PREVIEWS: Adams celebration, Pacific Symphony, L.A. Phil kick off January programs

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

In addition to Los Angeles Chamber Chorus’ “Life Every Voice” festival (LINK), which begins Jan. 14, and two previously noted Los Angeles Philharmonic programs (LINK), two other noteworthy events are worth mentioning as I get back into my biweekly column routine for 2017.

Composer John Adams turns age 70 on Feb. 14 and, as has been noted in other columns and Blog posts, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is paying tribute to its Creative Chair throughout the current season. However, it’s not the only organization honoring Adams.

The Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge has a mini-festival that kicks off on Jan. 14. Entitled “American Berserk” and also presented by Jacaranda Music, the Santa Monica-based contemporary music organization, this concert ends with three Adams pieces: American Berserk, a short piano piece; John’s Book of Alleged Dances, originally written for the Kronos Quartet; and Grand Pianola Music, one of Adams’ best-known works.

The concert also includes music by Louis Marie Gottschalk, Scott Joplin, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Theolonius Monk and Colon Noncarrow.

Performers will include Christopher Taylor, piano; the Lyris Quartet with four dancers; the Jacaranda Chamber Orchestra (Mark Alan Hilt, conductor) with Gloria Cheng and Taylor pianos; Holly Sedillos, soprano; Zanaida Robles, soprano; and Kristen Toedtman, alto.

Other VPAC programs during the Adams celebration will take place on Feb. 3 and 15. Information:


Music Director Carl St.Clair will lead the Pacific Symphony on Jan. 12, 13 and 14 at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa. The program will pair Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with 25-year-old Chinese pianist Haochen Zhang as soloist. On Jan. 15 the program is solely the Prokofiev symphony. Information:

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

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CLASS ACT: Some last-minute gift ideas for your classical music lover

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each year about this time, people call or email me asking what to get as a holiday present for their favorite classical music lover. My answer this year remains the same: tickets. Technological innovations notwithstanding, attending a concert in person is still the best way to experience the full scope of classical music.

If you plan ahead, you can obtain tickets at reasonable prices, especially if the recipient of your gift is a senior or student. Better still, plan on attending the concert with the person to whom you provide the tickets.

Here are a few opportunities among hundreds in genres ranging from orchestras to chamber music to choral programs and beyond:
• Earlier this year the Long Beach Symphony named Eckart Preu (pictured) as its next music director. You will have a chance to experience his podium presence on Feb. 4 when Preu makes his only appearance this season with the LBSO (he takes over the orchestra’s podium next season). His all-French program concludes with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Information:

• This season is Jeffrey Kahane’s last as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and he’s going out with a bang, curating a two-week series in January entitled “Lift Every Voice.” I’ll detail the proceedings in my January 1 column (which includes an interview with Kahane) but there are several events worthy of your attention during this series that might make great gifts: Information:

• If sweeping Romantic music is your forte, consider the Pasadena Symphony’s Feb. 18 concerts. Music Director David Lockington will conduct Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique) and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Natasha Paremski as soloist. On the other hand, if your tastes run to the baroque, the PSO’s January 21 concerts feature music of Bach and Handel led by Principal Guest Conductor Nicholas McGegan. Information:
• Carl St.Clair (pictured), music director of the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, will lead the USC Thornton School of Music Symphony on Jan. 22 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program is micro and macro: Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (with Bernadene Blaha and Kevin Fitz-Gerald as soloists) and Richard Strauss’ sprawling musical depiction of a day the country, An Alpine Symphony.

This appearance is part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Sounds About Town” series, which offers top-quality student ensembles at reasonable prices: $30-$44 each. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hearing a concert in Disney Hall, this is a splendid opportunity for superb music in a great setting. Information:

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on November 17, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



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). Today’s grouping covers a wide geographical area:



Thursday through
Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa

Pacific Symphony;
Carl St.Clair, conductor — Music Unbound: Mahler’s Symphony No. 9

The latest installment of the orchestra’s Music Unbound series focuses on Mahler’s
Symphony No. 9. Although the concert begins at 8 p.m., the preconcert program
at 7, created by Joseph Horowitz, features actors Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett
performing in “I Beg You to be Truthful”
— The Marriage of Gustav and Anna Mahler: A Self-Portrait in Letters.
30-minute presentation is based on Gustav Mahler: Letters to his Wife, edited by Henry-Louis de La
Grange and Gnther Weiss in collaboration with Knud Martner. There will also be
a display of the Mahlers’ letters in the lobby. Info:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
and Sunday at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Jacaranda’s tribute
to Henryk Gorecki

Jacaranda is one of the area’s most impassioned (and
excellent) advocates of new music. This program will pay tribute to the Polish
composer who died Nov. 12, 2010. Pianist Mark Robson will perform Gorecki’s
first published work (Four Preludes, Op.
and the Calder Quartet and Lyris Quartet will join Jacaranda’s chamber
orchestra in other Gorecki works. Info:


Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
at Sexson Auditorim, Pasadena City College

Pasadena Young
Musicians Orchestra; Jo Stoup, conductor

This program could have fit in the “free or nearly free”
category below because tickets are just $7 for adults and $5 for students and
seniors. In a program entitled “The French Connection,” Stoup leads her young
musicians in Gershwin’s An American in
Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espaol
and other non-French works. Info:


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

Lszl Fassang,

This is a good weekend for organ lovers (see Timothy
Howard’s program listed below). At Disney Hall, Bach and Liszt will dominate Hungarian
organist Lszl Fassang’s program as he plays music by J.S. Bach (Toccata and
Fugue in F Major), Robert Schumann (Four Fugues on B-A-C-H, Op. 60), Max Reger
(Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H, Op. 46) and Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on Ad nos salutaren undam) and finishes the
evening with his own improvisations on Bach and Liszt themes. Info:


And the weekend’s “free admission” program …


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

Timothy Howard,

Improvising is pretty much of a lost art with the notable
exception of organists, who — because of proclivity or church job requirements
— relish the opportunity (see Fassang above). One of the best at improvising is
Timothy Howard, whose weekly worship service efforts often include a postlude
improvisation on the final hymn (full disclosure: PPC is my home church and I
sing with Tim, so — as the late, great columnist Molly Ivins often wrote — you
can take this strong recommendation with a grain of salt or a pound of salt).


In addition to two of his own hymn improvs, Howard’s program
— music by Csar Franck, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Tournemire, Herbert
Howells and Marcel Dupr — will feature pieces originally improvised and later
written down. A bonus is hearing the music played on the church’s 112-rank
Aeolian-Skinner organ, one of the largest and most important instruments in
Southern California. Info:



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

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