Five-Spot: What caught my eye on February 23, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Each Thursday, 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:

______________________

 

Tonight at 8 p.m., Tomorrow
at 11 a.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Charles Dutoit, conductor

We’ll soon find out whether the Los Angeles Philharmonic has
jet lag after returning from Caracas following a very hectic week playing in
the Venezuelan portion of “The Mahler Project.” The Phil returns to be led by a
familiar guest conductor, Charles Duoit (currently finishing up his tenure as
chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and for 25 years music director
of the Montreal Symphony). This weekend’s program is mostly familiar Dutoit
fare: Stravinsky’s Symphony of Wind
Instruments,
Debussy’s La Mer, and
a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.
Information: www.laphil.com

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Valley Performing Arts Center (Cal State Northridge)

Wroclaw Philharmonic
Orchestra; Garrick Ohlsson, piano

Artistic Director Jacek Kaspszyk leads The National Forum of
Music Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra (to give the ensemble its formal name) at
VPAC on tour with a program that includes Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 and Chopin’s
Piano Concerto No. 2, with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist. Information: www.valleyperformingartscenter.org

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Los Angeles Opera: Albert Herring

Los Angeles Opera brings this “coming of age” work by
Benjamin Britten, using a production from Santa Fe Opera that will be conducted
by James Conlon, who will also deliver a lecture one hour before each
performance. Tenor Alex Shrader makes his Los Angeles debut in the title role.
Brian in “Out West Arts” has one of his familiar “10 Questions” profile with
Shrader HERE. David Mermelstein previews the opera in his Los Angeles Times article HERE. Information: www.losangelesopera.com

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Ambassador Auditorium

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor

For the past several years in what he calls the “Discover
Series,” Music Director Jeffrey Kahane has picked a single piece to first
discuss and then perform. The choice Saturday night is one of the landmarks of
choral repertoire: Bach’s Magnificat,
with a text drawn from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

 

Joining Kahane and LACO are The University of Southern California
Thornton Chamber Singers, directed by Jo-Michael Scheibe; and five soloists:
Charlotte Dobbs, soprano, Zanaida Robles, soprano, Janelle DeStefano, mezzo
soprano, Ben Bliss, tenor, and Daniel Armstrong, baritone.

 

Information: www.laco.org

 

Two of the other
offerings are opera holdovers:

San Diego Opera’s production of Moby-Dick wraps up its
run on Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the San Diego Civic Theatre. My
review is HERE. Information: www.sdopera.com

 

LA Opera’s production of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra plays Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Dorothy
Chandler Pavilion. My review is HERE. Information:
www.laopera.com

 

Also, the “encore performance” of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic’s Mahler 8 concert in
Caracas earlier this month will be shown Wednesday at 7 p.m. (local time) in
four Los Angeles-area theaters along with a couple in Orange County. Information: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

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

Vor Frue Kirkes
Drenge-Mandskor and Vanse Guttekor-Deo Gloria

Two internationally renowned boys’ choirs appear as part of
a Southland tour with a selection of Norwegian, Danish and American music
concluding with Jonah — a Liturgical
Drama.
Information: www.ppc.net

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Britten vs. Bach Saturday night

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.

 

Next year will mark the centennial of the birth of English
composer Benjamin Britten, and Los Angeles Opera will get a jump on the
celebrations when it unveils a new production (well, new to L.A., at any rate)
of Britten’s chamber opera Albert Herring
on Saturday evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

 

Albert Herring is running in tandem with Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, which plays this afternoon
at 7 p.m. continues with five other performances through March 4 (LINK). This
is a production well worth seeing; my review is HERE.

 

Tenor Alek Shrader will make his LAO debut singing the title
role in Albert Herring; the part was
originally written in 1947 for the great tenor (and Britten’s partner) Peter
Pears. Albert Herring was the second
of three “chamber operas,” so called because each production is on a much
smaller scale than “grand opera.” (Britten’s other two chamber operas were The Rape of Lucretia and The Turn of the Screw.)

 

LAO Music Director James Conlon will conduct Albert Herring; he’s also leading Simon Boccanegra. The production
originated at Santa Fe Opera and the opera is sung in English with English
supertitles. In addition to opening night, performances will be staged March 3,
8 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 and 17 at 2 p.m.

 

Tickets range from $20 to $270, with discounts for seniors
and students. Goldstar.com was offering steep discounts for all performances
but that offer expired in between the time I wrote this column and today when
it was printed.

 

David Mermelstein has an informative article in the Los Angeles Times about Albert Herring HERE. Opera information:
www.losangelesopera.com.

 

Running right up against Albert
Herring
is the latest installment in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s
“Discover” series at Ambassador Auditorium. For the past several years, Music
Director Jeffrey Kahane has picked a single piece to first discuss and then
perform. The choice Saturday night at 8 p.m. is one of the landmarks of choral
repertoire: Bach’s Magnificat, with a
text drawn from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

 

Joining Kahane and LACO are The University of Southern California
Thornton Chamber Singers, directed by Jo-Michael Scheibe; and five soloists:
Charlotte Dobbs, soprano, Zanaida Robles, soprano, Janelle DeStefano, mezzo
soprano, Ben Bliss, tenor, and Daniel Armstrong, baritone.

 

Information: www.laco.org

_______________________

 

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

NEWS AND LINKS: Sir Neville Marriner to receive 2012 Richard D. Colburn Award, lead The Colburn Orchestra April 22 at Disney Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Conductor Sir Neville Marriner has been named recipient of
the 2012 Richard D. Colburn Award and will lead The Colburn Orchestra, the
flagship ensemble of The Colburn School, in a gala concert on April 22 at Walt
Disney Concert Hall as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Sounds About
Town” series.

 

The award honors an individual “whose lifelong dedication,
work, talent and reputation enhance the teaching and performance of classical
music or dance in the Southern California Community.” This is the first time
the award has been given to a musician. Previous winners were Ernest
Fleischmann, former executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009,
former L.A. City Councilman and L.A. County Supervisor Ed Edelman in 2010 and
Toby Mayman, the school’s founding president, last year.

 

Marriner, who will turn 88 a week before the event, co-founded
and was music director of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1969-1978. In
announcing the award, Sel Kardan, the school’s President and CEO, said: “Sir
Neville shaped the artistic landscape of Los Angeles with his time as the Music
Director of LACO and inspired and mentored our students during his guest
conductor residency in 2011. We are thrilled to honor him with a special night
of performance and celebration.”

 

Marriner will conclude the April 22 concert (which will
start at 6:30 p.m.) by leading Elgar’s Enigma
Variations.
Earlier, current Colburn Orchestra Music Director Yehuda Gilad
will conduct Rossini’s William Tell Overture
and Barber’s Violin Concerto, with Mayumi Kanagawa, a Colburn student and
winner of the 2011 Irving M. Klein International String Competition in San
Francisco, as soloist.

 

The Colburn Orchestra concert becomes the second event on
the Phil’s “Sounds About Town” series this season. “SAT” presents top-notch
local performing groups and is the cheapest way to see concerts in Disney Hall
(tickets for the Colburn Orchestra concert are $15-37).  Information:
www.laphil.com

 

The first event on the current “SAT” series will be a joint
appearance by the American Youth Symphony and Los Angeles Children’s Chorus on
March 4 at 7:30 p.m. James Conlon, Los Angeles Opera music director, and
Alexander Treger, AYS music director, will lead the ensembles in a program that
will feature the world premiere of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s The isle is full of noises, a joint
commission by AYS and LACC.  Information: www.laphil.com

 

The Colburn Orchestra is also scheduled for the 2012-2013
“SAT” series on Feb. 19, 2013 when LAPO Music Director Gustavo Dudamel will
lead the ensemble. The orchestra’s next concert at Ambassador Auditorium is
March 3, when Bramwell Tovey (music director of the Vancouver Symphony) will be
the guest conductor (LINK).

 

In addition to help to found and lead LACO, Marriner founded
London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra in 1959, which
he led from both the concertmaster’s chair and the podium until the 1990s. He
was also music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1979-1986. He was
knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985.

 

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the
birth of Richard Colburn, a noted philanthropist whose donation in 1980 helped
the then-30-year-old school grow into one of the nation’s premiere music
schools. The school moved to its present location atop Los Angeles’ Bunker
Hill (across the street from Disney Hall) in 1998.

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 26, 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:

______________________

 

Tonight at 8 p.m. at
Walt Disney Concert Hall

Simn Bolivr
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No.
5

This was one of the works with which Gustavo Dudamel
introduced Los Angeles to this dynamic orchestra in 2007. Thus, part of the
intrigue will be to see what changes have occurred in Dudamel’s interpretation
and in the orchestra’s playing. The Bolivrs conclude their individual portion
of the cycle on Tuesday with Symphony No. 7 Information: www.laphil.com

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School)

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Baroque Conversations

LACO begins its season of baroque chamber-music programs
when Principal Oboist Alan Vogel leads five of his colleagues and soprano
Elissa Johnston in a program of music by J.S. Bach and Heinrich Ignaz Franz
Bieber. Information: www.laco.org

 

Friday and Saturday
at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No.
6

The Phil swings back into action with what is perhaps the
darkest of Mahler’s symphonies. Information:
www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at AT&T Center Theatre, Los Angeles

Sunday at 3 p.m.,
First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Musica Angelica:
Pergolesi/Bach: Stabat Mater

Although Giovanni Pergolesi set a version of Stabat Mater, the work is at least as
well known through its German edition when J.S. Bach put different German text
atop Pergolesi’s music (composers during that time were freer about “borrowing”
music both from themselves and others). Martin Hasselbck will lead his
top-notch period-instrument ensemble along with soloists Dame Emma Kirkby,
soprano, and countertenor Daniel Taylor. Sacred arias by Bach and Handel will
fill out the program.

 

The Saturday performance will be the group’s first time in
the AT&T Center Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Old-timers will recognize
this as the old Transamerica Life headquarters. Radio station KUSC 95.1 FM
recently moved to the AT&T Center. Originally used as a conference hall,
the performing space reportedly has been acoustically retrofitted by KUSC to
accommodate small- and medium-size musical groups.

 

Information: www.musicaangelica.org

 

Sunday at 4 p.m. at
Neighborhood Church, Pasadena

Pacific Serenades

For more than a quarter-century, Pacific Serenades has been
known for (a) beginning its season after the New Year holiday and (b)
commissioning new works. The inaugural concert of its 2012 season will feature
its 103rd commissioned work: the world premiere of Different Lanes for string quartet and
iPad by Los Angeles native and Emmy-award winning composer Laura Karpman (the
title refers to five L.A. freeways) The program will also include Beethoven’s
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3, and Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and
Cello (2001).

 

Information:
www.pacser.org

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Friday at 8 p.m. at
First Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena

Pasadena Community
Orchestra; Alan Reinecke, conductor

PCO opens its 28th season with a program of
Smetna’s Sarka (from Ma Vlast), Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, and
Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with Joyce Pan as soloist. Pan is a member
of the orchestra’s violin section; in her “other” life, she’s a technical
director for Dreamworks Animation. Information:
www.pcomusic.org

  

OPERA NOTES

Both Long Beach Opera and San Diego Opera open their seasons
this weekend. Long Beach presents Maria
de Buenos Aires
by Astor Pizzola and Horacio Ferrer on Sunday at 2 p.m. and
Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. at The Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. Information: www.longbeachopera.org

 

San Diego Opera begins with Richard Strauss’ Salome, which opens Saturday at 7 p.m.
and also plays Tuesday at 7 p.m., Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. Lise
Lindstrom sings the title role. Information:
www.sdopera.com

_______________________

 

(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

 

Cleaning out the inbox with items that you may or may not
have seen:

 

Andrew Norman will become the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence for a three-year term beginning in July. He
will succeed Derek Bermel and become the eighth person to hold the LACO post,
which includes funding for a new composition and an opportunity to work in
various educational opportunities. Norman, 32, was raised in central
California, studied at USC and Yale, and now lives in Brooklyn. A Los Angeles
Times story is HERE.

 

Los Angeles Opera has paid off half of the $14 million it
borrowed from Bank of America in 2009 during a liquidity crisis while it was
producing Wagner’s Ring cycle at the
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The loan was guaranteed — not made — by Los Angeles
County and the early repayment saves the company about $350,000 in interest
charges.

 

The financial crisis for arts organizations has apparently
struck Trinity Church in New York City. Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has the story HERE.
(Incidentally, it’s good to have Anne back on the “beat;” she was out on
maternity leave.).

 

You’ve undoubtedly heard about Alan Gilbert, music
director of the New York Philharmonic, who stopped a recent performance of
Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 because of a persistently ringing cell phone. Tim Smith
in the Baltimore Sun has a followup
on this story with threads back to the original story HERE.

 

A new opening on Broadway is The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which has drawn greatly mixed
reviews. You may remember this as the musical that was savaged by Steven
Sondheim in a letter to the New York
Times
last year (LINK). Martin Bernheimer’s review in London’s Financial Tines is HERE; predictably
pulls no punches.

 

I include this final story just because it’s so
beautifully crafted and poignant (LINK). Daniel J. Wakin in The New York Times writes about what
it’s like for a family to sell one of the world’s most famous cellos, the Countess of Stainlein, ex-Paganini of
1707,
played for 54 years by Bernard Greenhouse, a founding member of the
Beaux Arts Trio.

 

Perhaps the key paragraph is what follows:

 

“Through the optic of history, those in possession of these
instruments are caretakers, not owners. For their players, the transfer to the
next caretaker symbolizes the end of performing, the termination of an artistic
prime, the memories of which reside in long-used instruments. “The violin is
not only a friend,” said Aaron Rosand, 84, once a prominent soloist in the
tradition of the great Romantics like Oistrakh, Milstein and Heifetz. “It’s
something that you live with. Every day it becomes more dear to you. It’s
almost like a living thing. You treat it carefully; you treat it gently. It
talks to you,” he said. “You’re caressing your instrument all the time. Parting
with an instrument that has become such a wonderful friend is just like losing
a member of your family.”

 

I resonated to this story. My former wife was a concert
pianist and I was with her when she bought her Baldwin piano. She spent most of
a day trying out Steinways but never found one that made her sing. Late in the
day, we went into the Baldwin showroom (she was age 17 at the time) and when
she sat down at this Baldwin L, it was love at first sight, a love affair she
never let go.

 

P.S. The comments are worth reading, as well.

_______________________

 

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

PREVIEW AND LINKS: Andrew Shulman to solo with Pasadena, conduct L.A. Chamber Orchestra on consecutive weekends

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Symphony. David
Lockington, conductor; Andrew Shulman, cello

Philip Sawyers: The
Gale of Life
; Elgar: Cello Concerto; Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 (Scottish)

Saturday, Jan. 14; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Ambassador Auditorium; 300 W. Green St., Pasadena

Tickets: $35-$100; senior rush tickets (23) available for 2
p.m. concert. Student rush tickets ($10) available for both concerts

Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

  

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra. Andrew Shulman, conductor; Nigel Armstrong, violin

Mozart: Symphony No. 29, K. 201; Violin Concerto No. 3, K.
216. Walton: Sonata for Strings.

Sat., Jan. 21, 8 p.m. at Alex Theater, Glendale. Sun., Jan.
22, 7 p.m. at Royce Hall, UCLA

Tickets: $24-$105; student season passes available

Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

______________________

 

Andrew Shulman is going to be one very busy musician during
the next 10 days, but there’s nothing surprising about that.

 

Shulman, who is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony
and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will appear as soloist with the PSO Saturday
in two performances at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in
E Minor. David Lockington, music director of the Modesto Symphony and Grand
Rapids Symphony, will lead the programs, which will begin with The Gale of Life by English composer
Philip Sawyers and conclude with Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.

 

The following weekend Shulman will make his LACO conducting
debut leading a program of music by Mozart and William Walton. Nigel Armstrong
will be the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. The 21-year-old graduate
of The Colburn School will be making his first local appearance since placing
fourth in the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition last
summer in Moscow (LINK).

 

There’s nothing unusual, says Shulman, about playing a titan
of the cello literature one weekend and conducting an entirely different program
the next. “What’s unusual,” he says with an infectious laugh, “is that they’re
both in the same city. Usually I’m playing here and then jetting off to England
to conduct an orchestra there.”

 

Now age 51, Shulman was born in London and studied both cello
and conducting at the Royal College of Music. “I first encountered the Elgar
concerto when I was 17 or 18,” he recalls. He studied with William Pleeth and
Pleeth’s most famous student, Jacqueline DuPre, who by then was suffering from
Multiple Sclerosis. “Jackie talked about things like fingering and bowing the
Elgar,” he remembers. “Despite the MS, she continued to be fully involved with
music up to her death; she was an inspiration.”

 

Although Shulman continued to conduct, he gained
international fame as a cellist. He served two terms as principal cellist of
London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, taking a break for 10 years to play in the
Britten Quartet. In 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen called him and asked, “Are you fed
up with London and looking for a change?” He and his wife came to Los Angeles
where he eventually became principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

 

That job lasted just two years. “With the Philharmonia,” he
explains, “we had co-principals and others as well, so I was playing perhaps 30
percent of the concerts, which left me time to conduct and do film work. Being
principal cellist at the L.A. Phil meant that I had to play about 80 percent of
the concerts, and I just found that too confining.”

 

Shulman has since carved out a busy career in film music and
conducting. He became LACO’s principal cellist in 2008 and assumed a similar
position with the PSO in 2010. “Both of those positions are great,” he says.
“Both orchestras have great musicians and both orchestras give me plenty of
freedom to maintain all of my professional lives.”

 

That includes conducting and Walton’s Sonata for Strings has
special resonance for Shulman and LACO. “It’s actually a transcription of
Walton’s second String Quartet,” explains Shulman (who recorded the original
version in the 1980s with the Britten String Quartet). In 1971, Sir Neville
Marriner commissioned the transcription for his Academy of St.
Martin-in-the-Fields, and two years later Marriner and LACO gave the U.S.
premiere of what by then was known as the Sonata for Strings. “It’s a virtuosic
piece,” explains Shulman, “and a terrific way to show off my string colleagues
in the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. They’ll love it, and so will the audiences.”

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Look ahead to 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Last week I looked back at some of the memorable events of
2011 (LINK). Today I look forward, and “bulging” is the most appropriate word I
can think of when describing the classical music calendar in the first quarter
of 2012 (I won’t even attempt to list everything that I think is important for
all of next year). Among the major programs scheduled in the next few months
are:

 

ORCHESTRA

The Mahler Project

The Los Angeles Philharmonic kicks off its nearly month-long
survey of Gustav Mahler’s music in mid-January. Gustavo Dudamel will lead two
of the orchestra he heads — the L.A. Phil and Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra
of Venezuela — in 17 performances from January 13 through February 4 at Walt
Disney Concert Hall and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The sweeping
enterprise will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of
the great Austrian composer-conductor Gustav Mahler (which actually took place
on May 18, 1911).

 

Dudamel (who turns age 31 on Jan. 26) will lead every
performance. The Bolivrs will play four of the symphonies, the Los Angeles
Philharmonic will play four, and the two ensembles will combine and join with
more 800 choristers and eight soloists for the Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 4 at the
Shrine Auditorium, one of the few times in history when that work’s subtitle, “Symphony
of a Thousand,” will be fact as
opposed to appellation.

 

Following the Los Angeles concerts, the entire cycle will be
performed again in Caracas, Venezuela; the Feb. 18 performance of “Symphony of
a Thousand” will be telecast live from the Venezuelan capital at 2 p.m. (PST)
in movie theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada (LINK). “Mahler Project” information: www.laphil.com

 

Andrew Shulman
doubles down with PSO and LACO

Shulman is principal cellist of the Pasadena Symphony
Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. On Jan. 13 he will appear as
soloist with the PSO at Ambassador Auditorium playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
The following weekend (Jan. 20 and 21), he will conduct LACO in a program that
will include former Colburn School student Nigel Armstrong as soloist in
Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (Armstrong won fourth place in last June’s
Tchaikovsky Violin Competition.

PSO information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

LACO information: www.laco.org

 

The Colburn Orchestra

This top-notch student ensemble wraps up its season at
Ambassador Auditorium with concerts on Feb. 4 and March 3. The latter will be
led by Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver and principal guest
conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl for the past three
summers. The Colburn Orchestra’s free concerts go through their ticket
allotments quickly so now is the time to log on and secure your seats (you
print the tickets when you make the reservation).

Information: www.colburnschool.edu

OPERA

San Diego Opera

San Diego Opera grabs the spotlight beginning Feb. 18 when
it presents the West Coast debut of Moby
Dick
by Jake Heggie (best known, until now, for his opera Dead Man Walking). This production got
mostly rave reviews when it debuted at Dallas Opera in May 2010 (LINK with
reviews) and the San Diego production includes Canadian tenor Ben Heppner
reprising his title role performance in San Diego. SD Opera Resident Conductor
Karen Keltner will conduct. It’s sung in English with supertitles. The company
will also present a production of Richard Strauss’ Salome beginning Jan. 28, with Lise Lindstrom in the title role. Information: www.sdopera.com

 

Los Angeles Opera

February will be a busy opera month. Los Angeles Opera
resumes its 2011-2012 season with productions of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra beginning Feb. 11 in the first of seven
performances and Britten’s Albert
Herring,
which opens Feb. 25 and continues with five performances in March.
LA Opera Music Director James Conlon will conduct both operas.

 

Simon Boccanegra
is significant because Plcido Domingo is in the title role, a part that was
written for a baritone (Domingo, of course, has spent nearly all of his career
as a tenor, although he now appears to be more comfortable in lower ranges).
This production originated at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Information: www.laopera.com

 

Albert Herring is
the latest in a string of Benjamin Britten operas that the company is
presenting in a lead-up to the composer’s birth centennial in 2013. Although
LAO mounted Albert Herring early in
the company’s history, this production originated at Santa Fe Opera. Alek
Shrader makes his LAO debut in the title role. Information: www.laopera.com

 

Long Beach Opera

This intrepid company explores the world of the tango with a
production of Maria de Buenos Aires,
composed by Astor Piazzolla to a libretto by poet Hoarcio Ferrer. Sung in
Spanish with English supertitles, it plays Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 at the Warner
Theater in San Pedro. Information: www.longbeachoperea.com

IN MOVIE THEATERS

On the big screen, the Metropolitan Opera continues its High
Definition telecasts into movie theaters with three screenings in January and
February, including its new production of Wagner’s Gtterdmerung on Feb. 11. Information:
www.metopereafamily.org

 

CHORAL MUSIC

Although choral music concerts occur frequently, the
three-week span from March 17-April 6 has an unusually large number of notable
events.

 

Chorale Bel Canto will
sing Bach’s Mass in B Minor on March 17 at Whittier College as the major event
in the 75th annual Whittier Bach Festival. Stephen Gothold conducts
the CBC (which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year),
soloists and orchestra in this monument of choral literature. Information: www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Angeles Chorale
will celebrate what conductor John Sutton calls “America’s most significant
musical story — gospel and jazz; the stories of our lives; and musical depictions
of the human experience” on March 24 at First United Methodist Church,
Pasadena. The featured work will be Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass. Information: www.angeleschorale.org

 

Los Angeles Master
Chorale,
which will present a concert of Bruckner and Stravinsky on Feb.
12, returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 31 and April 1 for a
performance of Bach’s St. John Passion. Grant
Gershon conducts both programs; the Bach features the area’s foremost
period-instrument ensemble, Musica Angelica. Information: www.lamc.org

 

As an added note:
my weekly “Five Spot” posts will return on Jan. 5. Each week, I list five notable
concerts for the upcoming weekend including, ideally, one that is either free
admission or very low cost. Have a safe and happy new year.

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Looking back on 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

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

 

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

 

AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM

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

 

ANNIVERSARIES

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

 

NIGEL ARMSTRONG and
NAREK HAKHNAZARAYAN

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

 

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

 

AWARDS

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

 

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

 

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

 

CLASHING PROGRAMS

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

 

DEATHS

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL

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

 

LOS ANGELES OPERA

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

 

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

 

LA PHIL LIVE

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

 

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

 

MUSE-IQUE

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

 

THE OUTDOOR CONCERT
VENUE BATTLE

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

 

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

 

PASADENA SYMPHONY AND
POPS

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

 

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

 

VALLEY PERFORMING
ARTS CENTER

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

 

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

 

Next week: looking ahead at 2012.

_______________________

 

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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on December 8, 2011

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). This weekend offers a plethora of opportunities, so
there’s more than five listed.

______________________

 

Tonight and
tomorrow at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Thomas Wilkins, conductor

The Getty Museum has spearheaded a major collection of
events under the umbrella of “Pacific Standard Time” and these concerts are the L.A. Phil’s contribution. Wilkins, who
is principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, leads a program of
music ranging from Eric Wolfgang Korngold to John Williams. Zull Bailey will be
the soloist in Korngold’s Cello Concerto (which was featured in the Bette Davis
film, Deception). This is a rare
opportunity to hear movie music played in the wonderful Disney Hall acoustics. Info:
www.laphil.com

 

Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Pasadena Playhouse

Opera Posse: Amahl and the Night Visitors

Opera Posse picks up from the now-shuttered Intimate Opera
Pasadena in presenting this familiar one-act opera, written by Gian Carlo
Menotti in 1951 for NBC television. Last year’s presentation was one of the
season’s highlights and this year’s production features most of the artists who
brought it to life, including Director Stephanie Vlahos and set designer John
Iacovelli. The cast includes noted mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmn as the mother
and Caleb Glickman in the title role. As was the case last year, actor Malcolm
McDowell will intro the opera by reading Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Michelle J. Mills’ article in last
week’s Star-News is HERE. Concert Info: www.operaposse.com

 

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

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor

Kahane returns to the LACO podium to lead a program that
includes music by Ravel, Respighi and Thomas Ades. Cellist Ralph Kirshbaum will
be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Variations
on a Rococo Theme.
This is the first of two major appearances by Kirshbaum
this season; he will also be on a Los Angeles Philharmonic program March 15
playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto as part of the Piatagorsky International
Cello Festival (LINK). LACO info: www.laco.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m. at
Walt Disney Concert Hall

Boston Symphony
Orchestra; Ludovic Morlot, conductor

The famed BSO makes its first Los Angeles appearance in 20
years bringing a program of music by John Harbison, Ravel and Brahms. Gil
Shaham will be the soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto. It’s also a chance to
take the measure of Morlot, who took over the season as music director of the
Seattle Symphony from retiring Gerard Schwarz and may be a candidate to succeed
James Levine as the BSO’s music director. Info:
www.laphil.com

 

Handel’s Messiah

There are several opportunities this season to partake of
this ultra-familiar but still beloved oratorio that tells the story of the life
of Jesus Christ. A (not complete) list includes:

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

Angeles Chorale and Da Capo Players Chamber Orchestra,
conducted by Donald Neuen. Info: www.angeleschorale.org

 

Sunday at 3 p.m. at
Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa

Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale; Christian Knapp,
conducting. Info: www.pacificsymphony.org

 

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

Los Angeles Master Chorale “Messiah Sing-Along.” If you’ve never done one of these, it’s a
fantastic way to experience this famous work. The audience joins with the
Master Chorale in the choruses — or you can just listen and be surrounded by
sound. Bring your own score or buy one for $10. Info: www.lamc.org

 

Tuesday and
Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Philharmonia Baroque and Philharmonia Chorale; Nicholas
McGegan, conductor. Info: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s “free admission” program …

 

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

66th
annual Candlelight and Carols Concert

All of the church’s choirs participate in this annual event,
which also features plenty of audience caroling. The featured work on the
program is Veni Emmanuel by local
composer Elizabeth Ann Sellers, with the Kirk Choir and Friends of Music
Orchestra conducted by Timothy Howard. (Full disclosure: I sing in two of the
choirs participating.) Information: www.ppc.net

_______________________

 

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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Orchestras in the holiday season

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

A shorter version of
this column published today in the above papers.

______________________

 

Because the holiday season is dominated by choral music,
orchestras have, in the past, tended to shy away from programs in December
unless they were holiday-theme oriented (e.g., Handel’s Messiah). This year, things are different.

 

Esa-Pekka Salonen, who music director of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic for 17 years, is in town for two weeks of concerts with his old
band (his L.A. Phil title is now Conductor Laureate). Today he’s leading
Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2, with an old
friend, Emmanuel Ax, soloing in the concerto (which, despite its number, was
actually the first piano concerto that Beethoven wrote).

 

The second half of the program is Sirens by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. Soprano Hila Plitmann
and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter join the orchestra and Los Angeles
Master Chorale in the work, which is based on The Siren Song from Homer’s The
Odyssey
and is receiving its world premiere this weekend. (Read my review
of Friday’s performance HERE.)

 

Salonen is leading another world premiere Friday, Saturday
and next Sunday: the Prologue to Shostakovich’s Orango, an unfinished satirical opera that the composer sketched in
1932 while he was writing his opera Lady
Macbeth of the Mtsensk District
. Only the 40-minute Prologue was
completed in piano vocal score, which was discovered in 2006. The Phil, a large
group of soloists, and the Master Chorale will present the work, orchestrated
by English composer Gerard McBurney and staged by Peter Sellars. The program
concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4.  I have more on this concert at the bottom of the review
posted above and I’ll add more details on my “Five-Spot” post on Thursday.

 

On Dec. 8, 9 and 10, Thomas Wilkins — principal conductor of
the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — leads the Phil in a program of movie music as
the orchestra’s contribution to the “Pacific Standard Time” series under the
auspices of the Getty Museum. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Elsewhere on the orchestral front:

The Pasadena
Symphony
will get into the holiday spirit with a candlelight program
Saturday at 7 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena. 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:
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

The Colburn
Orchestra
continues its season next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ambassador
Auditorium as guest conductor Gerard Schwarz leads the ensemble in Mahler’s
Symphony No. 5 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, Schwarz
held a similar position with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which used to
perform in Ambassador. Information: www.colburnschool.edu

 

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will lead his Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on Dec.
10 at the Alex Theater in Glendale and 11 at Royce Hall, UCLA. Cellist Ralph
Kirshbaum will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. The program
also includes music by Ravel, Respighi and Thomas Ads. Information: www.laco.org

_______________________

 

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