoopla and acronyms such as YOLA and
HOLA is the fact that this region can boast of several ensembles that
demonstrate what happens when the musical cream rises to the top. Two of those
groups, the American Youth Symphony and Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, combined
for a concert last night at Walt Disney Concert Hall that concluded with the
world premiere of an intriguing cantata, The
isle is full of noises
by Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason.

 

The Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (which, despite its name
is based in Pasadena) was founded in 1986 and has become one of the nation’s
leading children’s choral programs. There are now more than 375 children, ages
6-18, participating in seven choirs and an extensive music education program.
Its artistic director, Anne Tomlinson, has been at the helm for 16 years and
LACC regularly performs with the L.A. Phil, Los Angeles Opera and other
professional groups, while also presenting its own programs. The group’s
Concert Choir recently sang for both Mahler Symphony No. 3 and No. 8.

 

Founded in 1964 by Mehli Mehta (father of former LAPO Music
Director Zubin Mehta), the American Youth Symphony has trained more than 200
musicians who now play in professional orchestras. Together the New York
Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra have eight AYS alumni in
principal posts, while the L.A. Phil, L.A. Chamber Orchestra and L.A. Opera
Orchestra use 32 members who worked with the AYS.

 

For their appearance on the Phil’s “Sounds About Town”
series this year, the two organizations combined to commission Bjarnason’s
14-minute, three-movement piece based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In the preconcert lecture, Tomlinson identified a
significant problem of writing a big piece for a children’s chorus: the range
of the young singers is only slightly more than two octaves, far less than if a
composer were writing for adults.

 

Bjarnason, who at age 31 isn’t all that much older than some
of the AYS instrumentalists (that group’s upper age limit is 27), was equal to
the task. He chose the texts purposefully; his grandfather translated
Shakespeare’s sonnets into Icelandic, a project that was published just before
his grandfather’s death.

 

Deciding that some of Shakespeare’s sonnets weren’t
appropriate textually for children, Bjarnason instead turned to The Tempest and selected Miranda’s O I Have Suffered, Caliban’s Be Not Afear’d and Prospero’s The Cloud-Capp’d Towers as the texts for
the three movements. He reserved the loudest, richest orchestral moments for
when the children weren’t singing, creating massed clusters of sound with piano
and percussion punctuation. However, during the choral portions Bjarnason
skillfully cut back the orchestra so as not to overpower the 86 members of the
LACC Concert Choir, whom he challenged with close harmonies and tricky sliding
chromatic scales; the composition ranged from unison singing to as many as 12
parts. The result was often intriguing and occasionally riveting.

 

Conlon, who spends much of his life balancing orchestras
with singers, was the perfect choice to lead this premiere performance. He did
an expert job of balancing and supplied a supple hand to the score’s tone
painting. The orchestra — with Principal Flute Alexandra Walin standing out in
her solo turns — played with assurance and skill and the choristers sang with
compelling gracefulness and cohesion. Considering that the singers had
relatively little time to prepare owing to their work in the Phil’s “Mahler
Project,” their performance was particularly noteworthy.

 

Prior to the Bjarnason work, Alexander Treger, who has been
the orchestra’s music director since 1998, led his AYS in a polished
performance of a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet. Last week, Charles Dutoit led the L.A. Phil in a
riveting performance of eight sections of the ballet and if Treger’s concept
(using just six sections) felt a little more episodic than Dutoit’s, this
performance had its exhilarating moments, as well.

 

In the first half of the program, three of the LACC choirs
began the Shakespearean theme by performing a series of short selections from
American and British composers. The 16 high-school girls of the Chamber Singers
made a block dividing the larger Intermediate and Apprentice Choirs.

 

The most impressive performance was the initial selection:
Douglas Beam’s Spirits, which
Tomlinson conducted and the combined choirs sang with impressive diction and
precision.

 

Individually, the Intermediate Choir (led by Mandy Brigham)
and the Apprentice Choir (led by Larissa Donnelly) sang Britten’s Fancie, Robert Johnson’s Where the Bee Sucks and Vaughan
Williams’ Orpheus with His Lute with
supple grace, although the diction was more muddied (part of which can be laid
at the hands of the composers). The Chamber Singers concluded the set with a
sweet performance of Vaughan Williams’ Sigh
No More, Ladies.
Among other things, the collection of choirs and songs
provided the audience with valuable lessons in how voices change as children
grow older and gain more experience in choral singing. Twyla Meyer accompanied
skillfully on the piano.

 

To conclude the first half, Tomlinson returned to the podium
to the lead the orchestra and Concert Choir (LACC’s flagship ensemble) in a
performance of David Wilcocks’ The
Glories of Shakespeare.
Actor Stuart W. Howard opened the piece by reciting
lines from uncredited, albeit familiar Shakespeare lines, and he and Lina Patel
added additional recitatives between each of the five selections in this
pastiche.

 

Unlike Bjarnason, whose orchestral writing covered a wide
range, Wilcocks’ orchestral accompaniments stayed mainly with the two-octave
treble-voice range, which made the work less interesting. Whether it was the
singers not projecting quite enough volume or the orchestra playing with two
much, Tomlinson had troubles with balances in the first piece but provided a
more integrated whole during the final four movements. Principal Flute Walin
again provided sparkling solo work.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Apparently bowing to complaints raised from opening night
onward about Disney Hall’s inability to adequately project spoken words, a
large horn cluster was suspended above the stage, which made diction from
Howard and Patel much clearer. It also looked ugly and overpowering but one can
hope that someone will figure out a way to cover the horns in a way that blends
more aesthetically with Frank Gehry’s wood walls and ceiling.

One thing the horn array did was eliminate the use
overhead projection of texts, which were, instead, in a printed-program insert.
Fortunately, house management left the lights up sufficiently for people to
follow the texts when that was necessary.

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and American Youth Symphony appear tonight at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

This article was first published today in the above papers.

 

Los Angeles Children’s
Chorus; American Youth Symphony

James Conlon, Anne
Tomlinson, Alexander Treger, conductors

Music by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Beam and Wilcocks

The Isle is full of
noises
by Daniel Bjarnason (world premiere)

Today at 7:30 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall. Preconcert
lecture at 6:30 p.m.

Information:
www.laphil.com

 _______________________

There are several reasons to consider attending this
evening’s program by the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and American Youth
Symphony at 7:30 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall, part of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s “Sounds About Town” series.

 

First (and most important) it’s a concert that combines two
of the Southland’s major youth-oriented organizations. Now in its second
quarter century, the Pasadena-based Los Angeles Children’s Chorus is one of the
world’s premiere children’s choirs whose singers regularly perform with such
groups as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Opera.  From the time it was founded, in 1964
by conductor Mehli Mehta (father of Zubin), the American Youth Symphony has
trained thousands of orchestral musicians, many of whom now play in major
orchestras throughout the U.S.

 

Second, the Shakespeare-themed program will see the
conductors of both ensembles on the podium (albeit at different times), along
with Los Angeles Opera Music Director James Conlon, who will lead both
ensembles in the world premiere of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s The isle is full of noises, a
three-movement work based on Shakespeare’s The
Tempest.

 

The concert will conclude a very busy weekend for Conlon.
Last night he led a performance of Britten’s Albert Herring and this afternoon he conducts Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, both for L.A. Opera at
the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It will also be a busy day at Disney Hall, as
the L.A. Phil and guest conductor Pablo Hereas-Casado conclude their weekend
series with a program that includes the west coast premiere of James Matheson’s
Violin Concerto, along with Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Ein Heldenleben.

 

Anne Tomlinson, LACC artistic director, will lead the
opening half of the Sunday evening program, conducting the choir in Sigh no more ladies and Orpheus with his lute by Ralph Vaughan
Williams; Benjamin Britten’s Fancie;
and Douglas Beam’s Spirits. Tomlinson
will conclude the first half by conducting both ensembles in David Wilcocks’ The Glories of Shakespeare.

 

After intermission and before the Bjornason work, Alexander
Treger, AYS music director, will lead his ensemble in a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

 

A third reason to attend is that the “Sounds About Town”
series provides people with an inexpensive way to see a concert in the Disney
Hall auditorium. Tickets for this concert range from $20.75 to $45, far less
than you would pay for an L.A. Phil concert, so if you’ve never been inside
Disney Hall, this is a great opportunity. Since the two ensembles will
undoubtedly have lots of relatives in attendance, check with the box office
before you make the trip downtown. Information:
323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

_______________________

 

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

(Updated) Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 1, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

UPDATE:  I forgot The Colburn Orchestra concert on Saturday! Of course, I won’t be able to see it because I will be singing in the Pasadena Singers’ concert (see bottom of this post), but the Colburn kids deserve to be included.

Can it really be March 1 already??? Each Thursday, I list five events that pique my interest,
including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive
tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Tomorrow at 8 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor

The 34-year-old Spanish conductor, who last December was
named Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St Luke’s in New York City,
returns to conduct the Phil in a program that includes the west coast premiere
of James Matheson’s Violin Concerto (with LAPO Principal Concertmaster, Martin
Chalifour as soloist) and Richard Strauss’ tone poem Ein Heldenleben. Tomorrow night is a “Casual Friday” program; the
Saturday and Sunday concerts add Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Information:
www.laphil.com

Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium
The Colburn Orchestra; Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Tovey — music director of the Vancouver Symphony and for the past three summers principal guest conductor of the L.A. Phil at Hollywood Bowl– leads a program of Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben (yes, we seem to be awash in Strauss’ autobiographical tone poem — see L.A. Phil above)) and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, with Sichen Ma as soloist. Information: www.colburnschool.edu

Sunday at 4 p.m. at
Neighborhood Church, Pasadena

Pacific Serenades

Known for presenting world premieres, Pacific Serenades unveils
a new work by the group’s artistic director, Mark Carlson, which is entitled Cave Paintings, for alto saxophone,
violin, viola, cello, and piano. Carlson
describes Cave Paintings as a
tribute to music from American popular culture of the 1930s and 1940s. “I grew
up hearing that music,” he explains, “partly because my mother loved it [...] and
partly because it was always such an integral part of our culture, and still
is.” He cites noir film scores and the Great
American Songbook
— music principally from Broadway and Hollywood musicals
and from jazz by the likes of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Billy Strayhorn,
Harold Arlen, and Cole Porter–as inspirations.

 

The concert
also plays Saturday night at a private home in Altadena and Tuesday night at
UCLA (where Carlson teaches). Information:
www.pacser.org

 

Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Children’s Chorus and American Youth Symphony; James Conlon, Anne Tomlinson and
Alexander Treger, conductors

There are several reasons to consider attending this
concert. First (and most important) it’s a concert that combines two of the
Southland’s major youth-oriented organizations. Now in its second quarter
century, the Pasadena-based Los Angeles Children’s Chorus is one of the world’s
premiere children’s choirs whose singers regularly perform with such groups as
the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Opera.  From the time it was founded, in 1964 by conductor Mehli
Mehta (father of Zubin), the American Youth Symphony has trained thousands of
orchestral musicians, many of whom now play in major orchestras throughout the
U.S.

 

Second, the Shakespeare-themed program will see the
conductors of both ensembles on the podium (albeit at different times), along
with Los Angeles Opera Music Director James Conlon, who will lead both
ensembles in the world premiere of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s The isle is full of noises, a
three-movement work based on Shakespeare’s The
Tempest.

 

Anne Tomlinson, LACC artistic director, will lead the
opening half, conducting music by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Douglas Beam and
David Wilcocks. After intermission and before the Bjornason work, Alexander
Treger, AYS music director, will lead his ensemble in a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

 

Another reason to attend is that this concert is part of the
L.A. Phil’s “Sounds About Town” series, which provides people with an
inexpensive way to see a concert in the Disney Hall auditorium. Tickets for
this concert range from $20.75 to $45, far less than you would pay for an L.A.
Phil concert, so if you’ve never been inside Disney Hall, this is a great
opportunity. Since the two ensembles will undoubtedly have lots of relatives in
attendance, check with the box office before you make the trip downtown. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Wednesday at 8 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Jeffrey Kahane and
friends

Kahane, who is celebrating his 15th anniversary
as music director of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, appears with LACO’s
Concertmaster Margaret Batjer and Principal Cellist Andrew Shulman in a recital
on the Phil’s Colburn Celebrity Series. Kahane, who continues to be a
world-class pianist, will play music by Chopin, as well. Information: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30 at
Pasadena Presbyterian Church

The Pasadena Singers:
“Choral Favorites from Two Continents”

Since I sing with this chamber choral ensemble, you can (as
I often say, quoting the late, great Molly Ivins) take this recommendation with
a grain of salt or a pound of salt. The program features the world premiere of
three Scottish/Irish folk songs arranged by Philip Lawson, who for 20 years
sang with and was the principal arranger for The King’s Singers. Also on the
agenda is music by Brahms (a healthy selection of the Liebeslieder Waltzes), Copland, Vaughan Williams and a rollicking
arrangement of Cindy by Mormon
Tabernacle Choir director Mack Wilberg. Information:
www.ppc.net

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on October 20, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events that peak my
interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a
minimum, inexpensive tickets. This week I actually have three such events — to
make up for last week when I had none.

 

Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Today and Tomorrow
at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

In advance of the Phil’s trip to San Francisco next week,
Dudamel conducts John Adams’ Short Ride
in a Fast Machine
and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. Johannes Moser will be
the soloist in the world premiere of Magnetar,
Concerto for Electric Cello,
by Mexican composer-guitarist Enrico Chapela. “What,”
you ask, “is an electric cello?” Yamaha, creator of the instrument, provides
details in the following link.

Electric cello release.doc

Concert info: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at the Greek Theatre

Pasadena Pops; Marvin
Hamlisch, conductor. Idina Menzel, vocalist

If you still need a Pops fix, Marvin Hamlisch and the Pops
play back up for Menzel, who won a Tony Award in 2005 for her role as Elphaba
in Wicked on Broadway. The program
will reportedly include selections from pop, musical theater favorites
(including Wicked and Rent), as well as selections from her
album of original songs, I Stand.
Info: www.greektheatrela.com

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” programs …

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Cappella Gloriana

This San Diego professional chorale opens the church’s “Friends
of Music” series of nine free concerts performing music by its founder and
director, Stephen Sturk, with organist Martin Green and the San Diego Harmony
Ringers Handbell Choir. Info: www.ppc.net

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Ambassador Auditorium

The Colburn
Orchestra. Yehuda Gilad, conductor

Gilad will conduct Shostakovich’s Festival Overture and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. Colburn student
Estelle Choi will be the soloist in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1.
There’s a wait list available for the free tickets. Info: www.colburnschool.edu

 

Sunday at 6 p.m. at
Royce Hall, UCLA

American Youth
Symphony. Alexander Treger, conductor; Rod Gilfry, baritone

Treger leads another of the region’s top-notch training
orchestras in Bernstein’s Candide Overture
and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Rod
Gilfry will be the soloist in selections from CarouselTrouble
in Tahiti
Sweeney Todd
and The Most Happy Fella. For my profile on this concert,
click HERE. The concert is free (although a $10 donation is suggested); make
reservations through the orchestra’s Web site. Info: aysmphony.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

 

 

PREVIEW AND LINK: San Gabriel Valley native Rod Gilfry to appear with American Youth Symphony Sunday

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

American Youth
Symphony. Alexandre Treger, conductor; Rod Gilfry, baritone

Sunday, October 23, 2011, 6 p.m. Royce Hall (UCLA)

Free admission ($10 donation suggested)

Info: aysymphony.org

______________________

 

56122-Gilfry portrait 4-Web.jpg

If ever a musical were aptly named for a singer, it would be
The Most Happy Fella for baritone Rod
Gilfry (right), the West Covina native who grew up in Claremont and now lives a
most happy — and busy — life juggling several different roles.

 

His latest performance comes Sunday when he will appear as
soloist in the opening concert of the American Youth Symphony Orchestra season
at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Gilfry will sing selections from Carousel, West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and A Most Happy Fella. AYS Music Director Alexander Treger will also
lead his ensemble of youthful musicians (who range in age from 15-27) in
Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture
and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.

 

In addition to his many performing gigs, Gilfry holds the
Steven Crocker Chair at the USC Thornton School of Music, where he is an
associate professor of vocal arts and operea. “Because it’s an endowed chair,
the position allows me to perform quite a bit and work my teaching schedule
around my performances,” says Gilfry. “The school encourages me because performing
has great teaching value for my students.”

 

In fact, says Gilfry, the school agreed for him to spend the
first six months of 2010 appearing in the national tour of the highly
successful revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, a schedule that included a major stop at the
Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center for which Gilfry won a Garland Award.
Earlier this year Gilfry also made 14 performances playing the title role in Sweeney Todd at the Thtre du Chtelet in
Paris and appeared 13 times this summer as Frank Butler in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun at the Glimmerglass
Festival in Cooperstown, NY.

 

It hasn’t all been musical theater, however. “I enjoy both,”
says Gilfry, “but I don’t want people to get the impression that all I do is
musical theater. I still consider myself to be principally an opera singer.” Last
fall, he created the title role in the world premiere of Marc-Andr Dalbavie’s
opera Geusaldo at the Zurich Opera
and next March he will appear as Don Alfonso in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte for the New York City Opera.

 

He’s also had plenty of concert opportunities during the
past few years. Gilfry recently sang the role of Lyndon Johnson in Steven Stucky’s
August 4, 1964 with the Dallas
Symphony in Dallas and at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, the title role in
Mendelssohn’s Elijah in San
Francisco, and gave the world premiere of a work by Jeremy Cavaterra at the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art in September.

 

Ironically, it was in the role of Joe a decade ago in The Most Happy Fella, the 1956 Frank
Loesser work, that Gilfry first began to add musical theatre back into to his
repertoire. Of course, that wasn’t Gilfry’s first exposure to the genre. He appeared
in five productions at Claremont High School and even more at Claremont United
Methodist Church as he was growing up.

 

Nor is Gilfry the first singer to make this transition. Italian
Opera star Enzio Pinza, to cite just one example, gained even wider fame when
he created the role of Emile DeBecque in the Broadway version of South Pacific. In recent years, such
opera luminaries as Deborah Voigt have followed suit.

 

The juggling act for Gilfry is hectic, but still satisfying.
“It’s challenging and a lot of hard work,” he agrees, “but I guess you could
say I’m a most happy fella.”

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Classical music schedule — overload or overjoy?

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of this
article will be published tomorrow in the above papers.

______________________

 

In every classical-music season there are one or two weeks
where the operating word is “overload.” The upcoming fortnight counts as one of
those blocks, especially as it comes on the heels of an extremely busy weekend.
Chronologically, here are some of the major upcoming events (check my Blog for
additions, updates, more details and reviews):

 

Tonight (Saturday)
at 8 p.m. at the Alex Theater, Glendale; tomorrow (Sunday) at 7 p.m. at Royce
Hall, UCLA

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads his ensemble in
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).
Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin will be the soloist in Britten’s Les illuminations and Now sleeps the crimson petal. Info: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

 

Tomorrow (Sunday)
at 7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

Los Angeles Master
Chorale

Music Director Grant Gershon leads the Chorale in the
opening concert of its 48th season with the U.S. premiere of Music for a big church; for tranquility
by Swedish composer Thomas Jennefelt and Morton Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, one of the most popular
compositions of the last quarter century. Paul Meier accompanies on the Disney
Hall organ. Info: 213/972-7282; www.lamc.org

 

Tuesday at 8 p.m.
at Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge

Mariinsky Theater
Orchestra

Valery Gergiev leads this famed Russian orchestra (formerly
known as the Kirov) in a program of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Alexander
Toradze will be the soloist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Info: 818) 677-3000; www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

 

Thursday and Friday
at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic

Music Director Gustavo Dudamel conducts music by John Adams
and Prokofiev. Johannes Moser will be the soloist in the world premiere of Magnetar, concerto for electric cello by
Mexican composer/guitarist Enrico Chapela. “What,” you ask, “is an electric
cello?” Read all about it and the piece in the words of the composer HERE. Info: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Cappella Gloriana

This San Diego professional chorale opens the church’s Friends of Music series of nine free
concerts performing music by its founder and director, Stephen Sturk, with
organist Martin Green and the San Diego Harmony Ringers Handbell Choir. Info: 626/793-2191; www.ppc.net

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Ambassador Auditorium

The Colburn Orchestra

Music Director Yehuda Gilad leads his excellent ensemble in
Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and Shostakovich’s Festive
Overture
and Cello Concerto No. 1. Colburn student Estelle Choi will be the
soloist in the concerto. The concert is free but tickets must be downloaded
through the school’s Web site. Info: www.colburnschool.edu

 

October 23 at 6
p.m. at Royce Hall (UCLA)

American Youth
Symphony

Music Director Alexander Treger leads another of the
region’s top-notch training orchestras in Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Tchaikovsky’s
Symphony No. 5. Rod Gilfry will be the soloist in selections from CarouselWest Side StorySweeney Todd and The Most Happy Fella. The concert is free (although a
$10 donation is suggested); make reservations through the orchestra’s Web site.
Info: aysmphony.org

 

October 28 and 29
at 8:30 p.m. and 30 at 7 p.m. at REDCAT (Walt Disney Concert Hall)

Southwest Chamber
Music

The Golden Quartet helps SWCM open its 25th season
with Wadada Lee Smith’s Ten Freedom
Summers,
which takes three evenings to perform and is inspired by the
1954-64 years of the Civil Rights Movement. Get details on the composition HERE.
Concert and ticket info: www.swmusic.org

 

Oct. 29 at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena

Pasadena Symphony

Rising conducting star Mei-Ann Chen leads the PSO in its
opening concerts with a program that concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.
5. James Ehnes will be the soloist in Korngold’s Violin Concerto. My profile of
Chen is HERE. Info: 626/793-7172;
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.
at Downey Civic Theatre

Chorale Bel Canto and
Opera a la Carte

The Whittier-based chorus opens its 30th season
by joining with Opera a la Carte in an unusual program (for CBC, that is):
Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of
Penzance
. Richard Sheldon, who founded Opera a la Carte in 1970, stars as
the Modern Major General. Info:
562/861-8211; www.choralebelcanto.org

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

STORY AND LINKS: Taking the “Fifth” — six times

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

55858-Tchaikovsky5ChenImage.jpg

Mei-Ann Chen will lead
the Pasadena Symphony in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 on Oct.
29, one of four performances of this familiar work during the next three weeks.

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Each season, one “warhorse” piece seems to pop up on
multiple orchestra concerts. Last fall Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 was played four
times by different orchestras within a one-month span (plus the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s concerts during last May’s “Brahms Unbound” festival). This year
the early winner in this dubious category of programmatic clash is
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, which will be played four times within a
fortnight by orchestras throughout Southern California, plus at least twice
more later in the season.

 

In chronological order:

 

Oct. 13 at the Rene
and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa

Marinsky Theatre
Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor

This world-class ensemble, known in the Communist era as the
Kirov, makes its first appearance in five years at Segerstrom Concert hall. The
first of two concerts pairs the fifth and second symphonies; the second
performance, on Oct. 17, is Tchaikovsky’s third and fourth symphonies. These
are the concert pairings that Gergiev and the orchestra are playing tonight and
tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Information: www.philharmonicsociety.org

 

Oct. 13, 14 and 15
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

The Venezuelan maestro, who made his local debut in 2005 at
Hollywood Bowl conducting Tchaikovsky’s fifth (LINK), leads it for the first
time in Disney Hall. The weekend’s programs also include Bartok’s Piano Concerto
No. 3, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist. The Thursday and Saturday programs open
with Orion by Montreal native Claude
Vivier (the “Casual Friday” program omits the Canadian work). Information: www.laphil.org

Oct. 23 at Royce
Hall (UCLA)

American Youth
Symphony; Alexander Treger, conductor

One of the region’s top youth orchestras, the AYS opens its
2011-2012 season with a free concert that concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony
No. 5. It also includes Rod Gilfry singing songs from Carousel, West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and The Most Happy Fella. Information:
www.aysymphony.org

 

Oct. 29 at
Ambassador Auditorium

Pasadena Symphony;
Mei-Ann Chen, conductor

The Pasadena Symphony’s opening concerts (performances at 2
and 8 p.m.) finishes with Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony. Earlier, Taiwanese-born
Mei-Ann Chen (music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta and Memphis Symphony,
and a rising star in conducting circles) leads Saibei Dance (from Sabei
Dance Suite No. 2)
by An-Lun Huang, and Korngold’s Violin Concerto, with
James Ehnes as soloist. NOTE: my article on Mei-Ann Chen will be posted later
this week and will also appear in Pasadena
Scene
magazine. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

And, if that wasn’t enough, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5
pops up twice in January, as well. Charles Dutoit leads the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra of London playing the piece on Jan. 25 on tour at Copley Hall in San
Diego (curiously, the orchestra wasn’t booked at any other Southland hall).

 

Meanwhile, Carl St.Clair and the Pacific Symphony play the
piece Jan. 12-15 at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. The program for the
first three nights will include Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Sidereus, was played last month by
Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LINK).

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.