AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Major concerts on calendar during next fortnight

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.

 

Four major concerts occur in our region during the next
fortnight — and that doesn’t count the final two events of the Piatigorsky
International Cello Festival at Walt Disney Concert Hall: a 2 p.m. concert by
the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein (LINK), and a
7:30 p.m. recital by 110 (!) cellists that will wind up the nine-day-long
festivities (LINK).

 

Also on today’s agenda is the final “LA Phil Live” movie
theater telecast: the season-opening all-Gershwin concert with Gustavo Dudamel
conducting and legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue. (LINK)

 

And then comes:

 

MUSE-IQUE ON MARCH
19 AT PASADENA CIVIC AUDITORIUM

Rachael Worby begins this group’s second season with a
typically cheeky program entitled “Ebony Meets Ivory.” Six pianists, including
the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Joanne Pearce Martin, will perform on three
Steinway pianos in a program that ranges from Baroque to jazz, rap to classical
(Moonlight Sonata), and the spoken
word. The program takes place on stage — literally — as both performers and the
audience will be on the stage and a loading bay of the Pasadena Civic
Auditorium. This is the first of seven performances on Muse-ique’s 2012 season.
Information: muse-ique.com

 

LOS ANGELES CHAMBER
ORCHESTRA ON MARCH 24 (Alex Theatre, Glendale) AND MARCH 25 (Royce Hall, UCLA)

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads his ensemble and
pianist-composer Timothy Andres in the world premiere of Old Keys, the latest installment in LACO’s “Sound Investment”
commissioning program. Also on the concert is the West Coast premiere of
Andres’ “reconstruction” of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26, K. 531 (Coronation). Mozart wrote only a few
measures for the left hand of this work although the first published edition
was complete, possibly from Mozart’s publisher. In this new version, Andres has
replaced those left-hand sketches with his own creation; how this “mash-up”
works will be part of the concert’s intrigue. Information: www.laco.org

 

PASADENA SYMPHONY
ON MARCH 31 AT AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM

Nicholas McGegan, known worldwide as one of the premiere
interpreters of Baroque music, takes on a larger task as he leads concerts at 2
p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium that conclude with Beethoven’s
Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). Prior to
intermission, Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan will be the soloist in
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466. Information:
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

LOS ANGELES MASTER
CHORALE AND MUSICA ANGELICA ON MARCH 31 AND APRIL 1 AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL

LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon conducts 40 singers of his
Chorale, soloists and one of the nation’s premiere period-instrument ensembles
in the first performances of Bach’s St.
John Passion
to be played at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Information: www.lamc.org

_______________________

 

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

Thoughts on the L.A. Philharmonic’s Mahler 8 telecast

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

At the exact time that the Los Angeles Philharmonic was
telecasting its performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 into movie theaters
across the U.S., Canada and South America, I was singing in a memorial service
for Robert Prichard, an old friend and former organist/music director at
Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

 

However, for the first times in the two years that the
orchestra has presented its “LA Phil LIVE” series, it offered an “encore”
performance last night. One thing we learned is that Mahler — and Gustavo
Dudamel — sells. The Alhambra Renaissance Stadium 14, where I always attend
these telecasts, was about full — a larger crowd than for any of the other
LAPO telecasts I’ve attended there — and I’m told that the Feb. 18 telecast was
completely full.

 

Following are some random thoughts from last night’s
viewing:

Prior to the 7 p.m. start time, there was a series of
interesting questions/answers: among other things we learned: there were 12
nationalities represented on stage; the Phil flew 3,613 miles from L.A. to
Caracas; “El Sistema,” the Venezuelan music system that nurtured Dudamel now
has 31 orchestras and 125 youth orchestras, serving about 250,000 children and
adults.

The 1,200 or so choristers had to stand for more nearly 2
hours from the time they got on stage until the final salvos of applause.

The choir looked like it was all young people. The
so-called “children’s choir” (the youngest, treble voices) sang their parts
from memory (I believe that was the case in Los Angeles, as well).

The preconcert introductory part, hosted by a gushing John
Lithgow, ran 40 minutes, and was mostly interesting. As is always the case in
these telecasts, the rehearsal footage with Dudamel rehearsing the LAPO and
Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra together in Walt Disney Concert Hall was
fascinating, with Dudamel alternating between English and Spanish as he talked
to the combined ensembles.

Including a 19-minute intermission before the actual
performance, the entire evening ran 2:45.

Dudamel called Symphony No. 8′s second movement “Wagnerian
Mahler.”

In response to a question about “El Sistema,” we learned
that although the cream rises to the top in the orchestra hierarchy, no one
“flushes out” of the system — if you want to keep playing, you can do so.
Lithgow didn’t follow up to find out exactly how this works.

The mob scene of singers and instrumentalists was so huge
(the wide-angle shots were jaw-dropping) that Dudamel had to mount several
steps to reach the podium floor. As was the case at the Shrine performance, he
conducted the piece with a score.

The sound in the theatre got better as the performance
went along. It still doesn’t equal a live performance but, as at the Shrine,
the climactic sections of both parts made a mighty noise! Recording technology
certainly made the soloists sound better than at the Shrine Auditorium
performance and we heard many details that didn’t emerge clearly at the Shrine.

Dudamel seemed more relaxed in the Caracas performance,
emphasizing grandeur whenever possible. At the end, he also seemed more
exhilarated; in L.A. he was absolutely spent.

Even for me, that’s enough Mahler for a while!

The final “LA PHIL” telecast is March 18 at 2 p.m. (PDT)
as Dudamel conducts the Phil in the all-Gershwin program that was the
2011-2012′s opening gala last October. A truncated version of this program was
telecast on PBS but that left out quite a bit from the actual concert. Herbie
Hancock will be the soloist in Rhapsody
in Blue.
Info: www.laphillive.com

_______________________

 

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

NEWS: L.A. Phil LIVE announces third telecast — March 18

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced its 2011-2012
“LA Phil LIVE” movie theater telecast schedule, the final telecast of the
troika was left as TBD. Now comes word that the “LIVE” portion of the title
will need to be taken with a grain of salt because the telecast — on Sunday,
March 18 at 2 p.m. (PST) — will be a showing of the gala concert that opened
the 2011-2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall season.

 

Gustavo Dudamel leads the L.A. Phil in an all-Gershwin
program includes An American in Paris and
Rhapsody in Blue. Noted jazz pianist
Herbie Hancock was the soloist in the Rhapsody
and also played improvisations on two Gershwin songs, Embraceable You and Someone
to Watch Over Me.
Unlike the truncated “Great Performances” television
broadcast last Friday, this in-movie theater telecast will feature the entire
concert, including the Cuban Overture
and both improvs, along a segment from Hancock’s home where he will talk about
his improv process.

 

The complete L.A. Phil media release follows:

 

LOS ANGELES
PHILHARMONIC PRESENTS

ALL-GERSHWIN CONCERT
EVENT FEATURING GRAMMY AWARD WINNER HERBIE HANCOCK

IN MOVIE THEATERS
THIS MARCH

 

February Brings
Performance Broadcast Live from Caracas, Venezuela,

Featuring Mahler 8,
“Symphony of a Thousand,” with more than 1,000 Musicians

on Stage Led by
Gustavo Dudamel and Hosted by John Lithgow

 

LA Phil LIVE is Made
Possible with the Proud Support of Rolex

 

Los Angeles & Centennial, Colo. – January 10, 2012 – The
Los Angeles Philharmonic (LA Phil) and NCM Fathom announced today the third and
final performance of the LA Phil LIVE
second season featuring world-renowned Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and the
LA Phil with jazz legend Herbie Hancock for a celebration of quintessential
American composer George Gershwin on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m. Pacific / 5
p.m. Eastern. LA Phil LIVE:
Gustavo Dudamel and Herbie Hancock Celebrate Gershwin
, pre-recorded
from the LA Phil’s 2011-12 season Opening Night Concert at Walt Disney Concert
Hall, includes some of the composer’s best-loved works including the Cuban Overture, An American in Paris,
and Rhapsody in Blue, as well as
intimate solo improvisations by Hancock on Embraceable
You
and Someone to Watch Over Me.
The event also features exclusive footage of Hancock – the LA Phil’s Creative
Chair for Jazz – in his home, playing Gershwin and providing insights into his
improvisational process.

 

Tickets for LA Phil LIVE in-theater events are available at
participating U.S. theater box offices and online at www.fathomevents.com. For a complete list
of theater locations and ticket prices, please visit the website (theaters and
participants are subject to change). LA Phil LIVE will be shown in select movie
theaters through NCM’s exclusive Digital
Broadcast Network
.

 

 

LA Phil LIVE’s second performance of the season, LA Phil
LIVE: Dudamel conducts Mahler 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” on Saturday,
February 18 at 2 p.m. Pacific / 5 p.m. Eastern will offer a never-before-seen
live broadcast from Caracas, Venezuela, featuring Dudamel leading the two
organizations that have been so prominent in his life, the LA Phil and the
Simn Bolvar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a dynamic performance of
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, “Symphony of a Thousand.” The live broadcast
will be hosted by award-winning actor John Lithgow, who hosted his first LA
Phil LIVE performance in June 2011. Multiple soloists and choruses will also be
part of the performance. This exceptional presentation is the climactic
performance of The Mahler Project – one of the pillars of the LA Phil’s season
- which features Mahler’s complete symphonic cycle presented in both Los
Angeles and Caracas.

 

“This is a special moment for me, especially since the Los
Angeles Philharmonic coming to Venezuela is a beautiful homage to El Sistema,”
said Dudamel. “Bringing one of the world’s best orchestras together with the
Simn Bolvar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, a symbol of El Sistema, sends a
message of hope for the musical youth of the country. Playing the Mahler 8th
Symphony together will be historic.”

 

Fathom and the LA Phil will present an encore of LA Phil
LIVE: Dudamel conducts Mahler 8, “Symphony of a Thousand,” in select theaters
on Wednesday, February 29, at 7 p.m. local time.

 

“The LA Phil LIVE concert from Caracas will mark the first
time that we have broadcast live to cinemas from anywhere except Walt Disney Concert
Hall,” said LA Phil President and CEO Deborah Borda. “For this extraordinary
event, we’ll see Gustavo Dudamel in his home town, leading his two musical
families in a performance of Mahler’s legendary ‘Symphony of a Thousand.’ It
promises to be a momentous occasion. The final broadcast for this season will
be the transmission of our Opening Night Gala featuring soloist Herbie Hancock,
at Walt Disney Concert Hall, from last October. We are both thrilled and
honored to be able to share these remarkable concerts with viewers across North
America.”

 

LA Phil LIVE offers an enriching and unique concert
experience in which the orchestra’s performance is broadcast to theaters in
high definition and 5.1 digital surround sound, featuring top talent and
behind-the-scenes segments. Led by vibrant Dudamel, the LA Phil LIVE series
transports audiences to the conductor’s podium and places them inside the
music. Each broadcast includes an insider’s look via the Backstage Pass feature
with live behind-the-scenes interviews with Dudamel, soloists and LA Phil
musicians and exclusive rehearsal footage.

 

“The in-theater event on February 18 will transport
audiences to Caracas to see the spectacle of 1,000 musicians performing
together in this amazing performance,” said Dan Diamond, senior vice president
of NCM Fathom. “And fans of Gershwin won’t want to miss this must-see event
featuring Oscar and Grammy-award-winning musician Herbie Hancock this
March.  Seeing Gustavo Dudamel bring symphony to life on the silver screen
is an experience fans have to see to believe.”

 

The LA Phil is offering fans an opportunity to win a chance
to see Dudamel perform live at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in May,
2012. One grand prize winner, chosen at random, will receive two tickets to a
Los Angeles Philharmonic performance with Gustavo Dudamel, a two-night hotel
stay and free round-trip airfare for two, along with LA Phil merchandise. For
contest details and entry requirements, please visit LAPhil.com/win.

 

# # #

 

About National CineMedia
(NCM)

NCM
operates NCM Media Networks, a leading integrated media company reaching U.S.
consumers in movie theaters, online and through mobile technology.  The NCM Cinema Network and NCM Fathom present cinema
advertising and events across the nation’s largest digital in-theater network,
comprised of theaters owned by AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark Holdings, Inc.
(NYSE: CNK), Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) and other leading regional
theater circuits. NCM’s theater advertising network covers 176 Designated
Market Areas (49 of the top 50) and includes over 18,300 screens (17,300
digital). During 2010, approximately 700 million patrons attended movies shown
in theaters in which NCM currently has exclusive, cinema advertising agreements
in place.  The NCM Fathom
Events
broadcast network is comprised of nearly 700 locations in 165
Designated Market Areas (all of the top 50). The NCM
Interactive Network
offers 360-degree integrated marketing
opportunities in combination with cinema, encompassing 42 entertainment-related
websites, online widgets and mobile applications.  National CineMedia,
Inc. (NASDAQ: NCMI) owns a 48.7% interest in and is the managing member of
National CineMedia LLC. For more information, visit www.ncm.com
or www.FathomEvents.com.

 

About the Los Angeles
Philharmonic Association

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, under the vibrant
leadership of Gustavo Dudamel, presents the finest in orchestral and chamber music,
recitals, new music, jazz, world music and holiday concerts at two of the most
remarkable locations anywhere to experience music – Walt Disney Concert Hall
and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition to a 30-week winter subscription season at
Walt Disney Concert Hall, the LA Phil presents a 12-week summer festival at the
legendary Hollywood Bowl, summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and home
of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. In fulfilling its commitment to the community,
the Association’s involvement with Los Angeles extends to educational concerts,
children’s programming and community concerts, ever seeking to provide
inspiration and delight to the broadest possible audience. For more
information, visit www.laphil.com/LAPhilLive.

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 5, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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:

______________________

 

Today at 8 p.m., Tomorrow
at 11 a.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic

Miguel-Harth Bedoya,
conductor; Jean-Yves Thibaudet, pianist

The L.A. Phil swings back into action with a program of 19th
century music that includes Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Saint-Sans
Symphony No. 3 (Organ). My preview
article on the concert is HERE. Information:
www.laphil.com

  

Friday at 8 p.m. at
Alan Goldman’s Mt. Washington Performance Space

Piano Theater:
Elizabeth and Soya Schumann

Both of these pianists have won competitions and Elizabeth
Schumann received a Gilmore Award so their credentials seem well
established.  The program includes
Saint-Sans Carnival of the Animals. I
have no idea what the performance space is but it sounds intriguing. The duo
has other Southland performances listed on the flyer. Information: www.palosverdes.com

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Beethoven’s Symphony
No. 9

New Year’s celebrations mean Strauss waltzes in Vienna and Auld Lang Syne in NYC’s Times Square,
but in Japan it means hundreds of performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Jeffrey Bernstein hopes to recreate the magic by joining his Pasadena Master
Chorale with the Los Angeles Daiku Orchestra (“The Japanese word ‘daiku’
is translated literally as ‘the great nine’ and often refers to Beethoven’s 9th,”
says Bernstein) for a performance of this most famous of symphonies. BTW: you
may know the venue as the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium; it’s been renamed. Information: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

 

Ongoing at Geffen
Playhouse, Westwood

Red Hot Patriot: The Kick Ass Wit of Molly Ivins

This 75-minute performance by Kathleen Turner includes many
of the famous stories and lines that made the late, legendary, liberal
newspaper columnist beloved of those whose political bent leans to the left. If
you’re of that persuasion and don’t know who the saucy, bawdy Texan was (she
died in 2007), it’s a chance to see what you missed for decades. If you’re a
Republican who loved Ronald Reagan and George Bush (Sr. and “Shrub,” as Ivins
termed George W.), you won’t appreciate it nearly as much. The show runs
through Feb. 12. Information: www.geffenplayhouse.com

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

Friday at 9 p.m.
and Sunday at 11 p.m. on PBSSoCal (formerly KOCE) television

Los Angeles
Philharmonic Gala Concert

This “Great Performances” telecast features the L.A. Phil’s
gala concert that opened the 2011-2012 Disney Hall season last September. The
program is all-Gershwin: An American in
Paris
and Rhapsody in Blue, with
jazz legend Herbie Hancock as the soloist. The TV schedule says that the
program will also include one of the two improvisations on Gershwin tunes (Someone to Watch Over Me) that Hancock
performed in September. Apparently the one-hour telecast will not include the Cuban Overture that opened the gala or
the other improv (Embraceable You)
that Hancock played that night. Information:
www.pbs.org

_______________________

 

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

 

 

Cleaning out the inbox, checking out other Blogs, etc.

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

ON THE SMALL SCREEN

Orchestral music gets a healthy dose of television
prime-time exposure during the next week with three major programs scheduled on
some local public broadcast stations. They’ll also be streamed on the Web after
the telecasts.

 

At 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, PBSSoCal (formerly KOCE), will
telecast the “Live from Lincoln Center” New York Philharmonic New Year’s Eve
concert, which features music by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein under
the baton of Music Director Alan Gilbert. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will be
the soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in
Blue
and Concerto in F. The orchestra will also play Bernstein’s Candide Overture and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Information: www.pbs.org

 

BTW: Thibaudet will join with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
at Walt Disney Concert Hall on January 5, 6, 7 and 8 as soloist in Liszt’s
Piano Concerto No. 2. Former LAPO Associate Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya will
also lead Dvorak’s Hussite Overture
and Saint-Sans’ Symphony No. 3 (Organ). There’s
an interesting tie, as John Henken writes in his program note for the symphony.
Saint-Sans dedicated the piece (which, in addition to its organ part, is
scored for piano four-hands) to Liszt, who died in 1886, the year the symphony
was composed. Information: www.laphil.com

 

On January 1 at 6 p.m., PBSSoCal will air the “Great Performances”
telecast of the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Concert. Mariss Jansons
will lead the orchestra in the city’s famed Musikverein with a frothy program
of music by the Strausses (Johann, Johann Sr. and Edward), Tchaikovsky and
others. Julie Andrews will be the host. Information
(with the complete program listing):
www.pbs.org

 

PBSSoCal comes back on January 6 at 9 p.m. with a “Great
Performances” telecast of the L.A. Phil’s gala concert that opened the
2011-2012 Disney Hall season last September. The program is all-Gershwin: An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, with jazz legend
Herbie Hancock as the soloist. The TV schedule says that the program will also
include one of the two improvisations on Gershwin tunes (Someone to Watch Over Me) that Hancock performed in September.
Apparently the one-hour telecast will not include the Cuban Overture that opened the gala or the other improv (Embraceable You) that Hancock played
that night. Information: www.pbs.org

  

Following the concert telecast, PBSSoCal will repeat an
interview between Tavis Smiley and Dudamel.

 

DUDAMEL ON VINYL?

Norman Lebrecht is reporting on his Blog, Slipped Disc, (LINK) that Gustavo
Dudamel’s next recording on the Deutsche Grammophon label will be a vinyl
pressing, scheduled for release in May, of the Venezuelan maestro conducting
the Vienna Philharmonic as it plays Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (Scottish. It should also be noted that
neither DGG nor Dudamel have officially commented on the subject (at least that
I can find).

 

In Lebrecht’s comment section, there are predictably joyous
reactions from those who love vinyl recordings as opposed to CDs, although as
some responders point out there are questions as to the recording format to be
used. I wonder (a) are there enough vinyl lovers in the world to make this
commercially viable or will be there also be CD and iTunes versions available;
(b) how many people can really tell the difference in recording formats; and
(c) if they can, will they be willing to invest in the high-quality equipment
necessary to make the difference audible? (My answers are “I doubt it,”
“relatively few,” and “I can’t afford it.”). Stay tuned … so to speak.

 

The thing that interested me about this recording is that
the Scottish Symphony will (if you
judge by the cover Lebrecht posted) be the only piece on the LP. When Dudamel
and the L.A. Phil played it last October, the symphony clocked in at about 40
minutes, which seems pretty short for a record.

 

ANNE MIDGETTE

Anne is the Washington
Post’s
classical music critic and her Blog, The Classical Beat, is one of my favorite reads. However, her last
Blog post was Nov. 1 and I wondered whether that newspaper had joined the list of publications to deep-six their classical
music reviews or whether she was ill. Neither, fortunately, is the case. She’s
on maternity leave and will be back on the “beat” in mid-January. Good for her
and for us, too.

 

WYNTON MARSALIS

This isn’t exactly news — CBS News released it on Dec. 15 –
but I’m not on its distribution list so I just caught up with it via a post on
Peter Dobrin’s Blog (LINK). Trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis has been
named Cultural Correspondent for CBS News, appearing on CBS This Morning and CBS
Sunday Morning.
His first CBS News gig will be on Monday, Jan. 16 (natch) –
the day that the nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. A link
to the media release is HERE.

_______________________

 

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

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Los Angeles Philharmonic gala concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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

Gershwin: Cuban
Overture, Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next concerts: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Walt Disney
Concert Hall

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

Blue and gold were the dominant colors at Walt Disney
Concert Hall last night. No, UCLA wasn’t playing. Blue was everywhere (even the
usual red carpet was blue last night), an obvious reference to the final work
in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s season-opening gala concert: George
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The gold
came courtesy of the performance standards from the orchestra, Music Director
Gustavo Dudamel, and legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, the evening’s
soloist.

 

In many ways, it was your standard LAPO gala. A packed house
was on hand, many dressed in formal finery. It was a late-arriving throng; more
than half struggled to wander to their seats well after the appointed 7 p.m.
start time (the downbeat came at 7:18 p.m.). TV cameras and still photogs recorded
entrances of the rich and famous. The WNET NY camera crew was on hand to record
the concert for a later PBS Great
Performances
telecast to the U.S. and Europe. Grand Ave. was closed off
(creating the usual traffic jam), this time with a faux-brick covered tent for
the post-concert party. The tent entrance was marked with a nifty art-decco
sign that also served as the logo for the dressed up, blue-colored program. The
concert ended with the now-obligatory shower of shiny blue and silver mylar
accented by strobe lights.

 

Fortunately (since the concert ran about 1:20 with no
intermission) there were no preconcert speeches, although Dudamel did chat a
little between pieces, saying little worthwhile but doing so with his charming
smile and accented English. The music was the focal point (especially for
non-party goers), which was as it should be.

 

All three of the Gershwin works on the formal program are
standard outdoor (e.g., Hollywood Bowl) pieces and it was a pleasure to hear
them indoors in the marvelous Disney Hall acoustic.

 

Dudamel and Co. opened with a saucy, sultry performance of
the Cuban Overture, a piece Gershwin
wrote in 1932 following a visit to Havana. As it did all night, the
Philharmonic played with razor-sharp precision and several of the soloists –
Ariana Ghez, oboe, Michelle Zukovsky, clarinet, Thomas Hooten, trumpet (see the
note in Hemidemisemiquavers below) – and the entire string section were
exemplary. Dudamel ignored Gershwin instructions, written on title page, that
the four Cuban instruments — claves, maracas, guiro and bongos — should be
placed in front of the conductor’s stand but they were heard anyway.

 

Most conductors would place Rhapsody in Blue following the overture and end with An American in Paris (which, indeed, was
how the Web site listed the order) but Dudamel elected to reverse the order because
of Hancock’s appearance.

 

Gershwin considered An
American in Paris
to be (quoting the program note by Eric Blomberg) “a tone
poem for orchestra — a musical portrait of an American visitor to the City of
Light.” Although sketches of the work were written in the early 1920s, the flavor
of the piece resulted from of an extended vacation by Gershwin and his family
to Paris in 1928. Gershwin was age 30 at the time of the visit and Dudamel’s
concept of An American in Paris is of
a young man, full of life, striding briskly, not strolling, down the streets of
Paris.

 

The work is clearly in Dudamel’s wheelhouse (as baseball
players like to say about a perfectly placed pitch).  He bobbed, weaved, bounced and danced his way through the
saucy segments and invested the other moments with a grandiloquent style; the
whole thing should look great on television. Once again principals shone: in
this case, Hooten, James Miller, trombone, Norman Pearson, tuba, the four
saxophonists and Concertmaster Martin Chalifour.

 

That left center stage to Hancock, who at age 71 still can
tinkle the ivories with panache and has extended his contract as the orchestra’s
Creative Chair for Jazz through the 2012-2013 season. He began by freely
improvising on two Gershwin songs, Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over
Me.
Unfortunately, his wistful mood was somewhat sabotaged by coughs, sneezes
and other assorted noises from the audience, some of whom may not realize how “live”
Disney Hall is.

 

When it comes to Rhapsody
in Blue,
Hancock and Dudamel had widely divergent opinions on tempi, but the whole was infinitely greater
than the sum of the parts, noteworthy as those individual contributions were.
After Zukovsky got things swinging with her saucy, sensuous opening clarinet lick,
Dudamel raced the orchestra along through most of the early orchestral
sections, only to broaden out in the final climactic moments. Kudos,
especially, to trumpeter James Wilt for his sultry sounds.

 

Hancock, meanwhile (who used a score), showed plenty of
chops while accompanying the orchestra. When not constrained by Dudamel’s
tempi, he delivered the solo portions with an improvisatory feel, even when he
was playing Gershwin’s notes, an impish grin every once in awhile saying, in
effect, to the audience, “Isn’t this cool?” It was all of that and the audience
erupted in an instantaneous standing ovation at the conclusion, with Dudamel –
always the gentleman — ceding most of the glory to Hancock, who beamed and
waved to everyone on all sides of the hall.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Hancock told the crowd that this was the first time he had
played with a symphony orchestra, forgetting that his bio says he played a
Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony at age 11 (to be fair, that was
60 years ago). He’s scheduled to play “Rhapsody
in Blue”
with the Calgary Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and Oregon
Symphony next month.

Australian Andrew Bain has become the Phil’s new principal
horn. He has held similar positions with the Melbourne and Queensland Symphony
Orchestras.

Daniel Rothmuller is serving as the orchestra’s Associate
Principal Cellist Emeritus while Peter Stumpf is on leave teaching at Indiana
University’s Jacobs School of Music. CK Dexter Haven in his Blog, “All is Yar,”
has much to say and speculate about this (LINK).

Thomas Hooten (principal trumpet of the Atlanta Symphony) is
on board as guest principal trumpet for the opening concerts and will play on
the upcoming tour to San Francisco while the Phil’s principal, Donald Green, is
on sabbatical. Hooten was the first recipient of the ASO’s Mabel Dorn Reeder
Honorary Chair, a five-year award according to an article by Howard Posner on
the Atlanta “Journal & Constitution” Web
site (LINK).

The L.A. Phil’s 2011-2012 subscription season opens this
weekend with an all-orchestral (i.e., no soloist) concert that includes Adams’ Tromba Iontana (a four-minute-long
fanfare), the U.S. premiere of Rituales Amerindios by Argentinean
composer Esteban Benzecry, and Berlioz’s Symphonie
Fantastique.
Asadour Santourian, artistic advisor and administrator of Aspen Music
Festival and School, will deliver a preconcert lecture an hour before each
concert. Information and dates are at the top of this review.

If you’re not already on the email list, now is a good
time to sign up for “Fast Notes,” which are emailed from the orchestra a few
days before each event. “Fast Notes” are a quick overview of the upcoming
concert with links to program notes and other information. Even if you’re not
going to attend a particular concert, they’re worth reading. Sign up at:
www.laphil.com

_______________________

 

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

PREVIEW: L.A. Philharmonic to open 2011-2012 season with gala concert Tuesday

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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

Gershwin: Cuban
Overture, Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris

Tuesday, Sept. 27; 7 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Information: www.laphil.com

 

55388-Dudamel:Hancock.jpg

Gustavo Dudamel (L) will conduct the Los Angeles
Philharmonic and Herbie Hancock will be the soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue during Tuesday night’s
gala concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

______________________

 

Many major American symphony orchestras open their seasons
with splashy gala concerts. Tickets are pricer than normal since the event
usually raises money for a good cause (in this case the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s musicians pension fund and educational programs). Attire is
dressier than normal, even in laid back Los Angeles. Grand Avenue will be
closed off for a post-concert party (which accounts for the 7 p.m. concert
time).

 

Often these types of concerts are frothy affairs in terms of
music but, as with most everything else he does, Gustavo Dudamel doesn’t follow
standard conventions for his galas. Two years ago in his first Walt Disney Hall
concert as LAPO music director, Dudamel and Co. opened with Mahler’s Symphony
No. 1 and the world premiere of John Adams’ City
Noir.
Last year’s gala brought Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez to the
Disney Hall stage for a scintillating collection of opera arias and songs, while
“the Dude” and his orchestra danced their way through several overtures and
Latin American numbers (although I’m still waiting for a performance of
Rossini’s William Tell Overture that
got dumped at the last minute).

 

For Gala No. 3 Tuesday night, Dudamel has planned a program
that seems like it belongs up the freeway at Hollywood Bowl. That, of course,
is one of its charms: the opportunity to hear George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris played indoors in
Disney Hall’s marvelous, natural (i.e., unamplified) acoustics with no wine
bottles or circling helicopters to spoil the music.

 

However, the most intriguing part of the program is the
soloist for Rhapsody in Blue: 71-year-old jazz legend Herbie Hancock. It will be
interesting to hear (a) whether Hancock plays the concerto “straight” or with
improvisatory twists and (b) what, if anything, extra he’ll do as encores on
Tuesday evening.

 

Hancock’s fame comes from his work in electronic and
acoustic jazz, along with Rhythm and Blues (his official bio is HERE). In 2010,
he was appointed the LAPO’s Creative Chair for Jazz, but it’s worth noting that
he was a child prodigy who performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago
Symphony at the age of 11.

In addition to his Disney Hall performance, Hancock will
also play Rhapsody in Blue with the
Calgary Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and Oregon Symphony next month.

 

The L.A. Phil’s 2011-2012 subscription season opens Sept.
30, Oct. 1 and 2 with an all-orchestral (i.e., no soloist) concert that
includes Adams’ Tromba Iontana (a
four-minute-long fanfare), the U.S.
premiere of Rituales Amerindios by
Argentinean composer Esteban Benzecry, and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

 

Benzecry wrote Rituales
Amerindios (Amerindian Rituals)
in 2008 on a commission from the Gothenburg
Symphony Orchestra and dedicated it to Dudamel, who first performed it with his
Swedish band in 2010. It’s a 25-minute piece in three movements: I. Ehcatl (Azteca wind god) II. Chaac (Maya water god) III. Illapa (Incan
thunderclap god).

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Five orchestra to open 2011-2012 seasons … and more

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of this
article was first published today in the above papers.

 

Five of the Southland’s top orchestras — including the Los
Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra — open their 2011-2012
seasons within the next fortnight. In chronological order:

 

The Pacific Symphony
begins its 33rd season Thursday through Sunday at Segerstrom Concert
Hall in Costa Mesa. Carl St.Clair begins his 21st season as the
orchestra’s music program with a program of music by Berlioz, Respighi and
James Newton Howard. Sarah Chang will be the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin
Concerto. Information: 714/755-5799; www.pacificsymphony.org

 

* The Colburn
Orchestra,
flagship ensemble of one of the nation’s premiere music schools,
will play all five of its free concerts this season at Ambassador Auditorium in
Pasadena. Music Director Yehuda Gilad leads the opening program Saturday night
with music by Berlioz, Mussorgsky/Ravel (Pictures
at an Exhibition)
and Dvorak. Colburn School student Francesca dePasquale
will be the soloist in Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. More on this in Thursday’s “Pasadena
Scene” magazine and on my Blog. Information: 213/621-1050;
www.colburnschool.edu

* The L.A. Chamber
Orchestra’s
43rd season begins Saturday night in Glendale’s Alex
Theater and Sunday evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Jeffrey Kahane, celebrating
his 15th anniversary as LACO’s music director, opens with a
typically eclectic program that concludes with Kahane playing and conducting
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4. There will also be two West Coast premieres,
including Wiek Hijmans as soloist in Ritornello
for electric guitar and orchestra
(yes, you read that correctly) by Derek
Bermel, who is LACO’s composer-in-residence. More on this in my Blog Tuesday.
Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

 

* Music Director Gustavo Dudamel returns to Walt Disney
Concert Hall as the L.A. Philharmonic
opens its 93rd season with the now-traditional “gala concert” on
Sept. 27. The all-Gershwin program includes An
American in Paris
and features jazz legend Herbie Hancock as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue. Subscription concerts
begin Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 2 when Dudamel conducts music by John Adams,
Argentine composer Esteban Benzecry, and Berlioz (Symphonie Fantastique). Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

 

The Long Beach
Symphony
opens its 2011-2012 season in Long Beach’s Terrace Theater as
Music Director Enrique Arturo Diemecke leads a program of Wagner, Tchaikovsky
and Mahler (Rckert Lieder, with mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever
as soloist). Information: 562/436-3203; www.lbso.org

 

There are also two other free orchestral concerts to
highlight, both next weekend.

 

The Pasadena
Symphony and Pops
play their annual “Music Under the Stars” concert
Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on the steps of the Pasadena City Hall’s newly
refurbished Centennial Square. Three-time Tony nominated conductor Larry Black
will lead the orchestra in a program of music from the Broadway stage. Lisa
Vroman, Christina Saffran and Norman Large are the soloists and the Donald
Brinegar Singers will also perform. The concert is free but patrons are
encouraged to bring their own chairs and/or blankets. Information:
626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

The Rio Hondo
Symphony
will open its 78th season of free concerts on Sept. 25 at 3 p.m.
in Whittier High School’s Vic Lopez Auditorium. Music Director Kimo Furumoto
leads Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica),
Rossini’s William Tell overture and
Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Alison Edwards as soloist.: 562/698-8626; www.riohondosymphony.org

______________________

 

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