AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Looking back on 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

With Christmas Eve and Christmas Sunday church services
coming on the weekend this year, I’m going to post my “End of the Year Wrap-up”
column today so I don’t forget to do so. I hope all of you will find time to
attend a service, listen to the annual Festival
of Nine Lessons and Carols
from King’s College Cambridge (locally on KUSC,
91-5 FM, at 7 a.m. Saturday), and have a blessed and joyous Christmas.

 

Looking back on the classical music year 2011 brought a
fascinating flood of remembrances. I discovered that (counting this column) I
have posted 236 times during the year on subjects as diverse as the genre. Some
of these posts also appeared in the above newspapers but — newsprint space
being what it is — obviously this Blog gives you much more. Following are some
of the significant occurrences of 2011, listed in sort-of-alphabetical order.

 

AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM

The Pasadena hall with great acoustics will never approach
the number of events it hosted when it was built in 1974 but HRock Church
(which now owns the auditorium) has made it available to a number of performing
groups, including the Pasadena Symphony, Colburn Orchestra and, for one concert
a year, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

 

ANNIVERSARIES

Grant Gershon celebrated his 10th anniversary as
music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale last season. This fall Jeffrey
Kahane began his 15th season as music director of the Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra. Both men — and both organizations — are among the reasons
why the Southern California music scene is so vibrant.

 

NIGEL ARMSTRONG and
NAREK HAKHNAZARAYAN

Cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, a 22-year-old Armenian who in
January played the Dvorak Concerto with the Pasadena Symphony, won the gold
medal in the 14th Tchaikovsky International Competition in June. Meanwhile,
Nigel Armstrong, a 21-year-old graduate of The Colburn School, won fourth place
in the violin portion of the competition. Earlier, Armstrong — who studied with
Robert Lipsett at The Colburn School — won an award for his performance of Stomp by American composer John
Corigliano.

 

BTW: Armstrong (who is now a grad student at The Curtis
Institute in Philadelphia) will return to Los Angeles to perform with the Los
Angeles Chamber Orchestra on Jan. 21 at Glendale’s Alex Theatre and Jan. 22 at
UCLA’s Royce Hall (LINK).

 

AWARDS

Los Angeles Philharmonic Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka
Salonen won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his Violin Concerto. The work
was premiered in April 2009 with Salonen conducting the L.A. Phil and soloist
Leila Josefowicz (who grew up in Los Angeles and, like Nigel Armstrong, studied
with Ronald Lipsett at The Colburn School).

 

The award also spotlighted the Phil as America’s premiere
orchestra for commissioning and performing new music, another legacy of
Salonen’s 18-year-tenure as LAPO music director. The Phil is the only orchestra
to have commissioned and premiered two Grawemeyer Award compositions (Peter
Lieberson’s Neruda Songs in
2005 was the other) and Salonen is the only conductor to have led the first
performances of two winning scores (Neruda
Songs
and his own concerto).

 

Martin Haselbck, music director of Musica Angelica — the top-notch
Los Angeles-based period instrument ensemble — won a Grand Prix International
du Disque award for a recording he made with his other ensemble, the Vienna
Academy Orchestra, entitled The Sound of
Weimar: Franz Liszt; The Complete Works for Orchestra, Vol. 1.

 

CLASHING PROGRAMS

Each
year often brings one or two pieces that seemingly everyone wants to present,
and this year was no exception. There were four performances of Tchaikovsky’s
Symphony No. 5 within a 16-day span in October (and two more to come next
month). Fortunately, several of the performances (Gustavo Dudamel with the L.A.
Phil, Yuja Wang) rose to exalted levels. Runner-up in this category was to
multiple performances of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (at least four in
four months) and an unusually large number of performances of Handel’s
Messiah in December.

 

DEATHS

Although the death of Steve Jobs on Oct. 5 dominated the
year’s obituaries, bringing to an untimely end the career of a man whose
inventions such as iTunes and iPod revolutionized the music industry, there
were other notable passings in our field, as well, including:

Daniel Catn died unexpectedly on April 8 at the age of
62. Although he composed many works, Catn was riding high after his opera Il Postino (The Postman) received its
world premiere in September 2010 by Los Angeles Opera.

Peter Lieberson (April 23), whose compositions included Neruda Songs, which (as noted above) was
premiered by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2005. The
soloist for whom the Grawemeyer Award-winning piece was written was Lorraine
Hunt Lieberson, the composer’s wife, who died the following year.

Sidney Harth (Feb. 16) was concertmaster of the Los
Angeles Philharmonic during the Carlo Maria Giulini era in the 1980s. He later
became a conductor, most notably with the Jerusalem Symphony.

Kurt Sanderling (Sept. 17) was a beloved guest conductor
with the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the 1980s and 1990s.

 

One other note: Salonen and Pierre Boulez returned to Los
Angeles on March 29 for a poignant tribute concert to the life and legacy of
Ernest Flesichmann, the orchestra’s longtime managing director who died in June
2010. It was a concert that Fleischmann would have loved, both for its
innovative programming and the quality of the performances.

 

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL

Now that the hoopla surrounding the now-30-year-old
Venezuelan’s debut as Los Angeles Philharmonic music director has subsided
somewhat, we’re watching this remarkable conducting talent mature as each year
passes. Although the Phil’s “Brahms Unbound” cycle devolved to “Brahms Unbound”
as illness, death and tardiness conspired to eliminate most of the new
compositions originally scheduled for the five-week-long “festival,” Dudamel
and the Phil delivered some superb performances of Brahms and newer works, as
well. Next month comes an even bigger challenge: The Mahler Project (more on
that next week and in January).

 

LOS ANGELES OPERA

Two years after presenting Wagner’s Ring cycle, LA Opera has put together a string of very successful
productions, including Verdi’s Rigoletto,
Rossini’s The Turk in Italy and
Britten’s The Turn of the Screw
earlier this year and then Tchaikovsky’s Eugene
Onegin.
Gounod’s Romo et Juliette and,
in particular, Mozart’s Cos Fan Tutte
to open the current season.

 

Although it occurred in 2010, the world premiere of Daniel
Catn’s Il Postino (The Postman) continued
to resonate this year, in part because of the untimely death of the composer
and also because PBS’s “Great Performances” series telecast the world-premiere
production earlier this month.

 

LA PHIL LIVE

The jury is still out as to whether live telecasts of
orchestra concerts will attain the same level of popularity as the Metropolitan
Opera’s HD telecasts, but Dudamel and the Phil offered persuasively for the new
format in four concerts during 2011. The interviews and rehearsal footage are
worth the price of admission.

 

The one telecast that really stood out for me was the
concert that melded readings from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Tempest and Romeo
and Juliet
with music that Tchaikovsky wrote inspired by each play. The
actors performing the sketches were much easier to follow on the telecast as
opposed to being in Disney Hall. For the first concert of the current season,
Dudamel did a surprisingly good job acting as both host and conductor. The next
telecast is Feb. 18, a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 live from
Caracas, Venezuela.

 

MUSE-IQUE

A year after stepping down as music director of the Pasadena
Pops Orchestra, Rachael Worby returned with her life-long dream of a group that
would provide innovative and flexible programs. The opening event was an
orchestra concert on the lawn adjacent to Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium that
featured soprano Jessye Norman as the soloist. Both the locale and the program
proved to be quite special. Two small-ensemble programs followed in the fall.
Stay tuned in 2012.

 

THE OUTDOOR CONCERT
VENUE BATTLE

Springtime erupted when the Los Angeles County Arboretum
announced that it had selected the Pasadena Pops to replace the California
Philharmonic at the Arcadia venue beginning summer 2012. After much angst and
anger, the Cal Phil then decided to move slightly east to a venue that might –
if early projections actually come to pass — prove to be a more congenial home:
Santa Anita Racetrack.

 

Hollywood Bowl provided its usual solid set of programs, a
handful of which were noteworthy. Gustavo Dudamel concerted three concerts to
open the Bowl’s classical season, notable perhaps for the fact that less people
showed up than appeared the previous year. The Internet hoopla over Yuja Wang’s
“little orange dress” overshadowed her breathtaking performance of
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3; when she appeared at Disney Hall this
fall, she was dressed less flamboyantly and everyone could focus on her
extraordinary talent as soloist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. As one
person summed up at the Disney Hall concert I attended, “She’s more than a
dress.”

 

PASADENA SYMPHONY AND
POPS

Now into its second season without a music director and,
seemingly, satisfied with that situation, the PSO welcomed a series of lively,
young guest conductors — including Tito Muoz, George Stelluto and Mei-Ann Chen
– to its new home, Ambassador Auditorium. Stelluto and the PSO also unveiled
one of the genuine “finds” of the season: a Kanun concerto by Khachatur
Avetisyan, played with sparkle and grace by Karine Hovhannisyan.

 

Meanwhile, as the Pops prepared to move to the Arboretum
this fall (see above), it welcomed a new principal conductor, Marvin Hamlisch,
who proved to be a master at the pops-concert genre.

 

VALLEY PERFORMING
ARTS CENTER

At long last, the San Fernando Valley has a major performing
arts center located on the campus of Cal State Northridge. The hall is visually
attractive and acoustically solid, as was demonstrated by the appearance of
Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Now comes the hard part: finding and successfully marketing high-quality
performances.

 

Several other cities also opened new halls, including the
Soka University in Aliso Viejo, the New World Center in Miami Beach (complete
with a stunning outdoor video wall), and Maison
Symphonique de Montreal
in that Canadian city.

 

Next week: looking ahead at 2012.

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Our “Messiah” cup overfloweth

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.

 

If, as noted last week, choral music is one of the enduring
symbols of the holiday season, many people would consider Handel’s Messiah to be pinnacle of that genre,
and we’re in the midst of a Messiah
cornucopia throughout Southern California.

 

The most unique way of experiencing Handel’s 1742 oratorio
is by singing it, and Monday night at Disney Hall the Los Angeles Master
Chorale offers you the opportunity to do just that with its annual “Messiah
Sing-Along.” No experience necessary; just buy a ticket, show up and sing –or
you can just listen and be surrounded by sound. Bring your own score or buy one
for $10. Information: 213/972-7282;
www.lamc.org

 

For a complete change of pace, Nicholas McGegan will conduct
his Philharmonic Baroque and Philharmonia Chorale on Tuesday and Wednesday at 8
p.m. in Disney Hall. Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, these concerts
will be closer to what most people would consider “authentic” performances of Messiah, although Handel heard his
famous oratorio (created in just 24 days with the assistance of librettist
Charles Jennens) performed by a wide variety of sizes and types of performing
ensembles. Information:
323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

 

Finally next Sunday at 7 p.m., Grant Gershon completes the Messiah Disney Hall troika when he
conducts 48 singers of his L.A. Master Chorale, soloists (from the Chorale) and
a chamber orchestra in a full-length (three hours) performance of Messiah. Information: 213/972-7282; www.lamc.org

 

Two other Disney Hall holiday programs are worth noting.
Chanticleer, the San Francisco-based, all-male ensemble, returns to the hall on
Thursday at 8 — a must-see for choral lovers — and organist David Higgs plays
his annual recital on the Disney Hall pipe organ, assisted by soprano Shana
Blake Hill, who has performed many times with the Pasadena Symphony. The latter
program will also include audience caroling.

 

If you’re absolutely fed up with holiday music (or even if
you’re not), Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie will lead the L.A. Phil on
Friday morning (11 a.m.), Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in an
all-Mozart program that concludes with the composer’s final symphony, No. 41
“(Jupiter”). Benedetto Lupo will be the soloist in Mozart’s final piano
concerto, No. 27, K. 595. This program is right in the wheelhouse of Labadie,
who is a Baroque and Classical specialist; he is founder and music director of
Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Qubec in his native province. Information: 323/850-2000;
www.laphil.com

______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on November 10, 2011

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
peak my interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at
a minimum, inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Semyon Bychkov and the Labques

Bychkov, one of the hottest guest conductors around these
days, conducts Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic
Dances
to conclude the program. In the first half, the classical world’s
most popular piano duo, Katia and Marielle Labque, will play an arrangement of
Ravel’s Rapodie Espagnole for two
solo pianos and then join the Phil for the world premiere of Concerto for two pianos and double orchestra
“Battlefield”
by Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon. This will mark
the first concert appearance at Walt Disney Concert Hall of Marielle with Bychkov, who is her husband. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at The Women’s Club of South Pasadena

Celestial Opera: Purcell’s
Dido and Aeneas and Mozart’s The Impresario

The intrepid local opera company offers two one-act operas
sung in English with English supertitles, with sets and costumes, accompanied
by a string quartet and harpsichord (for the Purcell) and piano (for the
Mozart). I’ll have a preview story posted tomorrow on this Blog and in the
Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News. Information: www.celestialopera.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Neighborhood Church, Pasadena

Musica Angelica
salutes its founders

Lutenist and guitarist John Schneidermann will join Hideki
Yamaya, guitar and lute, violinists Janet Strauss and Susan Feldman, cellist
William Skeen, tenor Daniel Plaster and Denise Bries on viola da gamba in a
program that honors Michael Eagan and Mark Chatfield, who founded Musica
Angelica in 1993. Eagan, a lute player, died in 2004, while Chatfield, a
cellist, passed away in 1998. The duo formed the ensemble that has become one
of the world’s Baroque music groups. The concert repeats Nov. 13 in Santa
Monica. Information: www.musicaangelica.org

 

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

Los Angeles Master
Chorale: The Little Match Girl Passion

Grant Gershon conducts 32 members of the Chorale and solo
instrumentalists in The Little Match Girl
Passion,
the Pulitzer Prize-winning work by David Lang, which is based on
the Hans Christian Andersen story and influenced by Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. This will be an
expanded version of the piece that was premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York
City. The program also includes the U.S. premiere of James Newton’s Mass and two Bach motets. Information: www.lamc.org

 

Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
and 8:30 p.m. at the Show at Barre Theatre, Los Angeles

Susan Egan and
Georgia Stitt: The Secret of Happiness LIVE

Susan Egan originated the role of Belle in Disney’s Beauty and Beast musical on Broadway.
Georgia Stitt is an award-winning Broadway composer and arranger. Together,
they make a powerhouse team and this program features selections from their new
upcoming album. If you’re interested and/or intrigued, read the attendance
details carefully — this is a small theater. Information: showatbarre.inticketing.com

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
at Pasadena Christian Church

Sunday at 2 p.m. at First
Baptist Church of Pasadena

Crown City Symphony;
Marvin Neumann, conductor

Lawrence Sonderling, a member of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s violin section, will be the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin
Concerto. The program also includes Rossini’s Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers and Mozart’s Symphony No. 25. Information: www.crowncitysymphony.org

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles Master
Chorale; Grant Gershon, conductor

Sunday, October 16, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next concert:
Nov. 13, 2011 at 7 p.m. Gershon conducts David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion, the U.S. premiere of James Newton’s Mass and two motes by J.S. Bach (INFO)

______________________

 

56070-Gershon10-16-11.jpg

Grant Gershon (left), music director of the Los Angeles Master
Chorale, LOVES program titles. When he designed last night’s concert — the
opening event in the ensemble’s 48th season — he originally called
it “From Here to Eternity.” Other marketing mavens intervened, however, and the
title ended up as “Lux Aeterna,” in honor of Morten Lauridsen’s famous choral
work that concluded the program at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

 

Smart move; the house was packed last night, which isn’t a
surprise. Since the Master Chorale commissioned the work from Lauridsen in
1997, no other piece has more defined the ensemble. And it’s not just the
Master Chorale that loves it. Since it was premiered and then recorded by the ensemble
and its former music director, Paul Salumunovich, Lux Aeterna has become one of the most popular choral pieces written
in recent years. In last night’s preconcert “Listen Up!” program, KUSC radio
host Alan Chapman remarked that whenever Lux
Aeterna
is played during one of his station’s innumerable pledge drives, phones
ring off the hook with donations.

 

However, the piece performed last night was quite a ways
removed from the orchestral version that most people know. Gershon chose instead
to accompany the 30-minute work with Paul Meier (associate organist at St.
James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Blvd.) playing the 6,100-pipe Disney Hall
organ. (Lauridsen — obviously a canny businessman — wrote both versions of Lux Aeterna simultaneously, knowing that
far more choruses and church choirs would be able to perform it with an organ
accompanying instead of hiring an orchestra).

 

Thus, last night’s Lux
Aeterna
had quite a different sound and feel to it, but that wasn’t all due
to Meier. Gershon himself put his own distinctive stamp on last night’s
performance, as well. The 115-member Chorale was much more expressive and
subtle than on the recording, employing impeccable diction and bringing great
feeling to the Latin texts in the five connected movements, including its most
famous section, O Nata Lux.

 

I wasn’t totally sold on all of Meier’s registrations and
the balance between choir and organ wasn’t always perfect but the opening notes,
beginning with a single note from one of Frank Gehry’s 32-foot wooden organ
pipes, and the transition from O Nata Lux
to Veni, Sancte Spiritus were particularly
effective. The audience was mesmerized; there were at least 10 seconds of
silence after the final Amen before
the hall erupted in a standing ovation for Gershon, the Chorale and, in
particular, Lauridsen, who was in the audience.

 

The opening half of the program consisted of totally a
cappella works, all written by still-living composers. The earliest work on the
program dated from 1990: the U.S. premiere of Music for a big church; for tranquility by Swedish composer Thomas
Jennefelt, a 10-minute vocalize exercise with the male voices setting a
polyphonic chordal foundation while the women swirled above and below them.

 

The rest of the first-half pieces were notable for, among
other things, the composers’ ability to fit their music expertly to poetic
texts, beginning with Eric Whitacre’s 2002 anthem, Her Sacred Spirit Soars, which employs rising scales from a 10-part
double chorus to accentuate a text by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The Chorale’s
fortissimo ending raised the proverbial Disney Hall roof.

 

English composer Tarik O’Regan (whose first opera, Heart of Darkness, will be premiered
next month at Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in London) used mostly homophonic
writing that allowed the Chorale to declaim grim words by Chilean poet Pablo
Neruda with great feeling. Leslie Leighton, the Chorale’s associate conductor,
conducted but the Chorale couldn’t quite achieve the precision it demonstrated
under Gershon in the rest of the program.

 

The upbeat strains of Heavenly
Home,
a “bluegrass triptych” of 19th century American folk hymns
arranged by chorus member Shawn Kirchner, concluded the opening half. Premiered
by the Chorale last year, the three arrangements proved to be a perfect
antidote to Neruda’s tragic depiction of a battle, even if Kirchner’s subject
matter did deal with the trip from this life to the next. As far as Kirchner
and the text writers are concerned, the trip (and its destination) will be
joyous. Jaunty arrangements of Unclouded
Day
and Hallelujah bracketed the
winsome Angel Band, in which Kirchner
gave his fellow tenors soaring melodic lines in the middle verse.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Among the more interesting tidbits from the preconcert
lecture was the revelation that Lauridsen (who has been a professor at the USC
Thornton School of Music for more than 30 years) reads poetry every day and
begins every class with a poem

Photo caption: Grant Gershon conducted the Los Angeles Master Chorale last night in Walt Disney Concert Hall, the opening concert of the Chorale’s 48th season. Photo credit: Alex Berliner for Los Angeles Master Chorale.

_______________________

 

(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.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on October 13, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

With the classical music season back in full swing, it’s
time to revive my “Five Spot” column. Each Thursday morning, I list five events
that peak my interest, Usually there’s at least one with free admission (or, at
a minimum, inexpensive tickets) but this week’s listing omits the free event
because (a) nothing in that category jumped out at me today and (b) of the
large number of important ticketed concerts. I’ll have a couple of
free-admission events next week.

 

Here is today’s grouping:

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

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Dudamel and and Bronfman

Life comes full circle, in a sense, for Gustavo Dudamel, who
made his American debut in 2005 conducting Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 at
Hollywood Bowl. That famous work concludes this weekend’s Phil concerts and is
one of several performances of this work being done locally within the next
fortnight (LINK).

 

Tonight, Saturday and Sunday, the program opens with
<EM>Orion </EM> by French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier and
includes Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2. The program was supposed to feature
Yefim Bronfman soloing in Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 but he withdrew after
breaking a finger (presumably not when practicing the concerto, although it
would not be surprising if that were the case, since this a concerto often
described as “finger-busting”).

The choice of the Ravel is interesting; perhaps Gustavo will
explain it tomorrow, which is one of the highly popular “Casual Friday”
programs, The Orion gets deep-sixed in favor of a preconcert talk, usually by
an orchestra member, and an after-concert Q&A session that normally
features Dudamel and the preconcert lecture host, in this case, violinist Eric
Bromberger. Info: www.laphil.com

 

Tonight and Monday
night at 8 p.m. at Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa

Mariinsky Theatre
Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor

As part of a cross-country tour, one of Russia’s finest
ensembles (which used to be called the Kirov) makes appearances with two
different all-Tchaikovsky programs in Costa Mesa under the auspices of the
Orange County Philharmonic Society. Tonight is Symphonies Nos. 2 (Little Russian) and 5. Monday night
brings the third and fourth symphonies. Performances conducted by Gergiev can
be “wild and wooly” on occasion but they’re also full of electricity. See also
my Tuesday listing below for another Mariinsky concert. Information: www.philharmonicsociety.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Alex Theater, Glendale; Sunday at 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor

Kahane leads his band in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). This was one of the first
symphonies Kahane conducted with LACO which demonstrated that a chamber
orchestra could think outside the box (i.e., beyond music from the baroque and
early classical eras) when it comes to programming. The evening opens with
Dvorak’s Nocture in B Major, Op. 40
and includes Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin singing Britten’s Les Illuminations and Now sleeps the crimson petal. Info: www.laco.org

 

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

Los Angeles Master
Chorale; Grant Gershon, conductor

In the opening concert of the Chorale’s 48th season, Gershon
leads 115 singers and organist Paul Meier in a program that includes the U.S.
premiere of Music for a big church; for
tranquility
by Swedish composer Thomas Jennefelt; Heavenly Home, a “bluegrass triptych” by Chorale member Shawn
Kirchner; and one of the landmark choral works of the last quarter century,
Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. Info: www.lamc.org

 

Tuesday at 8 p.m.
at Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge

Mariinsky Theatre
Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, conductor

Gergiev and his busy band journey to Cal State Northridge
where the new VPAC will get its biggest acoustic test to date from the Russian
musicians in a program that includes Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite; Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1; and Prokofiev’s
Piano Concerto No. 3, with Alexander Toradze as soloist. Info: www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

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