FIVE SPOT: June 8-13, 2017

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

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

8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 3 p.m. Sunday
at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; Costa Mesa

Music Director Carl St.Clair leads the Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale and soloists in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, his massive tribute to eternal life. The concert also honors Pacific Chorale Artistic Director John Alexander, who is retiring after 45 years (but only from the Pacific Chorale, as Timothy Mangan notes — see below).

BONUS: Read Paul Hodgins’ article in the Orange County Register HERE. Timothy Mangan, the Pacific Symphony’s Writer-in-Residence, has an appreciation for Alexander HERE.


7 p.m. at Wilshire Ebell Theatre; Los Angeles

Vladimir Spivakov conducts the orchestra he has led since 1979 in a varied program that includes music by Mozart, Shostakovich, Bruch, Poppers, Grieg and others. Israeli cellist Danielle Akta and soprano Hibla Gerzmava will be the soloists.


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

John Sutton leads his ensemble in a program of American music entitled “A Musical Bite of the Big Apple: from Broadway to Bernstein,” which includes Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and selections from West Side Story.


7:30 p.m. at Kirk Douglas Theatre; Culver City

Frank Fetta leads the Culver City Symphony in a program that includes Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, William Grant Still’s Danzas de Panama, Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 in A Major, and Haydn’s Cello Concerto, with Leah Hansen as soloist.


8 p.m. at Terrace Theatre; Long Beach

Former Long Beach Symphony Music Director JoAnn Falletta returns “home” for the first time to conduct the orchestra that she led from 1989-2000. The program begins with four movements from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly Suite, arranged for the 1955 Soviet film The Gadfly, based on the novel of the same name by Ethel Lilian Voynich. LBSO Concertmaster Roger Wilkie will be the soloist.

The evening continues with Falletta’s own compilation of Prokofiev’s Suites 1-3 from his ballet Cinderella. After intermission, 21-year-old pianist George Li will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

BONUS: The Terrace Theatre can be reached easily via Metro’s Blue Line. Exit at 1st Street, walk two blocks south and cross Ocean Blvd. to reach the theatre.

Read Richard Guzman’s article in the Long Beach Press Telegram HERE.


8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s New Music Group joins with The Industry to conclude the Phil’s “Green Umbrella” series with a performance of this work by Lou Harrison, whose 100th birthday would have been May 14. Harrison was a composer whose works have been celebrated by a few hardy souls (mostly on the west coast where studied and later taught) if not always elsewhere.

This production — the first since the work was premiered in 1971 at Caltech — will be directed by Yuri Shuval, the Phil’s new Artist-Collaborator, in conjunction with his company, The Industry. Marc Lowenstein will conduct members of the Phil

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


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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: John Alexander sails away from the Pacific Chorale gloriously

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

My review of last night’s performance by the Pacific Chorale in Costa Mesa has been published on the Orange County Register’s Web site HERE (the story will appear in print editions tomorrow). The concert marked the conclusion of Artistic Director John Alexander’s 45-year tenure with the Chorale and their performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 (“A Sea Symphony”) was a masterful conclusion to a long, illustrious career.

One more thought after a night’s reflection: we often fail to give credit to those in charge of picking soloists for a particular evening. I assume that Alexander selected Layla Claire and Baritone Brian Mulligan for last night’s performance of “A Sea Symphony” and they proved to be exemplary choices for these difficult, taxing roles.

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

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CLASS ACT: A fond farewell to two Southland maestros

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

This column ran in Sunday’s print editions of our papers.

May will be a bittersweet month as two groups bid farewell to their long-time music directors. John Alexander will step down from his post at the Pacific Chorale after that ensemble’s final concert for the season on Saturday at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The following weekend will be Jeffrey Kahane’s last concerts as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra music director. Both will stay on in Conductor Laureate categories, but their full-time involvement will cease this month.

Alexander (pictured left), who has been at the musical helm at the Pacific Chorale for 45 years, has assembled a collection of favorite anthems for his final program, which will conclude with Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 1 (“A Sea Symphony”), a rarely performed work but one of the English composer’s best symphonies. The Pacific Symphony and soloists Layla Claire, soprano, and Brian Mulligan, baritone, will join in the Vaughan Williams.

Kahane has led LACO for 20 years. His final program, on May 20 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and the following night in UCLA’s Royce Hall, will feature a first and two lasts: the world premiere of Will There Be Singing by Christopher Cerrone, LACO’s first performance of Schubert’s last symphony, No. 9, D. 944 (“The Great C-Major”), and Mozart’s final piano concerto, No. 27 in B-flat major, K.595, with Kahane playing and conducting from the keyboard.

Both men have led their groups to new heights during their respective tenures. Alexander took over the reins of what was then known as the Irvine Master Chorale in 1972, just four years after Maurice Allard founded the ensemble as the Irvine Community Chorus. Now with 140 professional singers, the Pacific Chorale has been Segerstrom Concert Hall’s resident choir since the hall opened in 2006.

Texts have also been critically important to Alexander’s conducting style, so it’s no surprise that his final concert concludes with Vaughan Williams’ “A Sea Symphony,” which uses texts from American poet Walt Whitman. The four-movement work, first performed at England’s Leeds Festival in 1910, opens with a bang — a full-throated chorus singing the line, “Behold, the sea itself!” — and concludes nearly an hour later with the final notes, “O farther, farther sail,” evaporating into the mists of the sea.

Paul Hodgins’ Orange County Register on Alexander and his successor, Robert Istad, is HERE.

Information on Saturday night’s concert:

Kahane (pictured right) took over LACO in 1997 a couple of years after Christof Perick abruptly resigned the position. It was a troubled time for the orchestra, which was still recovering from formidable financial issues.

Kahane was far-better known as a pianist — he won the prestigious Artur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in 1983 and was building a flourishing concert career.

However, in 1995 Kahane became music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony in Northern California and two years later the LACO board gambled on his, and its, future by naming Kahane as its new music director. That bet paid off in spades, as LACO has grown and prospered under Kahane’s leadership to the point where it now has orchestral, chamber music and baroque series annually and is one of the nation’s premiere chamber orchestra.

One difference between the two groups is that the Pacific Chorale has already named Alexander’s successor: Robert Istad, who nine years ago took over when Alexander retired as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at California State University, Fullerton. On the other hand, LACO continues to search for Kahane’s replacement.

Information on the May 20 and 21 concerts:

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

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 14, 2011

Each Thursday morning,
I list five events (six this week) that peak my interest, including (ideally)
at least one with free admission — this week there are two. Here’s today’s



Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge

China Philharmonic;
Long Yu, conductor, Renaud Capuon, violin

The Southland’s newest concert hall, located on the campus
of Cal State Northridge, gets its first major classical music program with this
performance. Yu conducts music by Berlioz, Puccini, Borodin and Ravel; Capuon
will be soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. INFO:
The same program is presented Friday night at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa
Mesa. INFO:


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, Jon Kimura Parker, piano

The program includes John Harbison’s Gil pi usati, Dvorak’s Serenade in E Major for Strings, and
Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor).
The Harbison piece was premiered by LACO in 1993. Parker (who was born on
Christmas Day 1959 in Vancouver) won the 1984 Leeds International Pianoforte
Competition and has gone on to an international career. INFO:

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

Pasadena Pro Musica;
Stephen Grimm, conductor

In this Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday program at the beginning
of what Christians call “Holy Week,” PPM presents Dietrich Buxtehude’s
seven-movement work Membra Jesu Nostri,
along with Grimm’s own Christus Factus
and William Cornyshe’s Woefully


Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
at Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa

Pacific Chorale, John
Alexander Singers, Pacific Symphony; John Alexander, conductor, Lori Loftus,

John Alexander conducts his forces in the Southern California
premiere of David Lang’s The Little Match
Girl Passion,
which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for music and also won a
Grammy Award. The piece, based on a Hans Christian Anderson story and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, will be paired with
Faur’s Requiem. INFO:


And the weekend’s “free admission” programs …


Friday at 1 p.m.,
Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale’s 22nd High School Choir Festival

LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon
leads a 900-voice massed choir of students from 24 Southland high schools and
an 80-voice Festival Honor Choir also comprised of students from those schools.
In addition to hearing some terrific singing led by one of America’s premiere
choral conductors, it’s a great way to experience the magnificent acoustics of
Disney Hall for free. A preconcert by the Master Chorale’s Chamber Singers, led
by Assistant Conductor Leslie Leighton, will begin at 11 a.m. Tickets for each
event must be arranged ahead of time. INFO: 213/972-7282;


Sunday at 3:30 p.m.,
Occidental College, Eagle Rock

Occidental College
Chorus and Glee Club; Desiree La Vertu, conductor

The program, performed in the college’s distinctive Herrick
Chapel, features music by Bruckner, Mozart, Lauridsen and Victoria, songs from
Latin America, gospel selections and popular favorites. INFO:



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

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