Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 19, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events (six this week –
there could have been others) that pique my interest, including — ideally — at
least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets) . Here’s
today’s grouping:

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Tonight, tomorrow
and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Adagio from Symphony No. 10

The L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project” kicks into high gear this
weekend beginning with these two works. Symphony No. 1 was the first major
piece that Dudamel conducted (at age 16). The Adagio from Symphony No. 10 is one of two Mahler symphonies for
which these will be inaugural Dudamel traversals. A couple of things to note:

Friday night is a “Casual Friday” concert, so only
the first symphony will be performed. If the Phil follows its normal “CF”
format, a musician will give a brief talk before the performance and a Q&A
will follow; Dudamel customarily appears at the Q&A when he conducts, but
considering his time commitment to the three-week long survey, no promises.
Then there’s a reception in the downstairs where audience members can meet with
the musicians.

Gilbert Kaplan is giving the preconcert lecture, which
will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the main hall. If you’ve never heard of Kaplan, a
writeup is HERE. Although he’s more known for his advocacy of Symphony No. 2,
I’m looking forward to hearing his insights on the first and 10th
symphonies.

 

Concert information: www.laphil.com

 

Tomorrow and Friday
at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School,
downtown Los Angeles)

James Conlon conducts
“forgotten’ operas

For several years, James Conlon, music director of Los
Angeles Opera, had led “Recovered Voices,” a series of operas written by
composers whose lives and music were suppressed by the Nazi regime. He has a
similar survey, “Breaking the Silence,” at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival (one of
that city’s major summer music festivals).

 

This weekend, Conlon revives this concept locally when he
conducts The Colburn Orchestra and singers from the Domingo-Thornton Young
Artists in a double-bill: Viktor Ulman’s The
Emperor of Atlantis
(which has was conducted at LAO) and Ernst Krenek’s The Secret Kingdom, which is receiving
its West Coast debut. Conlon will deliver a 45-minute lecture prior to each
concert.

 

Because Zipper Hall has a very small seating capacity,
tickets are extremely limited. Information:
213/621-1050; www.thecolburnschool.edu

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Alex Theatre, Glendale

Sunday at 7 p.m. at
Royce Hall, UCLA

Andrew Shulman
conducts LACO; Nigel Armstrong is soloist

Andrew Shulman, principal cellist of both the Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra and Pasadena Symphony, makes his Los Angeles conducting debut
leading a program of Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Violin Concerto No. 3 and
Walton’s Sonata for Strings. Nigel Armstrong, a former student at The Colburn
School who captured fourth place in last summer’s Tchaikovsky International
Violin Competition, will be the concerto soloist. My story on Shulman is HERE
it includes links to my stories on Armstrong’s strong showing last summer. Information: www.laco.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Royce Hall, UCLA

Kathleen Battle sings
spirituals

The former opera diva now focuses exclusively on recitals
and concerts and she appears on the “UCLA Live” series with something that
ought to be right in her wheelhouse: Underground
Railroad: An Evening of Spirituals. P
ianist Cyrus Chestnut and the Albert
McNeil Jubilee Singers are part of the show. Information: www.uclalive.org

 

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

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

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

Mahler’s Symphony No.
3

The Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela moves into
Walt Disney Concert Hall for its part in the L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project.” On
Sunday, Gustavo Dudamel leads the SBSOV, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and
soloists Miah Persson, soprano, and Christianne
Stotijn
, mezzo-soprano in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection). Dudamel comes back
Tuesday night to lead Symphony No. 3, featuring the SBSOV, women of the L.A.
Master Chorale, L.A. Children’s Chorus, and Stotijn

 

Two things to note:

Gilbert Kaplan’s preconcert lecture Sunday begins at 6
p.m. in the main auditorium. On Tuesday, somewhat controversial author and
commentator Norman Lebrecht lectures at 7 p.m. in BP Hall.

Both works are long (90-100 minutes each) and will be
presented without intermission.

 

Information: Symphony
No. 2: www.laphil.com

Symphony No. 3: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

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

Frances Nobert’s 75th
Birthday Concert

A fixture on the Southland organ scene for decades, Nobert
appears at PPC with a concert that includes her on the organ and as part of the
Haarlem Keyboard Duo (Nobert on piano and Steve Gentile on organ). After
intermission, Nobert will lead an alumni choir from Grant High School, where
she taught for many years. There’s even an audience-participation part. Information: www.ppc.net

_______________________

 

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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Pasadena Symphony at Ambassador Auditorium

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Pasadena Symphony;
David Lockington, conductor

Sawyers: The Gale of
Life.
Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 (Andrew Shulman, soloist).

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56, (Scottish)

Saturday, January 14, 2012 Ambassador Auditorium

Next concert: Feb. 18, 2012

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

______________________

 

There was a multiplicity of themes associated with the
Pasadena Symphony concert yesterday afternoon at Ambassador Auditorium (which
was repeated last night). The predominant theme was Britain: two of the three
composers were English, the guest conductor (David Lockington) and cello
soloist (Andrew Shulman) were born in England but now live in the U.S, and the
concluding work on the program was Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish).

 

Prior to the performance, Lockington — music director of the
Grand Rapids and Modesto Symphonies — described the program’s theme as “Looking
Back.” Mendelssohn, who began the symphony at age 21 and completed it 12 years
later, was recalling a trip he made to Scotland as a teenager in 1829. Elgar,
said Lockington, was looking back on the wreckage of World War I when he wrote
his Cello Concerto in 1919 (the program note by Joseph and Elizabeth Kahn said,
“It isn’t a requiem for the war dead, but rather for a lost way of life, the
end of a civilization”). Even Sawyers’ piece, which was composed in 2008, uses
as its text the poem On Wenlock Edge
from the 1896 cycle A Shropshire Lad by
A.E. Housman.

 

A third theme was friendship. Lockington and Shulman played
cello together in the National Youth Orchestra of Britain more than 30 years
ago, and Lockington and Sawyers are now friends. And a final theme was uniform
excellence, as in the performances Lockington, Shulman and the orchestra
delivered throughout the concert.

 

The program’s centerpiece — in placement, as well as in
performance — was Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Shulman captured the work’s aching
melancholy (the first three movements begin Adagio,
Lento
and Adagio) superbly with
his silky tone and expressive musicality, while Lockington and the orchestra
accompanied sensitively.

 

The opening work, The
Gale of Life
a 10-minute
concert overture that ends by alluding to the “Witches’ Sabbath” ending of
Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
received an exuberant reading from Lockington and the ensemble; they brought
out sympathetically all of Sawyers’ musical metaphors of the windy cliffs of
Wenlock’s Edge on the England coast.

 

Lockington displayed an assured feeling about Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony, which concluded the
program. He had a score in front of him but rarely seemed to look at it, often
turning multiple pages at a time. His overall concept was to imbue the reading
with stately grandeur; call it “Mendelssohn a la Elgar.” The orchestra was in
top-notch form, playing with impressive rhythmic precision in the second
movement and displaying a lush sound from all sections — but particularly from
the strings — throughout the performance.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

One other tie in the concert concerns Lockington and Paul
Jan Zdunek, CEO of the Pasadena Symphony Association. Prior to coming to
Pasadena, Zdunek held a similar position with the Modesto Symphony where one of
his moves was to bring Lockington on board as that orchestra’s music director
in 2007.

With Shulman scheduled to conduct next weekend’s Los
Angeles Chamber Orchestra concerts (Jan. 21 at the Alex Theater and Jan. 22 at
UCLA’s Royce Hall), LACO and the PSO took the opportunity to do some cross-promotion
by inserting a flyer with a 20% ticket discount for the LACO concerts. Smart
move, IMHO. Shulman will lead LACO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Violin
Concerto No. 3, along with Walton’s Sonata for Strings. A link to my article on
Shulman and the PSO and LACO concerts is HERE.

Emulating LACO’s “Sound Investment” commissioning program,
the PSO has begun its “Fresh Ink Society,” which will commission and make
possible the performance of the Symphony No. 1 by Peter Boyer as part of the
opening concert on the PSO’s 2012-2013 season. One of Boyer’s numerous
compositions, Ellis Island: The Dream of
America,
which was premiered in 2002, was nominated for a Grammy Award for
Best Classical Contemporary Composition. For more information on the “Fresh Ink
Society” or to make a contribution, call 626/793-7172.

Lockington’s “Looking Back” theme got me to recall the
first time I heard Elgar’s Cello Concerto in concert, in 1975, when the great
cellist Gregor Piatigorsky was scheduled as soloist in he concerto at a Los
Angeles Philharmonic concert. Zubin Mehta was the conductor, I think it was
opening night, and I believe the other work on the program was Mahler’s
Symphony No. 5. Ronald Leonard had just been named the Phil’s Principal Cellist
and when Piatigorsky had to cancel at the last minute, Leonard stepped in,
which meant his first notes in his new position were the opening lines of the
Cello Concerto (the soloist begins the piece). As I recall, Leonard played it
beautifully, but I’ll always remember it more for his ability to rise to an
unexpected challenge successfully.

_______________________

 

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

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ALERT: Andrew Shulman and Pasadena Symphony at Ambassador Auditorium tonight

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

If you haven’t already bought tickets for something else
tonight, consider attending the 8 p.m. performance of the Pasadena Symphony at
Ambassador Auditorium. The centerpiece of a well-played program is Andrew
Shulman’s superb performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto — it’s definitely worth
seeing! I’ll post a full review later.

 

Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

_______________________

 

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

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PREVIEW AND LINKS: Andrew Shulman to solo with Pasadena, conduct L.A. Chamber Orchestra on consecutive weekends

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Symphony. David
Lockington, conductor; Andrew Shulman, cello

Philip Sawyers: The
Gale of Life
; Elgar: Cello Concerto; Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 (Scottish)

Saturday, Jan. 14; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Ambassador Auditorium; 300 W. Green St., Pasadena

Tickets: $35-$100; senior rush tickets (23) available for 2
p.m. concert. Student rush tickets ($10) available for both concerts

Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

  

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra. Andrew Shulman, conductor; Nigel Armstrong, violin

Mozart: Symphony No. 29, K. 201; Violin Concerto No. 3, K.
216. Walton: Sonata for Strings.

Sat., Jan. 21, 8 p.m. at Alex Theater, Glendale. Sun., Jan.
22, 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA

Tickets: $24-$105; student season passes available

Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

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Andrew Shulman is going to be one very busy musician during
the next 10 days, but there’s nothing surprising about that.

 

Shulman, who is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony
and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will appear as soloist with the PSO Saturday
in two performances at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in
E Minor. David Lockington, music director of the Modesto Symphony and Grand
Rapids Symphony, will lead the programs, which will begin with The Gale of Life by English composer
Philip Sawyers and conclude with Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.

 

The following weekend Shulman will make his LACO conducting
debut leading a program of music by Mozart and William Walton. Nigel Armstrong
will be the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. The 21-year-old graduate
of The Colburn School will be making his first local appearance since placing
fourth in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition last
summer in Moscow (LINK).

 

There’s nothing unusual, says Shulman, about playing a titan
of the cello literature one weekend and conducting an entirely different program
the next. “What’s unusual,” he says with an infectious laugh, “is that they’re
both in the same city. Usually I’m playing here and then jetting off to England
to conduct an orchestra there.”

 

Now age 51, Shulman was born in London and studied both cello
and conducting at the Royal College of Music. “I first encountered the Elgar
concerto when I was 17 or 18,” he recalls. He studied with William Pleeth and
Pleeth’s most famous student, Jacqueline DuPre, who by then was suffering from
Multiple Sclerosis. “Jackie talked about things like fingering and bowing the
Elgar,” he remembers. “Despite the MS, she continued to be fully involved with
music up to her death; she was an inspiration.”

 

Although Shulman continued to conduct, he gained
international fame as a cellist. He served two terms as principal cellist of
London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, taking a break for 10 years to play in the
Britten Quartet. In 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen called him and asked, “Are you fed
up with London and looking for a change?” He and his wife came to Los Angeles
where he eventually became principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

 

That job lasted just two years. “With the Philharmonia,” he
explains, “we had co-principals and others as well, so I was playing perhaps 30
percent of the concerts, which left me time to conduct and do film work. Being
principal cellist at the L.A. Phil meant that I had to play about 80 percent of
the concerts, and I just found that too confining.”

 

Shulman has since carved out a busy career in film music and
conducting. He became LACO’s principal cellist in 2008 and assumed a similar
position with the PSO in 2010. “Both of those positions are great,” he says.
“Both orchestras have great musicians and both orchestras give me plenty of
freedom to maintain all of my professional lives.”

 

That includes conducting and Walton’s Sonata for Strings has
special resonance for Shulman and LACO. “It’s actually a transcription of
Walton’s second String Quartet,” explains Shulman (who recorded the original
version in the 1980s with the Britten String Quartet). In 1971, Sir Neville
Marriner commissioned the transcription for his Academy of St.
Martin-in-the-Fields, and two years later Marriner and LACO gave the U.S.
premiere of what by then was known as the Sonata for Strings. “It’s a virtuosic
piece,” explains Shulman, “and a terrific way to show off my string colleagues
in the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. They’ll love it, and so will the audiences.”

_______________________

 

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

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 12, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday morning, I list five events (six this week)
that pique my interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission
(or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Royce Hall (UCLA)

Paul Jacobs, organist

Despite being just 34, Paul Jacobs is one of America’s
extraordinary organ talents, who came to international renown 11 years ago when
he performed the complete organ works of J.S. Bach in an 18-hour non-stop
marathon performance. Later he performed the complete organ works of Olivier
Messiaen in nine-hour marathon concerts around the country. At age 26, he was
named chairman of the organ department at The Juilliard School in New York
City, one of the youngest faculty appointments in that school’s history.

 

There’s no Bach on this Royce Hall program, but the
selections include music by Messiaen, Elgar, John Weaver and others.

 

Royce Hall’s E.M. Skinner organ was built in 1930. It was
restored and rebuilt after being damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
With 104 ranks and 6,600 pipes, it’s one of the larger instruments in Southern
California.

 

Concert information: www.uclalive.org

 

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: “The Mahler Project” begins

The Los Angeles Philharmonic begins its massive survey of
all of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies as Gustavo Dudamel leads the orchestra in
Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, with soprano Miah Persson as soloist, and Songs of a Wayfarer, featuring baritone
Thomas Hampson. Links to my articles on the cycle are HERE and HERE. The Phil’s
“Mahler Project” information site is HERE. Concert
information:
www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium (Pasadena)

Pasadena Symphony;
David Lockington, conductor

The PSO resumes its 2011-12 season as David Lockington,
music director of the Modesto and Grand Rapids Symphonies, become the latest in
a string of PSO guest conductors. He leads a program with a British theme: The Gale of Life by British composer
Philip Sawyers, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Andrew Shulman as soloist, and
Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish). In
addition to the compositional British tone, Lockington and Shulman are English.
A link to my preview story on this concert and next weekend’s L.A. Chamber
Orchestra concerts (Shulman is conducting the LACO programs) is HERE. Concert information: www.pasadenasymphony-org

 

Looking for a marketing edge, the PSO has joined forces with
Breakthru Fitness to sponsor a Yoga class tomorrow at 6 p.m. (As the late,
great British comedienne Anna Russell once famously said of Wagner’s Ring, “I’m not making this up, you
know!”) Lockington, an avid practitioner of yoga, will offer a brief
explanation on the influence yoga has made on his life and career as a
symphonic conductor. He will also play the cello during the class. Space is
extremely limited; contact Breakthru Fitness at 626/396-1700 to reserve a spot.

 

Sunday at 5 p.m. at
the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (Los Angeles)

Young Musician
Foundation’s 57th annual Gala Concert

Usually a YMF concert would be in the “free admission”
category, but this one is held yearly to raise funds for this important
training program. Legendary film composer John Williams will lead the YMF Debut
Orchestra in selections from The
Adventures of Tintin
and War Horse, the
first concert performance of this music. Williams will conclude the program by
conducting music from E.T. The
Extra-Terrestrial.

 

Michael Tilson Thomas, who was the YMF’s music director from
1963-67 while he was a student at USC, will return to conduct Ravel’s La Valse. Other pieces will be conducted
by David Kaufman, Joey Newman and Teddy Abrams. Information: www.ymf.org

 

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

Steve Reich;
Bang-on-a-Can All Stars; ref fish blue fish; percussionist David Cossin

Steve Reich, one of the greatest composers working today,
brings a program to the Phil’s Green
Umbrella
series that includes the West Coast premiere of the double-rock
quintet, 2 x 5,  and concludes with one of Reich’s
seminal works, Music for 18 Musicians.
Information: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts (La Mirada)

La Mirada Symphony;
Robert Frelly, conductor

For the second concert of its 48th season, this
community orchestra presents a Spanish-themed program with music by Fannin,
Chabrier, Bizet, Turnia, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Guitarist Jeff Cogan will be the
soloist in Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un
Gentilhombre.
Information: www.lamiradasymphony.com

_______________________

 

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

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