AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Choral music takes center stage

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.

The combination of Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover usually brings a number of major choral concerts and this year is no different except for the fact that the Los Angeles Master Chorale (which would normally have a concert during this time frame) is in Europe touring John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

On the local front:

• Jeffrey Bernstein will lead his Pasadena Master Chorale in a performance Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil this afternoon at 4 p.m. at Altadena Community Church. Fortunately, the work does not last all night (the 15-movement work lasts just over an hour). The name comes from the Russian chants that occur during the all-night liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Information: 626-208-0009; www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s 16th annual Good Friday concert focuses on music influenced by Gregorian chant: Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, Four Motets on Gregorian Themes and Meditation for solo organ, along with Paul Creston’s Gregorian Chant for String Orchestra. Timothy Howard will conduct the Kirk Choir, community singers, soprano Judith Siirila, baritone Michal Dawson Connor, organist Meaghan King, and the Friends of Music Orchestra. The concert is free, take place Friday at 7:30 p.m. and I’m giving a preconcert lecture at 7 p.m. Information: 818/209-4635; www.ppcmusic.org

• The centerpiece of the 76th Whittier Bach Festival will take place on April 6 at 4 p.m. at Whittier College’s Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts when Chorale Bel Canto sings two Bach settings of the Song of Mary: Magnificat in D Major and Cantata BWV 10, Meine selle ehebt den Herrn. Stephen Gothold will conduct the Chorale and Corey Carleton, soprano; Laura Harrison, mezzo-soprano; Daniel Babcock, tenor; and Chung Uk Lee, bass. Information: 888-460-9222; www.choralebelcanto.org

• Stephen Grimm will conduct his Pasadena Pro Musica as it offers a concert of motets by Bach, Brahms, Heinrich Schütz and Henryk Gorecki on Easter Sunday at 4 p.m. at Pasadena Neighborhood Church. Information: 626/628-2144; www.pasadenapromusica.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 15, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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

______________________

 

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

Los Angeles Philharmonic:
Piatigorsky International Cello Festival concludes

This nine-day celebration of the cello (named in honor the
legendary cellist and teacher Gregor Piatigorsky) concludes this weekend as
Neemi Jrvi conducts the Phil in programs with three different cellists.
Tonight it’s Ralph Kirshbaum, who will solo in the Dvorak Cello Concerto
(LINK). Saturday night Misha Maisky plays Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1
and a transcription of Lenski’s Aria from
Eugene Onegin (LINK). On Sunday,
Alisa Weilerstein takes center stage in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and Respighi’s Adagio con variazioni (LINK).
Each program begins with Dvorak’s Carnival
Overture
and concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Piatigorsky Festival Information: www.piatigorskyfestival.com

 

Saturday at 4 p.m.
at Whittier College

Chorale Bel Canto
sings Bach’s Mass in B Minor

Stephen Gothold directs his chorale (which is celebrating
its 30th anniversary this season), soloists and orchestra as it
concludes the 75th annual Whittier Bach Festival with a performance
of this monument of choral literature. Information:
www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School)

Vox Femina

Iris Levine conducts her women’s chorale as it continues its
15th season and celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a concert of music
from the British Isles and Ireland. Singer-composer Moira Smiley will be the
guest artist. Information: www.voxfeminala.org

Sunday at 2 p.m. at
local movie theatres

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Herbie Hancock, piano

No, the Phil has not mastered the trick of bifurcation. The
final event in this season’s “LA Phil LIVE” telecasts into movie theatres isn’t
live. Instead, it a recording of the all-Gershwin concert that opened the
2011-2012 season last October. This isn’t the truncated version that played on
PBS in December; it’s the entire concert. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Phil in
rousing performances of Gershwin’s Cuban
Overture
and An American in Paris. Jazz
legend Herbie Hancock joins the orchestra as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue and also plays improvisations on two Gershwin
songs, Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me. There will
also be an interview with Hancock in his home and the usual sort of rehearsal
footage shots that makes these telecasts must viewing, even if you saw the
original concert. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Monday at 7 p.m. at
Pasadena Civic Auditorum

Muse-ique: “Ebony
Meets Ivory”

Rachael Worby begins Muse-ique’s second season with the
first of four “Uncorked Events” featuring six pianists in music that’s all over
the lot. My preview story is HERE. Information:
muse-que.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

Pipe Organs Inspire
Inaugural Concert

Three Pasadena churches — First United Methodist, First
Church of Christ, Scientist, and Pasadena Presbyterian — are combining on this
series of three free concerts. The churches’ organists — Ae-Kyong Kim (FUMC),
David Wolfe (FCCS) and Timothy Howard (PPC) — will perform on all three
programs with music selected specifically for the instrument. Saturday’s
inaugural program will be played on FUMC’s E.M. Skinner Organ. Information: www.pipeorganlsinspire.org

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Look ahead to 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Last week I looked back at some of the memorable events of
2011 (LINK). Today I look forward, and “bulging” is the most appropriate word I
can think of when describing the classical music calendar in the first quarter
of 2012 (I won’t even attempt to list everything that I think is important for
all of next year). Among the major programs scheduled in the next few months
are:

 

ORCHESTRA

The Mahler Project

The Los Angeles Philharmonic kicks off its nearly month-long
survey of Gustav Mahler’s music in mid-January. Gustavo Dudamel will lead two
of the orchestra he heads — the L.A. Phil and Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra
of Venezuela — in 17 performances from January 13 through February 4 at Walt
Disney Concert Hall and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The sweeping
enterprise will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of
the great Austrian composer-conductor Gustav Mahler (which actually took place
on May 18, 1911).

 

Dudamel (who turns age 31 on Jan. 26) will lead every
performance. The Bolivrs will play four of the symphonies, the Los Angeles
Philharmonic will play four, and the two ensembles will combine and join with
more 800 choristers and eight soloists for the Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 4 at the
Shrine Auditorium, one of the few times in history when that work’s subtitle, “Symphony
of a Thousand,” will be fact as
opposed to appellation.

 

Following the Los Angeles concerts, the entire cycle will be
performed again in Caracas, Venezuela; the Feb. 18 performance of “Symphony of
a Thousand” will be telecast live from the Venezuelan capital at 2 p.m. (PST)
in movie theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada (LINK). “Mahler Project” information: www.laphil.com

 

Andrew Shulman
doubles down with PSO and LACO

Shulman is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony
Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. On Jan. 13 he will appear as
soloist with the PSO at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
The following weekend (Jan. 20 and 21), he will conduct LACO in a program that
will include former Colburn School student Nigel Armstrong as soloist in
Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (Armstrong won fourth place in last June’s
Tchaikovsky Violin Competition.

PSO information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

LACO information: www.laco.org

 

The Colburn Orchestra

This top-notch student ensemble wraps up its season at
Ambassador Auditorium with concerts on Feb. 4 and March 3. The latter will be
led by Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver and principal guest
conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl for the past three
summers. The Colburn Orchestra’s free concerts go through their ticket
allotments quickly so now is the time to log on and secure your seats (you
print the tickets when you make the reservation).

Information: www.colburnschool.edu

OPERA

San Diego Opera

San Diego Opera grabs the spotlight beginning Feb. 18 when
it presents the West Coast debut of Moby
Dick
by Jake Heggie (best known, until now, for his opera Dead Man Walking). This production got
mostly rave reviews when it debuted at Dallas Opera in May 2010 (LINK with
reviews) and the San Diego production includes Canadian tenor Ben Heppner
reprising his title role performance in San Diego. SD Opera Resident Conductor
Karen Keltner will conduct. It’s sung in English with supertitles. The company
will also present a production of Richard Strauss’ Salome beginning Jan. 28, with Lise Lindstrom in the title role. Information: www.sdopera.com

 

Los Angeles Opera

February will be a busy opera month. Los Angeles Opera
resumes its 2011-2012 season with productions of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra beginning Feb. 11 in the first of seven
performances and Britten’s Albert
Herring,
which opens Feb. 25 and continues with five performances in March.
LA Opera Music Director James Conlon will conduct both operas.

 

Simon Boccanegra
is significant because Plcido Domingo is in the title role, a part that was
written for a baritone (Domingo, of course, has spent nearly all of his career
as a tenor, although he now appears to be more comfortable in lower ranges).
This production originated at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Information: www.laopera.com

 

Albert Herring is
the latest in a string of Benjamin Britten operas that the company is
presenting in a lead-up to the composer’s birth centennial in 2013. Although
LAO mounted Albert Herring early in
the company’s history, this production originated at Santa Fe Opera. Alek
Shrader makes his LAO debut in the title role. Information: www.laopera.com

 

Long Beach Opera

This intrepid company explores the world of the tango with a
production of Maria de Buenos Aires,
composed by Astor Piazzolla to a libretto by poet Hoarcio Ferrer. Sung in
Spanish with English supertitles, it plays Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 at the Warner
Theater in San Pedro. Information: www.longbeachoperea.com

IN MOVIE THEATERS

On the big screen, the Metropolitan Opera continues its High
Definition telecasts into movie theaters with three screenings in January and
February, including its new production of Wagner’s Gtterdmerung on Feb. 11. Information:
www.metopereafamily.org

 

CHORAL MUSIC

Although choral music concerts occur frequently, the
three-week span from March 17-April 6 has an unusually large number of notable
events.

 

Chorale Bel Canto will
sing Bach’s Mass in B Minor on March 17 at Whittier College as the major event
in the 75th annual Whittier Bach Festival. Stephen Gothold conducts
the CBC (which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year),
soloists and orchestra in this monument of choral literature. Information: www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Angeles Chorale
will celebrate what conductor John Sutton calls “America’s most significant
musical story — gospel and jazz; the stories of our lives; and musical depictions
of the human experience” on March 24 at First United Methodist Church,
Pasadena. The featured work will be Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass. Information: www.angeleschorale.org

 

Los Angeles Master
Chorale,
which will present a concert of Bruckner and Stravinsky on Feb.
12, returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 31 and April 1 for a
performance of Bach’s St. John Passion. Grant
Gershon conducts both programs; the Bach features the area’s foremost
period-instrument ensemble, Musica Angelica. Information: www.lamc.org

 

As an added note:
my weekly “Five Spot” posts will return on Jan. 5. Each week, I list five notable
concerts for the upcoming weekend including, ideally, one that is either free
admission or very low cost. Have a safe and happy new year.

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on October 27, 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 it was hard to get down to five. Here’s today’s
grouping:

______________________

 

Tomorrow and
Saturday at 8:30 p.m.; Sunday at 7 p.m. at REDCAT (Walt Disney Concert Hall)

Southwest Chamber
Music: Ten Freedom Summers

To open a season celebrating its 25th anniversary, Pasadena-based
Southwest Chamber Music joins forces with the Golden Quartet to present the
world premiere of Ten Freedom Summers
by composer and jazz trumpeter Wadada Lee Smith.

 

The composition — which was inspired by the Civil Rights
movement from 1954-1964 and August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, in which each play
chronicles a decade of African-American life in the 20th century — also uses
archival news footage from the era and other cinematic effects. The piece will
take three evenings to perform; you’re encouraged to attend all three nights to
get the full effect but SCM tells me that each evening stands on its own musically.

 

Get more
information on the composition HERE and by downloading the media  release.

PressReleaseTenFreedomSummers.pdf

A link to an article by Greg Burk in the Los
Angeles Times
is HERE.

 

General admission tickets are $38 for each program. Concert information: www.redcat.org

 

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gustavo Dudamel and Richard Goode

Conductors love micro-macro programs and Gustavo Dudamel is
no exception. Tomorrow night’s Los Angeles Philharmonic “Casual Friday” program
begins with Goode as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466, and
concludes with Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also
Sprach Zarathustra.
The latter is an
eight-movement work that many people know only because of the opening section, Sunrise, which was the theme music for
Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1968 motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey. That dramatic opening sounds particularly impressive
in Disney Hall because the hall’s pipe organ adds grandiose weight to the
climactic measures, but there’s a lot more to come in the succeeding 30 or so
minutes.

 

The Saturday and Sunday programs add Gyrgy Kurtg‘s
Grabstein fr Stephan as the opening
work. These concerts mark Dudame’s final appearances locally until “The Mahler
Project” begins next January. Info: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 2 and 8
p.m. Ambassador Auditorium

Pasadena Symphony;
Mei-Ann Chen, conductor; James Ehnes, violin

Chen, one of the fastest-rising conducting stars today,
leads the Pasadena Symphony in its season-opening concerts, which will
conclude with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Ehnes will be the soloist in
Korngold’s Violin Concerto (his recording of the Korngold, Walton and Barber
violin concertos, with Bramwell Tovey conducting the Vancouver Symphony, won
the 2008 Grammy and Juno awards). For my Pasadena
Scene
profile on Chen, click HERE. Concert
info:
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Saturday at 4 p.m.
at Downey Theater

Chorale Bel Canto and
Opera a la Carte

The Whittier-based chorus Chorale Bel Canto 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:
www.choralebelcanto.org

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

Sunday at 3 at Vic
Lopez Auditorium (Whittier High School)

Rio Hondo Symphony;
Kimo Furumoto, conductor

The Rio Hondo Symphony focuses on small pieces Sunday with a
program entitled “Good Things: Small Packages.” The program will begin with Mozart’s
dramatic Overture to Don Giovanni and
will also include Bartok’s Romanian Folk
Dances Suite
, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella
Suite
and Dvorak’s Czech Suite. Info: www.riohondosymphony.org

_______________________

 

(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

_____________________

 

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