FIVE SPOT: May 17-22, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each week about this time I list five (more or less) classical-music programs in Southern California (more or less) during the next seven days (more or less) that might be worth attending.

It’s not unusual to have the same piece show up on two different ensembles’ programs within the same season. Last month we had Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 played a week apart by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Pasadena Symphony. However, this weekend we have two ensembles playing the same major work on the same days!

MAY 18 AND 19: L.A. PHIL’S SCHUBERT SERIES CONTINUES
8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Gustavo Dudamel concludes his Schubert/Mahler cycle with two different programs this week. Thursday and Friday, it’s Schubert’s fifth and sixth symphonies paired with Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as soloist (she’s a powerhouse replacement for Elīna Garanča, who withdrew for “personal reasons”).

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the 1st and Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laphil.com

MAY 18, 19 AND 20: MOZART MEETS “DON QUXIOTE”
8 p.m. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa
Carl St.Clair leads the Pacific Symphony in a program that features Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, with Orli Shaham as soloist, and Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Quixote, with Timothy Landauer, the orchestra’s principal cellist, as soloist.

BONUS: Timothy Mangan, the orchestra’s new writer-in-residence, has a thoughtful article on Strauss’ piece HERE.

Information: www.pacificsymphony.org

MAY 20: DRUM SUMMIT: MUSIC OF STEVE REICH
8 p.m. First Presbyterian Church; Santa Monica
Jacaranda’s Percussion Ensemble honors the 80th birthday of Steve Reich with a performance of Reich’s Drumming; Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ.

BONUS: The church is about a 10-minute walk from the downtown Santa Monica stop on Metro’s Expo Line (the line’s final stop). If you arrive early, there are plenty of places to eat in the Third St. Promenade, which is one route to the church.

Information: www.jacarandamusic.org

MAY 20 AND 21: JEFFREY KAHANE’S FINAL CONCERTS AS LACO MUSIC DIRECTOR
8 p.m. Saturday at Alex Theatre; Glendale
7 p.m. Sunday at UCLA’s Royce Hall
With these concerts Jeffrey Kahane concludes his 20-year reign as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s music director. The program contains a first and two lasts: the world premiere of Christopher Cerrone’s Will There Be Singing, Schubert’s final symphony, No 9 (“The Great C-Major”) and Mozart’s final piano concerto, No. 27 n B-flat major, K.595, with Kahane as soloist and conducting from the keyboard.

Information: www.laco.org

MAY 20 AND 21: DUDAMEL AND L.A. PHIL’S CONCLUDE SCHUBERT/MAHLER SERIES
8 p.m. Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday
at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
If you’re really into compare and contrast, this is your weekend! You can either catch Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 played by LACO on Saturday and the L.A. Phil on Sunday, or you’ve even got time to hear both ensembles on Sunday.

Dudamel’s program also includes Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and Mahler’s Songs from Das Knaben Wunderhorn, with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as soloist (again, as Thursday and Friday, she is serving as a great sub for Elīna Garanča, who withdrew for “personal reasons”).

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the 1st and Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laphil.com

MAY 22: IVETA APKALNA, ORGANIST
7:30 p.m. Saturday at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna will make her Disney Hall debut in the final recital of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2016-2017 organ series. Apkalna — titular organist of the Klais organ at the newly opened Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg — will play music by Aivars Kalējs, Thierry Escaich, Philip Glass, Johann Sebastian Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, Franz Liszt, and George Thalben-Ball.

Apkalna will also appear next weekend with Dudamel and the LAPO in a performance of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass. Information: www.laphil.com

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the 1st and Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information for May 22: www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Herbie Hancock, L.A. Phil extend relationship

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Jazz great Herbie Hancock and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have extended Hancock’s role as Creative Chair for Jazz through the 2018 Hollywood Bowl season and the 2018/2019 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

L.A. Phil Artistic and Music Director Gustavo Dudamel announced the one-year extension onstage at the Bowl last night during a Bowl kick-off party held for sponsors, LAPO board members, media and other guests.

Hancock, now age 77, first signed on with the Phil in 2010. He helps to curate the Phil’s jazz programming and related educational activities primarily at its two principal venues. He is the third person to hold the position. Dianne Reeves began in 2002 and Christian McBride took over in 2006. The chair is now endowed by William Powers and Carolyn Powers.

Click HERE for Hancock’s bio.
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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REVIEW: Dudamel, L.A. Phil begin Schubert/Mahler series at Disney Hall

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conducting
Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Next performances: May 11, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m.
Information: www.laphil.com

Last week was quite tough for Los Angeles Philharmonic Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel. For the past several years has watched as his native Venezuela’s government has slowly devolved into chaos. He has refused to become overtly involved, believing that such involvement might jeopardize his country’s El Sistema music program (which is funded in large part by the government) and that he can be more effective making music. That decision has earned him plenty of enmity, particularly from those who oppose the government.

However, on Wednesday Armando Cañizales, a 17-year-old violinist and El Sistema member, was killed during an antigovernment protest and Dudamel felt compelled to act. He issued a statement, “I Raise My Voice,” (LINK) that said, in part, “It is time to listen to the people: Enough is enough. I urgently call on the President of the Republic and the national government to rectify and listen to the voice of the Venezuelan people. Times cannot be defined by the blood of our people.”

Perhaps predictably many people on both sides of the debate are angry about this letter, some saying it’s too little, too late, others criticizing the relationship between Dudamel and El Sistema with the government, and some even calling Dudamel complicit in the killings.

Friday night Dudamel returned to his second home and to one of his familes, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, for the first of five weeks of concerts that will present two different cycles. According to Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times REVIEW, “[Dudamel] walked onto the stage with uncharacteristic brusqueness — no smiles” and told the audience he was dedicating the concert to the slain student and all victims of violence. “We play for all our children,” Dudamel concluded, “to build a better future for them with peace and love.”

Last night, his entrance onto the stage was gentler but still without smiles. Why he elected not to repeat the dedication mystifies me a bit — those who attend on Saturday are as much a part of the L.A. Phil family as those who came Friday night. Nonetheless, the evening proved to be excellent music making.

Over the next two weeks Dudamel will lead a cycle of all eight published symphonies of Franz Schubert intermingled with four song cycles written by Gustav Mahler. “This [weekend’s] program,” wrote Linda Shaver-Gleason in her program notes, “features symphonies from a prolific songwriter and songs from a prominent symphonist, two figures on the end of the Romantic era.”

This is a cycle that Dudamel could not have pulled off as well in his early days with the Phil. He would have been too brash, too energetic to let this music unfold on its own terms. Now, like his work with Mozart symphonies, he has become more relaxed and reflective in his music making.

Last night he conducted the first two symphonies from memory, with a light, yet sure touch, using almost none of the dynamic gestures for which is well known. He brought more gravitas to Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, in part because the soloist was mezzo-soprano Michelle deYoung, who sang Mahler’s texts with an opulent Wagnerian tone.

In his preconcert lecture, Professor James William Sobaskie described the concert as having “echoes and resonance,” noting that both composers reached into their past for inspiration but wrote works that pointed to the future.

Schubert composed his first symphony in 1813 at the age of 16, when he was still a student at the Imperial Seminary in Vienna. He began his second symphony the following year. Schubert was living in a city that still reveled in the works of Mozart, who died in 1791, Haydn, who passed away in 1809, and Beethoven, whose Symphony No. 7 premiered in 1813 and No. 8 a year later. Schubert’s first two symphonies heavily reflect the music of Haydn and Mozart.

Yet what a difference in these two works. The first symphony, which opened last night’s program, was scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. By the second (which closed the evening) Schubert had added a second flute and two trumpets to the scoring, which made for a richer sound. For both symphonies Principal Timpanist Joseph Pereria played a set of kettledrums more appropriate to the Schubertian sound than the richer drums that were used in the Mahler songs.

Both symphonies begin with a slow introduction but diverge somewhat from there. Dudamel’s pacing was gentle until he reached the Presto finale of the second symphony. The orchestration in both works is a feast for wind instruments and the Phil’s principals were in tip-top form. At the conclusion of the second symphony, Dudamel waded into the orchestra to shake the hand of Associate Principal Oboeist Marion Arthur Kuszyk for her exemplary work.

The Mahler songs proved to be an effective counterpoint to the Schubert, although in all but the final concert of this series they will make for somewhat unbalanced programs. Dudamel used a score for Songs of a Wayfarer but led the four songs for which Mahler wrote from the poetry with elegant confidence.

Part of Sobaskie’s “resonance” description was easy to understand in Songs of a Wayfarer. The melody of the second song became the opening theme of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and traces of the final song also show up in that first symphony.

DeYoung poured out all four songs with easy opulence. Dudamel and the orchestra (considerably larger than for the Schubert symphonies) provided sumptuous accompaniment.

Next week’s programs will pair Schubert’s third and fourth symphonies with Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, with baritone Matthias Goerne as soloist. On May 18 and 19, Dudamel will lead Schubert’s fifth and sixth symphonies with Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, with mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča as soloist.

The series concludes on May 20 and 21 with Schubert’s best-known symphonies, Nos. 8 (“Unfinished”) and 9 (“The Great C-Major”), with Garanča soloing in Mahler’s Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn on both concerts.

Information on all of these is at www.laphil.com

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

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FIVE-SPOT: May 4-7, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Each week about this time I list five (more or less) classical-music programs in Southern California (more or less) during the next seven days (more or less) that might be worth attending.

MAY 4: TWO LOOKS AT BEETHOVEN
7:30 p.m. at Moss Theater; Santa Monica
As part of its final “West Side Connections” program of the 2016-17 season, outgoing LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane joins with Los Angeles Philharmonic Principal Keyboard player Joanne Pearce Martin for the west coast premiere of John Adams’ Roll Over Beethoven. Then Kahane joins with LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer and Principal Cellist Andrew Shulman in Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Major (“Archduke”). NPR’s Renée Montagne moderates the program.

BONUS: The theatre, part of the New Roads School, is a ten-minute walk from both the Expo/Bundy and 26th St/Bergamot stations on the Metro Expo Line.

Information: www.laco.org

MAY 4: ANNA NETREKO and YUSIF EYVAZOV
7:30 p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; Los Angeles
Acclaimed soprano Anna Netrebko sings her first performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in more than a decade. She joins her husband, tenor Yusif Evyasov, in a program of arias and duets with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, conducted by Jader Bignamini

BONUS: The Pavilion is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Temple St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station, walk north to Temple and then west up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laopera.org

MAY 5, 6: DUDAMEL CONDUCT SCHUBERT, MAHLER
8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
Franz Schubert is best known for his “lieder” (art songs), but he also wrote eight symphonies, and those orchestral works will form the backbone of a series of May concerts by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel will conduct two symphonies in each of the four programs and has also programmed four song collections by Gustav Mahler.

This weekend, Schubert’s first two symphonies will bookend Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, with mezzo-soprano Michelle de Young as soloist.

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk west up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laphil.com

MAY 6: RODERICK DEMMINGS, JR.
7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church; Pasadena
This award-winning organist and pianist — who has performed at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, the Vatican and other prestigious venues — comes to Pasadena to play on PPC’s massive Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.

BONUS: Free admission; freewill offering.

Information: www.ppcmusic.org

MAY 7: ORGAN MARATHON
2 p.m. at St. Cyril of Jerusalem Parish; Encino
After several seasons of traversing French organ music, this year’s “marathon” features music from England, played by Southland organists Namhee Han, Jaebon Hwang, Mary Lee Mistretta, Jelil Romano, Philip Allen Smith, Samuel Salvador Soria, and James Walker. See “Information” below for details as to who plays what when.

BONUS: Free admission.

Information: st-cyril.org

MAY 7: PASADENA PRO MUSICA
4 p.m. at Neighborhood Church; Pasadena
Artistic Director Stephen Grimm leads selections from “The Great American Songbook,” accompanied by pianist Alan Geier and the Blair High School Jazz Ensemble, Michael Birnbryer, director.

Information: www.pasadenapromusica.org

MAY 7: LOS ANGELES CHILDREN’S CHORUS
7 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church; Pasadena
This world-renowned children’s chorus — which, despite its name, is based in Pasadena — sings the first of two consecutive Sunday “Spring Concerts.” Artistic Director Anne Tomlinson leads LACC’s Concert Choir and Chamber Singers in the world premiere of Breathe in Hope by Los Angeles-based composer Dale Trumbore, along with music by Holst, Handel and others. LACC’s Intermediate Choir, led by Diane Landis, will also perform on this program.

Information: lachildren’schorus.com

MAY 7: JAZZ, SONDHEIM AND WEST SIDE STORY
8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles
The music of Stephen Sondheim, permeates this jazz-oriented program. Sondheim & Jazz: Side by Side was created by pianists/arrangers Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, with Ann Hampton Callaway, that explores the sophistication, wit and genius of one of Broadway’s most innovative artists.

In the other half of this program — first or second, depending on which part of the Phil’s Web site you believe — finds pianist/composer Dave Grusin offering his jazz interpretation of Bernstein’s classic West Side Story.

BONUS: Disney Hall is easily reachable (at least if you’re not mobility challenged) via Metro’s Red and Purple Lines. Exit at the Hill St. side of the Civic Center/Grand Park station and walk west up two steep blocks to reach the hall.

Information: www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Parsing the L.A. Phil’s 2017-2018 season — Part 2

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” will be part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2017-2018 season. The above image is the first page of the work, which is subtitled “A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers.”

In PART 1 of this post, I discussed some of the people and ensembles who will be performing in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2017-2018 season, the orchestra’s 99th. In this portion, let’s unpack some of the programming that will take place during the season’s nine months, which as I said in Part I, “is the most exciting, interesting collection of programs that I can ever remember from an orchestra.”

There’s enough familiar music sprinkled throughout the season to keep even the most dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist from revolting. The season will begin with a gala concert on Sept. 26 and two weeks of subscription concerts beginning Sept. 29 featuring music written by Mozart in 1791, the last year of his life. This is, apparently, a Mozart year for LAPO Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, who will also conduct Mozart’s Requiem this summer in Hollywood Bowl.

The season will conclude with Dudamel leading a three-week cycle of music by Robert Schumann, including all four symphonies, and the piano and cello concertos. The final concert will be the rarely performed oratorio Das Paradies und Die Pierl. Peter Sellars and video artist Refik Anadol will stage the oratorio in a production inspired by China’s Dunhuang Caves, which reportedly were Schumann’s inspiration in writing this work.

In between the beginning and ending concerts will be three Beethoven symphonies (Nos. 2, 7 and 9), Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, plenty of Brahms, three Mahler symphonies and other familiar works.

BTW: this is an unusually strong year for choral works. In addition to the Schumann oratorio, the season includes Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus; Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Mass; a world premiere by Andrew Norman; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

However, this is a season that skews heavily toward music written in the 20th century and later. Lisa Hirsch writes on her Blog, “Iron Tongue of Midnight,” that among the 81 composers on the schedule for the various components of the Phil’s season, 31 of them are alive and at least 17 others were composing in the 20th century.

The LAPO’s media release lists 23 commissions, 22 world premieres, six U.S. premieres and two west coast premieres during next season. Obviously, some of those will appear in the “Green Umbrella” series and five of the premieres will take place during a reprise of this seasons’ “Noon to Midnight” on Nov. 18, but contemporary works abound throughout the season.

The Phil’s conductor laureate, Esa-Pekka Salonen, will be spotlighted not just as a conductor but also for his compositions. On Feb. 8 he will conduct the west coast premiere of his Cello Concerto, with Yo-Yo-Ma. The Feb. 9 and 10 programs will feature Salonen’s Piano Concerto, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, and the Feb. 11 will feature violinist Leila Josefowicz as soloist in Salonen’s Violin Concerto. All three of the concerts will conclude with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

The following weekend, Salonen will conduct the revised version of his Wing on Wing, which was written for Disney Hall, along with selections from Mozart’s The Impresario, K. 486 and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Since 2018 is the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, it should be no surprise that his music will be well represented: Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium”), Chichester Psalms, (paired with Beethoven’s Ninth), and Mass, which is subtitled “A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” and was written in 1971 for the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. All of these, except for Serenade, will be conducted by Dudamel.

The performances of Mass present an interesting scheduling conumdrum because the dates (Feb. 1, 2 3 and 4) overlap LA Opera’s performances of Bernstein’s Candide. In fact, on Saturday, Feb. 3, while Candide is playing in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mass will be performed across 1st St. at Disney Hall. Fortunately, Candide has enough dates so that Bernstein lovers can work around the conflict.

Screenings of the 1961 movie of Bernstein’s West Side Story on Nov. 24 and 26 will round out the Bernstein celebration. This will be one of several movies that will appear on the schedule as part of the Phil’s inSIGHT series. Another in that series will take place on Feb. 28 (the Wednesday before the Oscars) when Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, will lead the Phil as it plays portions of the the nominated scores accompanied by videos.

Yet another screening, last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, The Birdman, will be part of a 10-day festival entitled “CDMX: Music from Mexico City, which will be presented as part of “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” held in conjunction with The Getty and other arts institutions across Southern California. L.A.

As L.A. Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda explains: “Among the 2017/18 season goals is to bring communities together through the shared experience of live music, building bridges and dissolving borders, and to find common threads and musical moments.:

The Phil’s Artist-Collaborator Yuval Sharon will be active on several fronts including a staging of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde; and a new work by Annie Gosfield, War of the Worlds, which will be based on the 1898 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells and the infamous 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Wells and his Mercury Theatre Players. The Gosfield work will take place not only in Disney Hall but at various sites around Los Angeles.

Dudamel will conduct the world premiere of Ted Hearne’s opera, Place, produced in conjunction with Beth Morrison Projects, which will not only play at Disney Hall but will be taken on the road during the orchestra’s spring tour.

I know I’ve left out a few things, but you get the idea. You can read all the details in the complete 2017-2018 media kit HERE. The chronological listing of programs is HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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