By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
Philharmonic; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Ligeti: Atmostpheres; Wagner:
Prelude to Lohengrin
(Magdalena Kozen, soprano)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
Tonight, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
“Once upon a time … “
In 1979, a 24-year-old, curly haired conductor named Simon
Rattle (pictured left) made his U.S. conducting debut leading the Los Angeles
Philharmonic. Two years later, he was named one of the Phil’s Principal Guest
Conductors (the other was Michael Tilson Thomas) and held that post for nine years.
Rumor has it that Rattle’s relationship with then-LAPO
Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann turned acrimonious; neither Rattle in his
official bio nor the Phil acknowledge this intriguing bit of history (not since
Sir Simon — he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 — and MTT has the
LAPO had an official principal guest conductor).
Suffice to say, Sir Simon’s visits to Los Angeles have been
sparse, so this weekend’s concerts with the Phil (the first time he has
conducted the Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall) are a definite must-see. The
program features Mahler’s Rckert-Lieder,
with Rattle’s wife, Magdalena Kozen, as soloist; Bruckner’s Symphony No.
9; and music by Ligeti and Wagner.
Whether and how extensively the relationship between Rattle
and the LAPO could have developed will always be a matter of speculation. In
1980, he returned to his native England to become Principal Conductor and
Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and eventually
the CBSO’s Music Director. During his 19-year-tenure he turned a provincial
orchestra into a world-class ensemble.
At the same time, he was developing an extensive
relationship with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra through regular
guest-conducting stints. In 2002, the orchestra’s musicians voted to make
Rattle their principal conductor. Although the vote was not unanimous, Rattle
eventually won over the musicians, audiences and local critics and his contract
was later extended through the 2018 season.
This will be a busy weekend for Rattle. In addition to the
Phil concerts, he will lead the YOLA at EXPO Chamber Orchestra on Saturday in a
performance of the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 as the opening segment
of a Youth Orchestra Festival Day at Disney Hall (Info: www.laphil.com).
It’s also the beginning of stellar month at Disney Hall. The
New York Philharmonic comes to town Wednesday night and LAPO Music Director
Gustavo Dudamel returns to town Thursday to round out the month and 2011-2012
season with a series of interesting concerts that I’ll preview in an upcoming
post. (May calendar information: www.laphil.com)
For now, Sir Simon and the LAPO are enough of a reason to get downtown to
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.