AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Indoor, outdoor concerts clash in first weekend of June

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

Style: "p25+-Ipro"
Michael Feinstein will open his second season as the Pasadena Pops’ principal conductor on June 7 at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.
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We’re at that odd time of the year for classical music when seasons collide. In June we’re wrapping up indoor seasons and beginning the outdoor concerts that are so much a part of Southern California life and, unfortunately, they all collide next weekend.

On the indoor scene:
• The Pasadena-based Angeles Chorale will conclude its 2013-2014 season at UCLA’s Royce Hall on June 7 at 8 p.m. when long-time artistic director and now resident guest conductor Donald Neuen makes his final appearance with the Angeles Chorale. The ensemble will be joined by the UCLA Chorale, UCLA Philharmonia and piano soloist Neal Stulberg in an all-Beethoven program: Mass in C Major, Choral Fantasy and the “Hallelujah” chorus from Christ on the Mount of Olives. Soloists for the mass will be soprano Sarah Grandpre, alto Sarah Anderson, tenor Daniel Suk, and bass Michael Dean. Information: www.angeleschorale.org

• The Pasadena Master Chorale’s final concert this year will feature Carl Orff’s ever-popular Carmina Burana on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Pasadena. Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein will conduct the work’s two-piano chamber version. Soprano Krystle Casey and Baritone Ryan Thorn will be the soloists. Information: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

• On June 8, Pasadena Pro Musica concludes its 50th season at 4 p.m. at Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church as Artistic Director Stephen Grimm leads a program of music by Mozart. Soloists include soprano Paula Rasmussen, who sang with PPM as a young chorister and has since gone on to an international opera career. Information: www.pasadenapromusica.org

• The Los Angeles Master Chorale wraps up its 50th season on June 8 at 7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall as Artistic Director Grant Gershon leads world premieres of pieces by the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Conductor Laurate Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Lang, and the Chorale’s composer-in-residence, Shawn Kirschner, along with music by Gabriela Lena Frank and Francisco Nuñez. Gershon’s new title came with welcome news that he is extending his contract with LAMC through 2019-2020. Information: www.lamc.org

On the outdoor front, Michael Feinstein returns for his second season as the Pasadena Pops’ principal conductor, leading the group’s opening concert on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. The program will include a treasure trove of lost works that Feinstein has unearthed in places ranging from libraries to garages as he continues to build “The Great American Songbook.” Feinstein will conduct three of this summer’s concerts and sing in a fourth. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Back to work

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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Pasadena Symphony; Nicholas McGegan, conductor; Umi Garrett, pianist
Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Concert preview with Nicholas McGegan 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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As Christmas and the holiday season fade into pleasant memories, the classical music season begins to ramp up again for what will be a busy 2014.

• The Pasadena Symphony resumes its season next Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium. Nicholas McGegan begins his tenure as the orchestra’s principal guest conductor by leading a program of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with 13-year-old Umi Garrett as soloist.

McGegan, who turns 64 three days after these concerts, has built an illustrious career leading ensembles that perform baroque and older music on period instruments. Since 1985, he has been artistic director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco. However in recent years he has expanded his repertoire to include conducting music from later eras. Two years, he made his Pasadena Symphony debut leading Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”). Last season he and the orchestra played Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

Last year, the PSO announced that McGegan would join its new music director, David Lockington, and Principal Pops Conductor Michael Feinstein, in leading the orchestra’s musical future (LINK). McGegan expects to conduct two classical concerts a year in the next two seasons (Lockington will lead the other three). They make a potent trio for PSO audiences.

Garrett will be making her PSO concert debut in Saturday’s concerts. She appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” at age 8 and last year won first prizes in several competitions, including the 13th Osaka International Music Competition in Japan. She has also won top prizes in two different competitions bearing Chopin’s name, one in Budapest and the other in Hartford, CT (it should be noted that neither are the more prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition, which since 1927 has been held approximately every five years in Warsaw, Poland).

• The Pasadena Master Chorale continues a recent tradition as it joins forces with Los Angeles Daiku and the city of Naruto, Japan, to present a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 next Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre in Little Toyko (244. S. San Pedro St. in downtown Los Angeles). Jeffrey Bernstein will lead the PMC and LA Daiku, orchestra and soloists, along with singers from Japan who will travel to Pasadena to join this performance. Performances of Beethoven’s 9th are a staple around New Year’s in Japan. Information: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

BTW: if you are into comparisons, guest conductor Kazem Abdullah will lead the Pasadena Symphony and Pasadena Singers in performances of Beethoven’s 9th on Feb. 15 at Ambassador Auditorium. The concert will also include a performance of Morten Lauridsen’s Midwinter Songs. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

• The Los Angeles Philharmonic returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday evenings and next Sunday afternoon. Christoph Eschenbach, music director Washington D.C.’s National Symphony, will lead Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto, with Christian Tetzlaf as soloist.

The following weekend (Jan. 17-19), young English conductor Robin Ticcati returns to lead the Phil in music by Ligeti, Schumann and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, with Emmanuel Ax as soloist. The concerts are part of what’s being termed as Ax’s “Brahms Project.” Friday is a “Casual Friday” concert to Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 will be omitted.

Information: www.laphil.com

In case you are wondering, Music Director Gustavo Dudamel returns to the LAPO podium on Feb. 21 as the Phil and Simón Bolivár Symphony Orchestra perform “TchaikovskyFest,” a 10-day long orgy of Tchaikovsky symphonies, concertos and other music. Information: www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Make your holiday season a musical one

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.

Few things better symbolize the Christmas season than music and this year brings an unusually rich assortment of concerts and recitals, beginning with the world-renowned Los Angeles Children’s Chorus presents its midwinter concerts Dec. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. On Saturday, LACC’s Concert and Apprentice Choirs and its Young Men’s Ensemble will perform; the following evening, it’s the Concert and Intermediate Choirs and the Chamber Singers. Info: www.lachildrenschorus.org

The LACC also appears in several other concerts this season, including four performances of the orchestral score for The Nutcracker played by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Dec. 12-15 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. This is the first time that Dudamel has conducted the Phil in December concerts.

For those looking for something other than holiday music, the Phil has two offerings. Next weekend (Thursday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon), Rafael Frubeck de Burgos returns to the Phil podium with two symphonies by Haydn and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Dudamel will lead the Phil in four concerts (Dec. 19-22) that will feature Yuja Wang as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Stravinsky’s score for the ballet Petrushka and Blow bright, a world premiere by Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason, are also on the program. Info on the Phil programs above: www.laphil.com

As usual, the Los Angeles Master Chorale will have an ultra-busy holiday season at Disney Hall beginning on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. with its “Festival of Carols, with 115 singers and organ performing traditional holiday works. This program repeats Dec. 14 at 2 p.m., but as you will see below that’s a really jam-packed day so you might want to consider the first program instead. Info: www.lamc.org

Other LAMC holiday programs are
• “Rejoice! Ceremony of Carols” on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., when Music Director Grant Gershon leads a program of music by Respighi, Vaughan Williams and Stephen Paulus, along with Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, performed as part of the Southland’s “Britten 100/LA” tribute to the centennial of Britten’s birth. Info: www.lamc.org
• Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 15 and 22 at 7 p.m. Gershon leads 48 singers, soloists and a chamber orchestra in this most familiar of Christmas oratorios. Info: www.lamc.org
• “Messiah Sing-Along” on Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Grab your score (or buy one at the door) and join with the Master Chorale and other audience members in singing Handel’s memorable score. Info: www.lamc.org

As noted above, Dec. 14 will be one of those jam-packed evenings that cause concertgoers indigestion because they have so much from which to choose. In addition to the Master Chorale’s “Festival of Carols” listed above, consider:
• The Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday concerts on Dec. 14 at 4 and 7 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper leads the program that will also feature vocalist Lisa Vroman, members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, and the handbell choir, LA Bronze. Info: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
• The Pasadena Master Chorale will offer its Christmas concert of Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bach’s Magnificat at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Pasadena. Info: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org
Pasadena Presbyterian Church will present the 69th annual rendition of its free-admission “Candlelight and Carols” program at 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature the church’s six choirs, two organists and an instrumental ensemble, and will include plenty of audience caroling. The featured work will be On Christmas Night by English composer Bob Chilcott. Info: www.ppcmusic.org
Angeles Chorale will present “Divine Joy: a Christmas Celebration in Music” at 7:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena. Artistic Director John Sutton will conduct the program, which will feature the first part of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Info: www.angeleschorale.org

One organization that chose not to join the Dec. 14 clog is Pasadena Pro Musica, which continues its 50th season the following afternoon at 4 p.m. in Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church. Artistic Director Stephen Grimm leads a program of music by Benjamin Britten and Tomas Luis de Victoria. Info: www.pasadenapromusica.org

In addition to what’s listed above, Disney Hall offers a number of varied holiday programs; my favorite would be “A Chanticleer Christmas,” which features the renowned San Francisco-based all-male a cappella choral ensemble. Info: www.laphil.com

And this list doesn’t include the ongoing Los Angeles Opera’s ongoing production of Verdi’s Falstaff, which concludes its run today at 7 p.m., nor the company’s presentation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which runs through Dec. 15. My preview story on The Magic Flute is HERE and a followup article is HERE. Info the operas: www.laopera.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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.

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.

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.

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

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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:

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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.

 

 

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Choral music dominates the holiday season

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.

 

Choral music always dominates the holiday season and this
year is no different. The next two weeks will bring a plethora of choral
concerts (most, but not all, with a holiday theme) — the problem will be
deciding which ones to attend. Consider this week’s schedule, for example:

 

The Los Angeles
Children’s Chorus

Today and Dec. 11,
both at 7 p.m.

at Pasadena
Presbyterian Church

This world-renowned ensemble, led by Artistic Director Anne
Tomlinson and based in Pasadena, offers its annual midwinter programs. The
Concert Choir (the group’s flagship chorus), Intermediate Choir and Chamber
Singers perform this evening. The Concert Choir, Apprentice Choir and Young
Men’s Ensemble will sing next week. Info:
www.lachildrenschorus.org

Opera Posse: Amahl and the Night Visitors

Friday at 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 picks up from 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
last December, 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

 

Next Saturday offers the mother of all schedule clashes,
including three concerts beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena churches within
walking distance of each other:

The Pasadena Master Chorale sings its “Home for the
Holidays” concert at First Congregational Church, Pasadena. Info: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org

The Angeles Chorale and Da Capo Players Chamber Orchestra
present Handel’s “Messiah” at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena; Info: www.angeleschorale.org

The 66th annual Candlelight and Carols concert
(a free event) is at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Info: www.ppc.net

 

Another offering on Saturday is Masters of Harmony, fresh
off of its eighth consecutive gold medal in the Barbershop Harmony Society
International Competition. Fortunately for those wanting to attend one of the
evening events above, Masters of Harmony will perform at 2 p.m. at Ambassador
Auditorium in Pasadena (there’s another performance at 7:30 p.m.). Info: www.mastersofharmony.org

 

Further updates will be in “Five Spot” each Thursday and in
other posts.

_______________________

 

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

SAME-DAY REVIEW: Pasadena Master Chorale’s 9/11 concert at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Pasadena Master
Chorale; Jeffrey Bernstein, conductor

Sunday, September 11, 2011 La Crescenta Presbyterian
Church

______________________

 

People looking for solace and hope in times of grief often
turn to music and Jeffrey Bernstein, artistic director of the Pasadena Master
Chorale capitalized on that longing on the 10th anniversary of the
9/11 terrorist attacks with a 70-minute concert this afternoon before a
nice-sized audience at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church.

 

The centerpiece of the afternoon was a performance of Faur’s
Requiem, which, as Bernstein noted in a brief talk, is one of the more
hope-filled pieces written in this genre based on the Roman Catholic funeral
liturgy.  However, Bernstein
negated much of the effect of the texts that Faur used by electing to not
provide either printed translations or projections of the Latin and Greek text.

 

Instead, Bernstein concentrated on the composer’s
often-graceful score and led a performance that was usually credible and
occasionally more than that, especially in the Sanctus and In Paradisum movements
where the sopranos sounded quite angelic in their floating lines. Bernstein
also built long arcs of sound in the broader sections, although moments of
intonation insecurity crept in occasionally.

 

The two soloists were exemplary. Soprano Krystle Casey poured
out a lusciously creamy tone in her thoughtful Pie Jesu, while baritone Cedric Berry delivered clear, clarion tone
in his solos during the Offertory and
Libera Me sections. Although the
balance of the program was a cappella, organist Edward Murray was a
disappointingly sloppy accompanist for the Requiem.

 

After opening the concert with the presentation of colors
and the Chorale singing Bernstein’s gentle arrangement of America the Beautiful, Bernstein led three pieces that, as he said,
covered different corners of the American spirit.

 

The simple setting of By
the Waters of Babylon
by Don McLean in his American Pie album was accompanied by 9/11 images assembled by
artist Alex Lopez. A muscular rendition of Virgil Thomson’s arrangement of My Shepherd Will Supply My Need was
notable especially for the Chorale’s diction. Unfortunately, the text was less
understandable in the performance of Ross Lee Finney’s canonic anthem Words to be Spoken. Following the
Requiem, Bernstein and the Chorale curiously elected to encore with Paul
Simon’s America. The performance was
affectionate but, once again, texts would have been helpful.

_______________________

 

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