NEWS: New West Symphony names three finalists for music director position

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

The Thousand Oaks-based New West Symphony has named three finalists for its vacant music director position and concurrently filled out most of its 2017-2018 season. Two of the finalists will lead programs in the upcoming season at the orchestra’s three homes: Thousand Oaks, Oxnard and Santa Monica. The other candidate will lead the opening concert of the 2018-2019 season.

The winner will replace Marcello Lehninger, who left last year to become music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan. The GRS was led for nearly two decades by David Lockington, who left there to become the Pasadena Symphony music director — yep, the wheels of the car go round and round …

The three conducting finalists are:
Tania Miller, who last season celebrated her 14th season as music director of the Victoria Symphony in British Columbia. Miller, who will turn 48 next month, is the oldest of the candidates and the only woman finalist.

Miller, who led the first NWS concert last season, will conduct the final concert in the 2017-2018 schedule on May 12 and 13. Her program will include Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture, Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, along with Liszt’s Totentaz and his Piano Concerto No. 1. 2009 Van Cliburn International Competition gold medalist, Haochen Zang, will be the soloist in the Liszt works.

Kynan Johns, who will lead programs on January 25, 27 and 28. The concerts will conclude with a warhorse, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Pathetique), but the program will also include a world premiere by Bruce Boughton written for the Lyris Quartet, which was founded by New West Symphony Concertmaster Alyssa Park. Johns is the only one of the three without a current music director position.

Fawzi Haimor, recently named music director of Württenbergische Philharmonic Reutlingen in Germany. His start date there is in September, which probably pushed his NWS “audition” concert back to the 2018-2019 season opener. Haimor, 34,was formerly resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Chicago Tribune columnist/critic John Von Rhein notes: “The Chicago-born conductor Fawzi Haimor, whose father is Jordanian-Lebanese and whose mother is from the Philippines, sees it as his duty to promote the work of Muslim and Arabic composers. One of the very few Muslim conductors pursuing an international career, he also has made it part of his mission to encourage younger musicians of similar ethnic and religious background to take up the baton.”

New West Symphony season:
In addition to the concerts led by Miller and Johns, the season includes:
Season Opener
The October 6, 7 and 8 concerts will feature Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 combined with music from Argentina and Spain. Grant Cooper, who annually leads the Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday concerts, will conduct this program. Flamenco dancer Siudy Garrido will perform the ballet El Amor Brujo by Manuel de Falla as part of the program.

Mauceri and Bernstein’s 100th
Mauceri, the former music director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, returns to Southern California November 18 and 19 for a program that includes selections from On the Town, West Side Story, Candide and other Bernstein works. One hopes that he will include his special raconteur moments.

Zuckerman and Forsyth
Pinchas Zukerman, who in addition to being a superb violinist and violist, has been increasing his conducting gigs during the past decade. With the NWS, he will appear as both soloist and conductor on March 9, 10 and 11. His program, which concludes with Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, opens with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin and Cello in B-flag Major, with Amanda Forsyth playing the cello part. Forsyth is a founding member of the Zukerman ChamberPlayers.

Classical Vienna
A guest conductor not one of the finalists, Andrew Grams, will lead a program of Viennese music on April 14 and 15, which will include Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, with Till Fellner as the soloist.

All of the NWS concerts play at the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center and at the Oxnard PAC. At least three of the programs also play in a Santa Monica venue not yet named (last year it was The Broad Stage).


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

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AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Orchestras in the holiday season

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of
this column published today in the above papers.



Because the holiday season is dominated by choral music,
orchestras have, in the past, tended to shy away from programs in December
unless they were holiday-theme oriented (e.g., Handel’s Messiah). This year, things are different.


Esa-Pekka Salonen, who music director of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic for 17 years, is in town for two weeks of concerts with his old
band (his L.A. Phil title is now Conductor Laureate). Today he’s leading
Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2, with an old
friend, Emmanuel Ax, soloing in the concerto (which, despite its number, was
actually the first piano concerto that Beethoven wrote).


The second half of the program is Sirens by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. Soprano Hila Plitmann
and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter join the orchestra and Los Angeles
Master Chorale in the work, which is based on The Siren Song from Homer’s The
and is receiving its world premiere this weekend. (Read my review
of Friday’s performance HERE.)


Salonen is leading another world premiere Friday, Saturday
and next Sunday: the Prologue to Shostakovich’s Orango, an unfinished satirical opera that the composer sketched in
1932 while he was writing his opera Lady
Macbeth of the Mtsensk District
. Only the 40-minute Prologue was
completed in piano vocal score, which was discovered in 2006. The Phil, a large
group of soloists, and the Master Chorale will present the work, orchestrated
by English composer Gerard McBurney and staged by Peter Sellars. The program
concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4.  I have more on this concert at the bottom of the review
posted above and I’ll add more details on my “Five-Spot” post on Thursday.


On Dec. 8, 9 and 10, Thomas Wilkins — principal conductor of
the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — leads the Phil in a program of movie music as
the orchestra’s contribution to the “Pacific Standard Time” series under the
auspices of the Getty Museum. Information:


Elsewhere on the orchestral front:

The Pasadena
will get into the holiday spirit with a candlelight program
Saturday at 7 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper, artistic
director and conductor of the West Virginia Symphony, will conduct the PSO,
vocalist Lisa Vroman, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Donald Brinegar
Singers and L.A. Bronze (a handbell ensemble) in an eclectic program of holiday
music. Information:


The Colburn
continues its season next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ambassador
Auditorium as guest conductor Gerard Schwarz leads the ensemble in Mahler’s
Symphony No. 5 and Takemitsu’s From Me
Flows What You Call Time,
with a local percussion ensemble, Smoke and
Mirrors, as soloists in the Takemitsu piece. For Schwarz, it’s something of a
homecoming. Prior to becoming music director of the Seattle Symphony, Schwarz
held a similar position with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which used to
perform in Ambassador. Information:


Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will lead his Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on Dec.
10 at the Alex Theater in Glendale and 11 at Royce Hall, UCLA. Cellist Ralph
Kirshbaum will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. The program
also includes music by Ravel, Respighi and Thomas Ads. Information:



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

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