PROFILE: Stephen Hartke is ready for a long-delayed closeup

hurricanemama_headBy Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor.
Barber: Toccata Festiva; Cameron Carpenter, organist
Hartke: Symphony No. 4; Joanne Pearce Martin, organist, Heidi Stober, soprano
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”); Cameron Carpenter, organist
• Nov. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. Nov. 22 at 2 p.m.
NOTE: In place of a preconcert recital, Cameron Carpenter will play a recital at 6:45 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com
• Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa
Same program; Rich Capparella will give a preconcert lecture at 1 p.m.
Information: 949/553-2422; www.philharmonicsociety.org
_______________________

HartkeMore than four years after it was supposed to debut, Symphony No. 4 by Stephen Hartke (right) will finally get its world premiere during a highly appropriate weekend, as the Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall with concerts on Nov. 20, 21, 22 and 23.

LAPO Music Director Gustavo Dudamel will conduct the programs, which will include Barber’s Toccata Festiva and Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”), with Cameron Carpenter as the soloist.

What makes Harke’s three-movement work appropriate is that he always intended it to be a symphony for orchestra with organ. “It’s not an organ concerto,” says the 62-year-old Glendale resident, who has taught composition at the USC Thornton School of Music for 27 years. “My idea all along was to use the organ as an integral part of the orchestra, as a fifth choir, so to speak [Ed. Note: along with strings, winds, brass and percussion]. It’s the largest symphony that I have written — when you have as big an instrument as the Disney Hall organ, you have to respond to it.”

Symphony No. 4 was originally scheduled to be the in the final concert of Dudamel’s inaugural season in 2009-2010 but a combination of circumstances caused a delay. “Some pieces take a long to write; some pieces don’t,” he explains with a shrug. “Along the way I had other pieces to write, so here we are.”

During the past decade the work also underwent a significant change. “I happened upon a [Frederico Garcia] Lorca “gypsy ballad” poem, Sleepwalking Ballad,” relates Hartke, “and so the end of the symphony became like Mahler 4, where the main drama of the piece has been played out and you have an aria at the end, a reflection on some of the issues in the piece, that kind of takes the piece in a different direction.”

Why Lorca? “I don’t know precisely why Sleepwalking Ballad struck me as a fitting ending for the piece,” concedes Hartke, “but once I read it I couldn’t get it out of my head. Lorca’s poetry is very vivid and serene at the same time.” (Read the poem’s text HERE) American soprano Heidi Stober will sing the poetic ballad in this weekend’s performances.

Perhaps it was ordained that Hartke would write this work. “I’ve been wanting to write a piece for organ for a long time,” says Hartke, who was composer-in-residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1988 to 1992. When he was an undergrad at UC Santa Barbara he served for a time as organist for a small church in Isla Vista, “but I wouldn’t boast about it,” he admits with a chuckle.

However as he came to know the Disney Hall organ, he fell in love with it. “I got to spend a fair amount of time with the instrument on off hours and holidays and decided on a kind of palette of things I wanted to do,” he explains.

“In the first movement the organist mostly plays single line but it does things that only the organ can do, such as shaking the floor a little bit. In the middle section, I use registrations that create colors, and overtones to create sounds that are almost like what you get in percussion and strings. In the last movement I let the organist pull out all the stops, to use that metaphor in its literal sense. In the end, it turned out to be a more extensive part that I expected it would be.”

Martin_playing4WebIt was also a piece that was written specifically for the L.A. Phil under a commission from Edward Halvajian (1935-2009), former chairman of the Orange County Philharmonic Society. “It was my plan in the beginning to write a piece that would use the entire roster of the orchestra,” he says.

Joanne Pearce Martin (pictured right playing the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ) — who has been the orchestra’s principal keyboard player since 2001 and will be playing the organ part — is excited about the upcoming premiere. “I can’t wait to hear the piece with the orchestral,” she said earlier this week. “So far, all I’ve been able to do is visualize the orchestral part in my mind from studying the whole score. The organ part is very colorful, very intricate; there’s a lot of weaving in and out of the orchestra. It’s a very beautiful piece.. I think it’s going to be great.”

The premiere will put Hartke in the spotlight, which also happened in 2013 when he won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. His Meanwhile — Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays was recorded by eighth Blackbird, which also won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance that year.

“It wasn’t a surprise that eight Blackbird got a Grammy for the disc,” say Hartke, “but it was a surprise that I got it. I’ve never kept track of the Grammys; it was amusing to go to the ceremony. It probably meant more to my students than to me. I just have this funny-looking thing in the other room that I have to dust once in awhile.”
_______________________

(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email

PREVIEW: Orange County Philharmonic Society unveils 2014-2015 season

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

Season schedules for 2014-2015 are beginning to filter into email boxes and although the Orange County Philharmonic wasn’t first off the block (that “honor” went to the Long Beach Symphony — INFO),the OCPS announcement is noteworthy because it usually gives a tease of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s upcoming Walt Disney Concert Hall season.

The L.A. Phil and Music Director Gustavo Dudamel will journey to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa on Sunday, Nov. 23 for an afternoon concert that will feature what’s being termed the world premiere of Stephen Hartke’s long-delayed Symphony No. 4 “Organ.” The Hartke piece was originally scheduled to debut in May, 2010.

Also on the program are Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (also subtitled “Organ”) and Barber’s Toccata Festiva for Organ and Orchestra. Cameron Carpenter and the Phil’s own keyboard virtuoso, Joanne Pearce Martin, will be the soloists, playing the hall’s William J. Gillespie Concert Organ.

Assuming that this is not, in fact, the world premiere of the Hartke piece — i.e., if we presume that this performance will follow concerts in Disney Hall with the same program — that cycle will give organ lovers a chance to compare the Segerstrom Concert Hall Organ with Disney Hall’s much larger instrument.

The OC organ, a “tracker” or mechanical action organ built by C.B. Fisk, Inc. of Gloucester, Mass., has 4,322 pipes in 75 ranks with 57 stops. It was first played in concert in 2008. Glatter-Götz of Germany built the Disney Hall instrument under the tonal direction and voicing of Manuel Rosales and its first concerts were in 2004. The Disney Hall is much larger than its OC counterpart: 6,125 pipes in 109 ranks with 72 stops. Reflecting its Fisk design concept, the OC organ sounds much brighter than the Disney Hall instrument; its bright metal pipes also provide a much different look from the “overturned French fries” façade in Disney Hall, which was designed by Frank Gehry. The comparisons will be fun and instructive.

The upcoming OCPS schedule could easily have been termed “The British are Coming, The British Are Coming.” The season opens Oct. 11 when Vladimir Jurowski conducts the London Philharmonic in music by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky (Symphony No. 6) along with Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet as soloist.

Also coming across the pond is the London Symphony Orchestra, led by Michael Tilson Thomas on March 28, in a program including Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, and Gershwin Piano Concerto in F with Yuja Wang as soloist.

As part of a 50th anniversary season tour, the Monteverdi Choir makes appearances at Segerstrom Hall April 24 and 25, 2015 led by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. The first concert is Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and the second is that composer’s L’Orfeo. The English Baroque Soloists accompanies the choir.

Other orchestras on the schedule:
The Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek on Nov. 14, with a program of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony paired with Liszt’s second piano concerto, with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist.
The Rotterdam Philharmonic, led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, on Feb. 11, 2015 in a meaty program of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Hélène Grimaud as soloist.
The Venice Baroque Orchestra on Feb. 28, 2015 playing with Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital.
• The State Symphony of Mexico, commemorating the 40th anniversary of its first U.S. Tour, on March 5, 2015, with Enrique Batiz conducting a program of two works by Manuel Maria Ponce: his Piano Concerto, with Irina Chistiakova as soloist, and Concierto del Sur, with Alfonso Moreno as guitar soloist. Music by Rimsky-Korsokov and Borodin rounds out the evening.

The season also includes recitals and chamber-music concerts, some at Segerstrom Hall and others at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. One of those evenings will be a salute to Carl St.Clair’s 25th anniversary as music director of the Pacific Symphony. Another will performances of the Mark Morris Dance Company’s production of Dido & Aeneas on May 15 and 16.

The complete media release is HERE: www.philharmonicsociety.org

Subscriptions are now on sale (Info: www.philharmonic society.org). Single tickets are scheduled to go on sale this summer.
_______________________

(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Email