AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: LACO to open 46th season next weekend

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.
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• Next weekend might seem like a typical season-opening set of concerts by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and in one sense it is. Jeffrey Kahane and LACO begin the ensemble’s 46th season Saturday at 8 p.m. in Glendale’s Alex Theatre and next Sunday at 7 p.m. in UCLA’s Royce Hall with, what for them, is a typical Kahane-planned program.

However, what makes the concerts different is a clicking clock. Kahane, who turned 58 on Friday, announced in April that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 season, which will be his 20th with the orchestra. Consequently, every move LACO makes in the coming years will be scrutinized as to its future direction.

Perhaps with a nod to continuity, this weekend’s program is quintessential Kahane. It opens with a world premiere — the first performance of Lines of the Southern Cross, a work for strings and percussion by young Australian-born composer Cameron Patrick — and concludes with a Beethoven’s most famous symphony, the fifth. In between comes a less-than-frequently played concerto — Saint-Säens’s fifth (the Egyptian) — with Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen as soloist

Throughout his career, Kahane has championed the orchestra’s commissioning of new works and Patrick’s is the latest in a long line of premieres. Moreover, when Kahane began his tenure 18 years ago, one of his goals was to expand the orchestra’s repertoire beyond the then-traditional baroque-era pieces to include larger works, such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Information: www.laco.org

• If you’re looking for a great concert at an affordable price, consider The Colburn Orchestra, which opens its season on Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. in Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium. Music Director Yehuda Gilad leads his young but talented ensemble in Wagner’s Flying Dutchman overture, Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite and Brahms’s Double Concerto, with Colburn School faculty members violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith as soloists.

Tickets are just $10 each. Metro riders get a $5 discount if they present their Metro TAP card. Information: www.colburnschool.edu

• The Pasadena Master Chorale will use a unique twist on a familiar pricing strategy when it opens its season Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and next Sunday at 4 p.m. in Altadena Community Church. Although tickets are required, they are free but those attending are asked to pay what they think the concerts are worth following the performance, a variation on freewill offerings that many groups use to help defray costs.

Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein will conduct an eclectic program with music ranging from Hildegard of Bingen and Giovanni da Palestrina to Eric Whitacre Randall Thompson and PMC composer-in-residence Reena Esmail. Soloists will include pianist Crystele Rivette and percussionists from LaSalle High School.

Information: www.pasdenamasterchorale.org
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Pasadena Symphony resumes youth movement

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
A shorter version of this story was printed today in the above newspapers.
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Pasadena Symphony; Andrew Grams, conductor, Simone Porter, violin
March 29 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Preview one hour before each performance.
Ambassador Auditorium; 131 South St. John Ave., Pasadena
Tickets: $35-$105.
Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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Simone_Porter_4_WebFor more than a quarter-century the Pasadena Symphony has distinguished itself by discovering young, talented soloists. Earlier this year 13-year-old pianist Umi Garrett soloed in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. For the PSO’s programs on March 29 at Ambassador Auditorium, a “grizzled veteran,” 17-year-old violinist Simone Porter (pictured right), will join the orchestra and guest conductor Andrew Grams for a performance of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The concerts will open with William Bolcom’s Commedia for (Almost) 18th Century Orchestra and will conclude with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Porter’s PSO appearance is one of several important local concerts for her this year. On April 27 she will play Beethoven’s Romances 1 & 2 with the Pacific Symphony, led by Carl St.Clair, at the SOKA Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo. On Sept. 4 she will make her Hollywood Bowl debut as soloist in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot.

A native of Seattle, Porter studies with Robert Lipsett at The Colburn Conservatory of Music in downtown Los Angeles. She is also part of Colburn Artists, a program created in 2012 by The Colburn School to provide professional management services to its most-accomplished students.

The PSO’s “youth movement” also includes its guest conductor. Grams, a 36-year-old Maryland native, last fall became music director of the Elgin Symphony just outside of Chicago, an ensemble that is similar in many respects to the Pasadena Symphony. In January he conducted the Baltimore Symphony in a concert that elicited from Tim Smith, music critic of The Baltimore Sun, the following: “The year is not even a week old, and there’s a contender for highlight of the 2014 music season in Baltimore.”

Meanwhile, two area choral groups resume their seasons this week.

• Jeffrey Bernstein leads the Pasadena Master Chorale in “The Voice of California” on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and next Sunday at 4 p.m. at Altadena Community Church. The program features music by Eric Whitacre and Morten Lauridsen, along with premieres by Los Angeles-based composers Matt Brown and Reena Esmail. Information: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

• Artistic Director John Sutton will lead his Angeles Chorale in “Romancing the Soul,” an evening of Brahms love songs on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena’s First United Methodist Church and March 30 at 4 p.m. at Northridge United Methodist Church. Information: www.angeleschorale.org

• This evening at 7 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Grant Gershon leads 48 members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale in music by famed Southern California composer Morten Lauridsen. The program will include Mid-Winter Songs, Ave Dulcissima Maria, Canticle/O Vos Omnes, O Magnum Mysterium, , Madrigali, Nocturnes and Les Chansons des Roses (Lauridsen will accompany the last two pieces on the piano). Ironically, the only major piece the Chorale won’t be singing is Lux Aeterna, which has become a choral landmark since it was premiered and recorded by the Master Chorale in 1997. Information: www.lamc.org
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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PREVIEW: Free concerts abound

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

Several local organizations that sponsor admission-free concerts are unveiling their seasons during the next couple of weeks. Of course, few — if any — concerts are actually free; expenses are incurred, so whether it’s through a donation envelope, offering plate, sponsorship support or any combination of the three, all who can afford to do so are encouraged to contribute something — every little bit helps.

In chronological order, here is an admittedly incomplete list of some of the offerings :

• Rio Hondo Symphony; Kimo Furumoto, conducting
Today at 3 p.m. • Vic Lopez Auditorium (Whittier High School), Whittier
Information: www.riohondysymphony.org

Rio Hondo Symphony opens its 81st season of four free-admission concerts this afternoon with an all-Beethoven concert. Music Director Kimo Furumoto, beginning his fifth season, will conduct the Fidelio Overture, Symphony No. 5, and Piano Concerto No. 3, with Ben Hopkins as soloist. Hopkins, a 21-year-old Rochester, NY resident, was the piano winner of the orchestra’s Young Artists’ Competition last January.

• Rudy de Vos, organist
Friday at 7:30 p.m. • Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Pasadena
Information: www.ppcmusic.org

De Vos will open the church’s 2013-2014 Friends of Music season with a program of music by Marcel Languetuit, Charles Tournemire, Louis Vierne, Guy Bovet, César Franck, Maurice Ravel, Edwin Lemare, Joseph Bonnet and Maurice Duruflé.

A native of South Africa (and the son of a Dutch Reformed Pastor), de Vos has been organist and director of music at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland since 2009. A laureate of the prestigious St. Albans International Organ Competition, he has appeared with the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa, Artium Symphony, Natal Symphony and the Eastman School Symphony.

In addition to the eight concerts (two choral, three organ, one chamber music, one with vocal soloists and one jazz), the church sponsors its “Music at Noon” series of free concerts every Wednesday from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m.

• Los Angeles Philharmonic and Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA)
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. • Walt Disney Concert Hall and Grand Park
Information: www.laphil.com

This free concert begins a season-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of Disney Hall (I’ll have more on this in my column next Sunday). Next Sunday’s concert will feature the L.A. Phil and YOLA appearing side-by-side for the first time. For those not in the know, YOLA is the first of the youth orchestras that are part of the Phil’s project to bring music to under-served neighborhoods, similar to Venezuela’s “El Sistema” system that has produced, among others, LAPO Music Director Gustavo Dudamel.

Tickets for inside Disney Hall have long since been snapped up but you can be part of the festivities in the new Grand Park where folks will watch and view the concert via a simulcast on giant screens. Dudamel is scheduled to lead part of the program (Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 “Little Russian,” Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, and Conga del Fuego Nuevo by Másrquez. Legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and La Santa Cecilia ensemble will be the soloists.

BTW: Avoid parking hassles by taking public transit; the Metro Red Line’s Civic Center Station exits at the new park, which is east of the Music Center complex between Grand Ave. and Temple St.

• American Youth Symphony • Alex Treger, conductor
Sunday, Oct. 6 at 5:30 p.m. • Royce Hall, UCLA
Information: www.aysymphony.org

Traditionally one of the finest ensembles of young orchestral musicians in the nation, the AYS opens its season at 5:30 p.m. by screening the San Francisco Symphony’s “Keeping Score” program on Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, led by the SFS’s music director, Michael Tilson Thomas. Then at 7 p.m., Alex Treger leads his young charges in a performance of this famous and familiar work, along with the West Coast premiere of Timo Andres’ Bathtub Shrine and Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, with Alan Steele as soloist.

• Mus/ique: Free for All; Rachael Worby, artistic director
Friday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. • Pasadena Civic Center plaza
Information: muse-ique.com

This free family-oriented program will mash up hip-hop and orchestra in a way that only Rachael Worby can conjure. The concert is being held in conjunction with Pasadena’s “ArtNight,” a citywide celebration of the arts.

• Pasadena Master Chorale; Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor
Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Altadena Community Church, Altadena
Information: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

Normally the Pasadena Master Chorale charges for its concerts but the opening program on its fifth season features an interesting challenge. Patrons are invited to hear the all-Britten program and then ante up whatever they think the concert was worth.

The program — which commemorates the centennial of the English composer’s birth on Nov. 22, 1913 — will include Jubilate Deo, Festival Te Deum, Hymn to St. Cecilia and Rejoice in the Lamb. James Walker, organist/music director at All Saints Church, Pasadena, will accompany the concert on the church’s recently renovated 3-manual, 27-stop pipe organ, which was made by Casavant Brothers, Ltd. of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada, one of the best-known organ builders in North America.
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Choral music takes center stage

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.

The combination of Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover usually brings a number of major choral concerts and this year is no different except for the fact that the Los Angeles Master Chorale (which would normally have a concert during this time frame) is in Europe touring John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

On the local front:

• Jeffrey Bernstein will lead his Pasadena Master Chorale in a performance Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil this afternoon at 4 p.m. at Altadena Community Church. Fortunately, the work does not last all night (the 15-movement work lasts just over an hour). The name comes from the Russian chants that occur during the all-night liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Information: 626-208-0009; www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s 16th annual Good Friday concert focuses on music influenced by Gregorian chant: Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem, Four Motets on Gregorian Themes and Meditation for solo organ, along with Paul Creston’s Gregorian Chant for String Orchestra. Timothy Howard will conduct the Kirk Choir, community singers, soprano Judith Siirila, baritone Michal Dawson Connor, organist Meaghan King, and the Friends of Music Orchestra. The concert is free, take place Friday at 7:30 p.m. and I’m giving a preconcert lecture at 7 p.m. Information: 818/209-4635; www.ppcmusic.org

• The centerpiece of the 76th Whittier Bach Festival will take place on April 6 at 4 p.m. at Whittier College’s Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts when Chorale Bel Canto sings two Bach settings of the Song of Mary: Magnificat in D Major and Cantata BWV 10, Meine selle ehebt den Herrn. Stephen Gothold will conduct the Chorale and Corey Carleton, soprano; Laura Harrison, mezzo-soprano; Daniel Babcock, tenor; and Chung Uk Lee, bass. Information: 888-460-9222; www.choralebelcanto.org

• Stephen Grimm will conduct his Pasadena Pro Musica as it offers a concert of motets by Bach, Brahms, Heinrich Schütz and Henryk Gorecki on Easter Sunday at 4 p.m. at Pasadena Neighborhood Church. Information: 626/628-2144; www.pasadenapromusica.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Pasadena Master, Los Angeles Daiku present Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 to kick off New Year

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Pasadena Master
Chorale, Los Angeles Daiku, L.A. Daiku Orchestra; Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Saturday, January 7, 2012 San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

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Viennese ring in the New Year with Strauss waltzes. Revelers
around the world sing Auld Lang Syne, but
in Japan they celebrate the turning of the calendar with a most un-Japanese
piece of music, as hundreds of organizations perform Beethoven’s Symphony No.
9.

 

Last night, Jeffrey Bernstein began what he hopes will be an
annual tradition by joining two groups for which he’s the artistic director,
Los Angeles Daiku and the Pasadena Master Chorale, in what turned out to be a
quite-credible performance of Beethoven’s final symphony at the San Gabriel
Mission Playhouse as the first week of the new year drew to a close.

 

Los Angeles Daiku (“The Japanese word ‘daiku’ is
translated literally as ‘the great nine’ and often refers to Beethoven’s 9th,”
says Bernstein) was formed in 2009 specifically to rehearse Beethoven’s 9th;
47 singers from that group were on stage last night along with 49 singers of
the PMC, 51 instrumentalists (most of whom are familiar as members of ensembles
such as the Pasadena Symphony and Los Angeles Opera Orchestra) and four
soloists.

 

Bernstein set brisk tempos throughout the performance and
did a nice job of drawing nuanced playing out of his orchestra. What the
performance lacked was Beethoven’s Olympian fury, most noticeably in the
opening of the final movement. However, Bernstein recovered nicely from a
ragged beginning of that movement to shape the main theme lovingly and finished
the chorale finale with a flourish.

 

The 96 singers sang with a nice blend and attention to
musical line, although they hampered by the Playhouse stage’s poor acoustics,
which made the singers sound far less powerful than they probably were.  Baritone Cedric Berry got the famed Ode to Joy choral section off to a
somewhat shaky start and tenor Arthur Rishi was nearly inaudible. Soprano
Krystle Casey and mezzo-soprano Jessica Marney filled out the quartet solidly.

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Hemidemisemiquavers:

Bernstein elected to begin the proceedings with a few
comments and then had an actor read Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament, which was written to his brothers in 1802
as the scope of Beethoven’s deafness was becoming apparent to the composer.
Unfortunately, Bernstein failed to explain why this letter was important to the
context of this particular performance.

The printed program contained the texts but the lights
were dimmed to the point where they were unreadable.

The booklet also contained no information about L.A. Daiku
and its purpose or the Pasadena Master Chorale, although there was a full-page
bio of the conductor, short bios of the soloists, and names of the choristers
and instrumentalists.

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

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