OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Musica Angelica at AT&T Center Theatre

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Musica Angelica;
Martin Hasselbck, conductor

Dame Emma Kirkby,
soprano; Daniel Taylor, counter tenor

Pergolesi/Bach: Stabat
music by Handel

Saturday, January 28, 2012 AT&T Center Theatre

Next performance:
Today at 3 p.m. First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Information: www.musicaangelica.org



During the past 19 years, Musica Angelica has gained
widespread renown as a period-instrument ensemble (i.e., its members play
Baroque and other early music on instruments that are either original to the
time or replicas of same). In addition to its own series, the group has made
national and international tours and recordings. On March 31 and April 1, the
full orchestra will accompany the Los Angeles Master Chorale in performances of
Bach’s St. John Passion at Walt Disney
Concert Hall.


Last night a sextet of MA musicians presented a stylishly
played program of music by Handel and Bach (the latter by the way of
Pergolesi). The evening also marked the MA debut of British soprano Dame Emma
Kirkby and at the same time introduced to Southern California a new performing
venue: the AT&T Center Theatre.


The 500-seat auditorium was once a VIP screening room for
films of United Artists when that company was owned by Transamerica Corporation
(the office tower in which it is housed was the home of Occidental Life and
other subsidiaries of the conglomerate better known for its pyramid-shaped
headquarters in San Francisco). Photos of old United Artist theaters are in the
performing hall’s entryway.


In the early 1980’s, recounts KUSC host Gail Eichenthal,
Sheila Tepper created the Dame Myra Hess Concerts in this hall, which aired
live on KUSC Wednesdays at noon. Topper showcased up and coming young
instrumentalists; the audience consisted largely of office workers.


In 2010, KUSC joined several USC departments that now occupy
the office and eventually convinced the building’s owners to make some
acoustical renovations (most importantly the addition of a shell) that would
turn the auditorium a viable concert hall. Last night was the first performance
since those alterations; KUSC hosted the evening.


From seats in the middle of the hall for the first half and
the back of the hall for the second, the sound carried well (carpet on the
floor does dampen the resonance). Kirkby, countertenor Daniel Taylor and six
accompanying instrumentalists were clearly heard throughout the performance.


Both Kirkby, who was made a Dame Commander of the Order of
the British Empire in 2007 and received the Queen’s Medal for Music last June,
and Taylor, who made his MA debut last year after a significant list of credits
in England, have long and distinguished careers in the field of early music and
they affirmed those credentials last night.


The first half featured arias and duets from Handel’s Alceste, Solomon and Judas Maccabeus. Kirkby delivered clean,
nicely oramented lines and Taylor blended skillfully during his contributions.
Music Director Martin Hasselbck on harpsichord led a sextet of
instrumentalists — Ila Korol and Cynthia Roberts, violins; Robert Diggins,
viola; Ezra Seltzer, violoncello; and Curtis Daily, bass — that accompanied the
singers sensitively and, on their own, offered spritely performances of
Handel’s Concerto Grosso in B-flat major, Op. 6, No. 7, HWV 325, and Trio
Sonata in G major, Op. 2, No. 6, HWB 391.


After intermission, the entire ensemble presented
Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater — except
that it wasn’t. Instead, Hasselbck used the version that Johann Sebastian Bach
refashioned near the end of his life. A Stabat
being a no-go at Bach’s German Lutheran church, he grafted a
paraphrase of Psalm 51 onto Pergolesi’s music, which Bach reordered to suit the
new text and added a new viola part to the score, among other changes.


The resulting work (37 minutes last night) maintained the Stabat Mater’s format of 20 couplets but
Bach placed them into several larger sections that were sumptuously sung by
Kirkby and Taylor. Each of the singers got two solo portions and the others
were duets. Having warmed up and discovered some of the intricacies of the new
hall, Kirkby and Taylor both conveyed the texts expressively and sang with
delicate point and florid ornamentation. The ensemble (with Hasselbck playing
a positiv organ), again accompanied sensitively.


The group encored with a poignant rendition of a duet from
the second act of Handel’s Theodora.




Although the singers projected adequately, I would have
welcomed printed texts for the Handel portions (the German texts for the Bach
were printed, along with translations).

The hall’s management created a welcoming atmosphere for
concertgoers. Signage was plentiful and security officers were polite and
helpful both coming and going. There was also plenty of inexpensive parking

Musica Angelica will return to the AT&T Center Theatre
on Feb. 18 for a selection of Bach Wedding Cantatas. That program will repeat
the next afternoon at First Pres., Santa Monica. Information: www.musicaangelica.org



(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 26, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Each Thursday morning, 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:



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

Simn Bolivr
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No.

This was one of the works with which Gustavo Dudamel
introduced Los Angeles to this dynamic orchestra in 2007. Thus, part of the
intrigue will be to see what changes have occurred in Dudamel’s interpretation
and in the orchestra’s playing. The Bolivrs conclude their individual portion
of the cycle on Tuesday with Symphony No. 7 Information: www.laphil.com


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

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Baroque Conversations

LACO begins its season of baroque chamber-music programs
when Principal Oboist Alan Vogel leads five of his colleagues and soprano
Elissa Johnston in a program of music by J.S. Bach and Heinrich Ignaz Franz
Bieber. Information: www.laco.org


Friday and Saturday
at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No.

The Phil swings back into action with what is perhaps the
darkest of Mahler’s symphonies. Information:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at AT&T Center Theatre, Los Angeles

Sunday at 3 p.m.,
First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Musica Angelica:
Pergolesi/Bach: Stabat Mater

Although Giovanni Pergolesi set a version of Stabat Mater, the work is at least as
well known through its German edition when J.S. Bach put different German text
atop Pergolesi’s music (composers during that time were freer about “borrowing”
music both from themselves and others). Martin Hasselbck will lead his
top-notch period-instrument ensemble along with soloists Dame Emma Kirkby,
soprano, and countertenor Daniel Taylor. Sacred arias by Bach and Handel will
fill out the program.


The Saturday performance will be the group’s first time in
the AT&T Center Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Old-timers will recognize
this as the old Transamerica Life headquarters. Radio station KUSC 95.1 FM
recently moved to the AT&T Center. Originally used as a conference hall,
the performing space reportedly has been acoustically retrofitted by KUSC to
accommodate small- and medium-size musical groups.


Information: www.musicaangelica.org


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

Pacific Serenades

For more than a quarter-century, Pacific Serenades has been
known for (a) beginning its season after the New Year holiday and (b)
commissioning new works. The inaugural concert of its 2012 season will feature
its 103rd commissioned work: the world premiere of Different Lanes for string quartet and
iPad by Los Angeles native and Emmy-award winning composer Laura Karpman (the
title refers to five L.A. freeways) The program will also include Beethoven’s
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3, and Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and
Cello (2001).




And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …


Friday at 8 p.m. at
First Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena

Pasadena Community
Orchestra; Alan Reinecke, conductor

PCO opens its 28th season with a program of
Smetna’s Sarka (from Ma Vlast), Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, and
Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with Joyce Pan as soloist. Pan is a member
of the orchestra’s violin section; in her “other” life, she’s a technical
director for Dreamworks Animation. Information:



Both Long Beach Opera and San Diego Opera open their seasons
this weekend. Long Beach presents Maria
de Buenos Aires
by Astor Pizzola and Horacio Ferrer on Sunday at 2 p.m. and
Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. at The Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. Information: www.longbeachopera.org


San Diego Opera begins with Richard Strauss’ Salome, which opens Saturday at 7 p.m.
and also plays Tuesday at 7 p.m., Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. Lise
Lindstrom sings the title role. Information:



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

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