Five-Spot: What caught my eye on Dec. 1, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Sorry this post is late. We’ve been without power all day
due to the fierce winds in Southern California (I’m posting this from my local


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: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Shostakovich

Frankly, it’s a little hard to assess what this concert will
bring — that’s one of the joys of live performances. The headline event on the
program is the world premiere of the Prologue to Orango by Shostakovich but how significant that will be is up in
the air. Asking one composer (in this case, Gerard McBurney) to complete another’s
work is always problematical (Mahler’s 10th symphony is one famous
example) but that’s what has happened here.


The Phil describes this work thusly: “Orango is an unfinished satirical opera
by Shostakovich, sketched [in 1932] while he was writing Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
He and his librettists conceived ‘a political lampoon against the bourgeois
press,’ concerning a human-ape hybrid. Of the projected Prologue and three
acts, only the 40-minute Prologue was completed, in piano vocal score, which
was just discovered in 2006.”  Read
the complete program note HERE.


The Prologue includes parts for 10 soloists and the Los
Angeles Master Chorale. It is being staged by Peter Sellars with lighting by
Ben Zamora. McBurney will offer a preconcert lecture an hour before each
program.  A Los Angeles Times article
on the piece is HERE.


The second half of the program will be Shostakovich’s
Symphony No. 4, which was composed just a few years after Orango. This was the symphony that was not played for 25 years
after it was written, a consequence of the composer’s run-in with Soviet
authorities over Lady Macbeth of the
Mtsensk District.
Laurel E. Fay’s program note says that one of the two
conductors who were eager to conduct the symphony was Otto Klemperer, who at
the time was the L.A. Phil’s music director. Whether the symphony would have
been played in L.A. isn’t spelled out; ultimately the LAPO premiere would not
take place until 1989 under the baton of Andr Previn. (Read the full program
note HERE).


By the way, expect this program to last a bit longer than a
normal concert. The Prologue to Orango
is 40 minutes long and the symphony, one of Shostakovich’s longest, takes an
hour. The orchestration for the symphony (2 piccolos, 4 flutes, 4 oboes (4th =
English horn), 4 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 8 horns, 4
trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 timpani, percussion (bass drum, castanets,
cymbals, orchestra bells, snare drum, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone), 2 harps,
celesta, and strings) is the largest of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies. Information:


Saturday at 2 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale’s “Holiday Wonders: Festival of Carols”

Grant Gershon leads 62 members of the Master Chorale in a
program of carols and John Rutter’s Gloria
accompanied by John West on the Disney Hall Organ. The program repeats Dec. 10
at 2 p.m. Information:


Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena

Pasadena Symphony
Holiday Program

Grant Cooper, artistic director and conductor of the West
Virginia Symphony, will conduct the PSO, vocalist Lisa Vroman, the Los Angeles
Children’s Chorus, Donald Brinegar Singers and L.A. Bronze (a handbell
ensemble) in an eclectic program of holiday music. Information:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Jacaranda presents
Anonymous 4

This world-renowned female vocal ensemble, celebrating its
25th anniversary, specializes in Medieval and Renaissance music but
this program features the first section of an evening-length work, The Wood and the Vine, by David Lang,
who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his composition, The Little Match Girl Passion. The evening will also include
selections from the ensemble’s CDs. Brian
in “Out West Arts” has one of his informative “Ten Questions” posts with the
ensemble’s Susan Hellauer HERE. Concert


And the weekend’s “free admission” programs …

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium

The Colburn Orchestra
plays Mahler’s Symphony No. 5

Be forewarned: the free tickets are listed as “add to wait
list” on the school’s Web site and the VIP tickets are sold out. Nonetheless,
the concert is worth mentioning because whenever a student orchestra — even one
as good as Colburn — tackles Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, it counts as both an
event and a challenge.


Guest Conductor Gerard Schwarz leads the ensemble in
Mahler’s fifth and Takemitsu’s From Me
Flows What You Call Time,
with a local percussion ensemble, Smoke and
Mirrors, as soloists in the Takemitsu piece. For Schwarz, it’s something of a
homecoming. Prior to becoming music director of the Seattle Symphony (from
which he retired earlier this year), Schwarz held a similar position with the
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which used to perform in Ambassador during
Schwarz’s tenure. Information:


Monday at 7:45 p.m.
at Pasadena Neighborhood Church

Los Angeles Chapter
of American Guild of Organists Holiday program

Organists Andrea Anderson and Nancy Ruczynski perform on the
church’s historic Bozeman organ, while Dr. Timothy Howard leads The Pasadena
Singers in holiday music from around the world (full disclosure: I sing with
The Pasadena Singers, so — as the late, great Molly Ivins was wont to say, take
the recommendation with a grain of salt or a pound of salt). Information:



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

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on November 17, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Each Thursday morning, I list five events that peak my
interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum,
inexpensive tickets). Today’s grouping covers a wide geographical area:



Thursday through
Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa

Pacific Symphony;
Carl St.Clair, conductor — Music Unbound: Mahler’s Symphony No. 9

The latest installment of the orchestra’s Music Unbound series focuses on Mahler’s
Symphony No. 9. Although the concert begins at 8 p.m., the preconcert program
at 7, created by Joseph Horowitz, features actors Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett
performing in “I Beg You to be Truthful”
— The Marriage of Gustav and Anna Mahler: A Self-Portrait in Letters.
30-minute presentation is based on Gustav Mahler: Letters to his Wife, edited by Henry-Louis de La
Grange and Gnther Weiss in collaboration with Knud Martner. There will also be
a display of the Mahlers’ letters in the lobby. Info:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
and Sunday at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Jacaranda’s tribute
to Henryk Gorecki

Jacaranda is one of the area’s most impassioned (and
excellent) advocates of new music. This program will pay tribute to the Polish
composer who died Nov. 12, 2010. Pianist Mark Robson will perform Gorecki’s
first published work (Four Preludes, Op.
and the Calder Quartet and Lyris Quartet will join Jacaranda’s chamber
orchestra in other Gorecki works. Info:


Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
at Sexson Auditorim, Pasadena City College

Pasadena Young
Musicians Orchestra; Jo Stoup, conductor

This program could have fit in the “free or nearly free”
category below because tickets are just $7 for adults and $5 for students and
seniors. In a program entitled “The French Connection,” Stoup leads her young
musicians in Gershwin’s An American in
Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espaol
and other non-French works. Info:


Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Lszl Fassang,

This is a good weekend for organ lovers (see Timothy
Howard’s program listed below). At Disney Hall, Bach and Liszt will dominate Hungarian
organist Lszl Fassang’s program as he plays music by J.S. Bach (Toccata and
Fugue in F Major), Robert Schumann (Four Fugues on B-A-C-H, Op. 60), Max Reger
(Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H, Op. 46) and Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on Ad nos salutaren undam) and finishes the
evening with his own improvisations on Bach and Liszt themes. Info:


And the weekend’s “free admission” program …


Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church

Timothy Howard,

Improvising is pretty much of a lost art with the notable
exception of organists, who — because of proclivity or church job requirements
— relish the opportunity (see Fassang above). One of the best at improvising is
Timothy Howard, whose weekly worship service efforts often include a postlude
improvisation on the final hymn (full disclosure: PPC is my home church and I
sing with Tim, so — as the late, great columnist Molly Ivins often wrote — you
can take this strong recommendation with a grain of salt or a pound of salt).


In addition to two of his own hymn improvs, Howard’s program
— music by Csar Franck, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Tournemire, Herbert
Howells and Marcel Dupr — will feature pieces originally improvised and later
written down. A bonus is hearing the music played on the church’s 112-rank
Aeolian-Skinner organ, one of the largest and most important instruments in
Southern California. Info:



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

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