Five-Spot: What caught my eye on January 19, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Each Thursday morning, I list five events (six this week —
there could have been others) that pique my interest, including — ideally — at
least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets) . Here’s
today’s grouping:



Tonight, tomorrow
and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Adagio from Symphony No. 10

The L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project” kicks into high gear this
weekend beginning with these two works. Symphony No. 1 was the first major
piece that Dudamel conducted (at age 16). The Adagio from Symphony No. 10 is one of two Mahler symphonies for
which these will be inaugural Dudamel traversals. A couple of things to note:

Friday night is a “Casual Friday” concert, so only
the first symphony will be performed. If the Phil follows its normal “CF”
format, a musician will give a brief talk before the performance and a Q&A
will follow; Dudamel customarily appears at the Q&A when he conducts, but
considering his time commitment to the three-week long survey, no promises.
Then there’s a reception in the downstairs where audience members can meet with
the musicians.

Gilbert Kaplan is giving the preconcert lecture, which
will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the main hall. If you’ve never heard of Kaplan, a
writeup is HERE. Although he’s more known for his advocacy of Symphony No. 2,
I’m looking forward to hearing his insights on the first and 10th


Concert information:


Tomorrow and Friday
at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School,
downtown Los Angeles)

James Conlon conducts
“forgotten’ operas

For several years, James Conlon, music director of Los
Angeles Opera, had led “Recovered Voices,” a series of operas written by
composers whose lives and music were suppressed by the Nazi regime. He has a
similar survey, “Breaking the Silence,” at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival (one of
that city’s major summer music festivals).


This weekend, Conlon revives this concept locally when he
conducts The Colburn Orchestra and singers from the Domingo-Thornton Young
Artists in a double-bill: Viktor Ulman’s The
Emperor of Atlantis
(which has was conducted at LAO) and Ernst Krenek’s The Secret Kingdom, which is receiving
its West Coast debut. Conlon will deliver a 45-minute lecture prior to each


Because Zipper Hall has a very small seating capacity,
tickets are extremely limited. Information:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Alex Theatre, Glendale

Sunday at 7 p.m. at
Royce Hall, UCLA

Andrew Shulman
conducts LACO; Nigel Armstrong is soloist

Andrew Shulman, principal cellist of both the Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra and Pasadena Symphony, makes his Los Angeles conducting debut
leading a program of Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Violin Concerto No. 3 and
Walton’s Sonata for Strings. Nigel Armstrong, a former student at The Colburn
School who captured fourth place in last summer’s Tchaikovsky International
Violin Competition, will be the concerto soloist. My story on Shulman is HERE
it includes links to my stories on Armstrong’s strong showing last summer. Information:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Royce Hall, UCLA

Kathleen Battle sings

The former opera diva now focuses exclusively on recitals
and concerts and she appears on the “UCLA Live” series with something that
ought to be right in her wheelhouse: Underground
Railroad: An Evening of Spirituals. P
ianist Cyrus Chestnut and the Albert
McNeil Jubilee Singers are part of the show. Information:


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

Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

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

Mahler’s Symphony No.

The Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela moves into
Walt Disney Concert Hall for its part in the L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project.” On
Sunday, Gustavo Dudamel leads the SBSOV, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and
soloists Miah Persson, soprano, and Christianne
, mezzo-soprano in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection). Dudamel comes back
Tuesday night to lead Symphony No. 3, featuring the SBSOV, women of the L.A.
Master Chorale, L.A. Children’s Chorus, and Stotijn


Two things to note:

Gilbert Kaplan’s preconcert lecture Sunday begins at 6
p.m. in the main auditorium. On Tuesday, somewhat controversial author and
commentator Norman Lebrecht lectures at 7 p.m. in BP Hall.

Both works are long (90-100 minutes each) and will be
presented without intermission.


Information: Symphony
No. 2:

Symphony No. 3:


And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …


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

Frances Nobert’s 75th
Birthday Concert

A fixture on the Southland organ scene for decades, Nobert
appears at PPC with a concert that includes her on the organ and as part of the
Haarlem Keyboard Duo (Nobert on piano and Steve Gentile on organ). After
intermission, Nobert will lead an alumni choir from Grant High School, where
she taught for many years. There’s even an audience-participation part. Information:



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

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on Dec. 1, 2011

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Sorry this post is late. We’ve been without power all day
due to the fierce winds in Southern California (I’m posting this from my local


Each Thursday morning, I list five events (six this week)
that peak my interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission
(or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:



Tomorrow and Saturday
at 8 p.m.;  Sunday at 2 p.m. at
Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Shostakovich

Frankly, it’s a little hard to assess what this concert will
bring — that’s one of the joys of live performances. The headline event on the
program is the world premiere of the Prologue to Orango by Shostakovich but how significant that will be is up in
the air. Asking one composer (in this case, Gerard McBurney) to complete another’s
work is always problematical (Mahler’s 10th symphony is one famous
example) but that’s what has happened here.


The Phil describes this work thusly: “Orango is an unfinished satirical opera
by Shostakovich, sketched [in 1932] while he was writing Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
He and his librettists conceived ‘a political lampoon against the bourgeois
press,’ concerning a human-ape hybrid. Of the projected Prologue and three
acts, only the 40-minute Prologue was completed, in piano vocal score, which
was just discovered in 2006.”  Read
the complete program note HERE.


The Prologue includes parts for 10 soloists and the Los
Angeles Master Chorale. It is being staged by Peter Sellars with lighting by
Ben Zamora. McBurney will offer a preconcert lecture an hour before each
program.  A Los Angeles Times article
on the piece is HERE.


The second half of the program will be Shostakovich’s
Symphony No. 4, which was composed just a few years after Orango. This was the symphony that was not played for 25 years
after it was written, a consequence of the composer’s run-in with Soviet
authorities over Lady Macbeth of the
Mtsensk District.
Laurel E. Fay’s program note says that one of the two
conductors who were eager to conduct the symphony was Otto Klemperer, who at
the time was the L.A. Phil’s music director. Whether the symphony would have
been played in L.A. isn’t spelled out; ultimately the LAPO premiere would not
take place until 1989 under the baton of Andr Previn. (Read the full program
note HERE).


By the way, expect this program to last a bit longer than a
normal concert. The Prologue to Orango
is 40 minutes long and the symphony, one of Shostakovich’s longest, takes an
hour. The orchestration for the symphony (2 piccolos, 4 flutes, 4 oboes (4th =
English horn), 4 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 8 horns, 4
trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 timpani, percussion (bass drum, castanets,
cymbals, orchestra bells, snare drum, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone), 2 harps,
celesta, and strings) is the largest of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies. Information:


Saturday at 2 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale’s “Holiday Wonders: Festival of Carols”

Grant Gershon leads 62 members of the Master Chorale in a
program of carols and John Rutter’s Gloria
accompanied by John West on the Disney Hall Organ. The program repeats Dec. 10
at 2 p.m. Information:


Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena

Pasadena Symphony
Holiday Program

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:


Saturday at 8 p.m.
at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Jacaranda presents
Anonymous 4

This world-renowned female vocal ensemble, celebrating its
25th anniversary, specializes in Medieval and Renaissance music but
this program features the first section of an evening-length work, The Wood and the Vine, by David Lang,
who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his composition, The Little Match Girl Passion. The evening will also include
selections from the ensemble’s CDs. Brian
in “Out West Arts” has one of his informative “Ten Questions” posts with the
ensemble’s Susan Hellauer HERE. Concert


And the weekend’s “free admission” programs …

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium

The Colburn Orchestra
plays Mahler’s Symphony No. 5

Be forewarned: the free tickets are listed as “add to wait
list” on the school’s Web site and the VIP tickets are sold out. Nonetheless,
the concert is worth mentioning because whenever a student orchestra — even one
as good as Colburn — tackles Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, it counts as both an
event and a challenge.


Guest Conductor Gerard Schwarz leads the ensemble in
Mahler’s fifth 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 (from
which he retired earlier this year), Schwarz held a similar position with the
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which used to perform in Ambassador during
Schwarz’s tenure. Information:


Monday at 7:45 p.m.
at Pasadena Neighborhood Church

Los Angeles Chapter
of American Guild of Organists Holiday program

Organists Andrea Anderson and Nancy Ruczynski perform on the
church’s historic Bozeman organ, while Dr. Timothy Howard leads The Pasadena
Singers in holiday music from around the world (full disclosure: I sing with
The Pasadena Singers, so — as the late, great Molly Ivins was wont to say, take
the recommendation with a grain of salt or a pound of salt). Information:



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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: The Colburn Orchestra opens season at Ambassador Auditorium

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



The Colburn
Orchestra; Yehuda Gilad, conductor; Francisca da Pasquale, violin

Berlioz: Roman
Carnival Overture,
Dvorak: Violin Concerto

Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures
at an Exhibition

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 Ambassador Auditorium

Next concert: Oct. 22




Although experience and maturity count for much in the
classical music world, there’s also something to be said for youthful
exuberance, especially when its married to the kind of exceptional talent that
permeates the student body at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles.


Colburn is the west coast equivalent of The Juilliard School
in New York City or the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and the school’s
flagship ensemble, The Colburn Orchestra, opened its 2011-2012 season last
night in impressive fashion before a full house at Ambassador Auditorium.
Although approximately 30 percent of the orchestra turns over annually and
school has been in session only a few weeks, Music Director Yehuda Gilad had
his young charges playing with precision, power and musicality throughout the


Gilad and Co. opened with a performance of Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture that was
sumptuous and spirited, depending on the composer’s wishes. As they did all
evening, the string sections produced deep, sonorous tones in the welcoming
Ambassador Auditorium acoustic and English horn principal John Winstead got
things rolling with his plaintive solo lines.


Choosing Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is a good way
to show off any orchestra’s virtuosity and The Colburn Orchestra has that in
abundance. Gilad led a sensitive, highly individual performance of this
familiar work, emphasizing silences effectively and letting his principals and
sections shine. That list includes Trumpeter Joseph Brown, Tubist Spencer
Brown, the entire brass section and the full woodwind contingent.


Gilad had some distinctive ideas with regard to tempos. Bydlo (the oxcart) was something of a turbocharged
vehicle and Baba Yaga (The Hut on Fowl’s
also raced forward, but the latter led to a majestic rendition of The Great Gate of Kiev that concluded
the evening gloriously.


Prior to intermission, 20-year-old Francesca dePasquale, a
senior in the Bachelor of Music program at The Colburn Conservatory, delivered
a polished reading of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. DePasquale (a student of Robert
Lipsett at Colburn) displayed a silvery tone and impressive technique
throughout the performance, although her tone turned edgy occasionally in the
final movement. She played the middle-movement theme with great sweetness and
danced her way impressively through the final movement’s lighter moments. She
also smiled more during the final movement dispelling the mood of her grimaces
in the previous movements. The winner of last year’s Irving M. Klein String
Competition in San Francisco, dePasquale (who is serving this year as one of
the orchestra’s concertmasters) is clearly a talent to watch in the future.


Gilad and the orchestra offered sympathetic accompaniment to
dePasquale, and the audience — which obviously included fellow students, parents
and other Colburn supporters — responded exuberantly, as it did for all three




One of the finer advantages of attending Colburn Orchestra
concerts are the comprehensive and erudite music notes written by Colburn
students — in this case, violist Matthew Cohen, violinist and pianist Bora Kim,
and oboist Titus Underwood, all of whom played in the orchestra.

DePasquale clearly comes from a musical family; among the
people she lists in her bio as mentors are four people with the last name of

Given that the 1,400 free tickets for last night’s concert
were distributed a week before the concert, you might want to sign up now to
make sure you don’t get shut out for the Oct. 22 concert. Click HERE for

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the
birth of Richard D. Colburn, the school’s founder and namesake.



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

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NEWS AND LINKS: Colburn Orchestra to perform five concerts at Ambassador Auditorium

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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


After several seasons of “wandering in the wilderness,” The
Colburn Orchestra has settled on Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium as its home
for the five concerts of its 2011-2012 season. Moreover, in addition to hearing
one of the nation’s top conservatory orchestras, the price is right: free.


Although perhaps not as well known as its east coast
counterparts, The Colburn School is the west coast equivalent of institutions
such as The Juilliard School in New York City, Curtis Institute of Music in
Philadelphia and Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. The Colburn Orchestra is
the school’s flagship ensemble and many of its alumni have gone on to major
orchestras in the U.S. and beyond, as well as to solo and teaching careers. Its
concertmaster last season, Nigel Armstrong, won fourth prize in this summer’s
Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow (LINK).


Why Ambassador? In addition to being one of the nation’s
premiere concert halls, Ambassador is a logical choice because the school’s
main performing space, Zipper Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, is not big
enough — either in stage size or seating capacity — to handle major orchestra


The 2011-2012 Colburn Orchestra season will open on Sept. 24
when Music Director Yehuda Gilad leads a program of Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, the
Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an
and Dvorak’s Violin Concerto with Francesca dePasquale, winner
of the 24th Irving M. Klein String Competition in 2010, as soloist.


Other concerts:

Oct. 22: Gilad
will conduct Brahms Symphony No. 3 and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with
Colburn Conservatory cellist Estelle Choi as soloist.

Dec. 3: Gerard
Schwarz, who recently completed a 25-year tenure as music director of the
Seattle Symphony, returns to Ambassador to conduct The Colburn Orchestra in
Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Toru Takemitsu’s From Me Flows What You Call Time, which will feature the percussion
ensemble “Smoke and Mirrors.” When Schwarz was music director of the Los
Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1978 to 1986, the orchestra’s home was
Ambassador Auditorium.

Feb. 4: One of
the nation’s top mezzo-sopranos, Sasha Cooke, joins Gilad and the orchestra in Am I In Your Light? from John Adams’
opera Dr. Atomic and Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder. The program concludes
with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.

March 3:
Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver Symphony for the past nine
years and principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at
Hollywood Bowl for the past three years, leads The Colburn Orchestra in Richard
Strauss’ tone poem Ein Heldenleben and
Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, with Conservatory pianist Sichen Ma as soloist.


More information HERE



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

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PREVIEW AND LINK: Camerata Pacifica opens 22nd season in September

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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


For more than two decades, Camerata Pacifica has achieved an
enviable reputation both for the quality of its performances and the mileage it
puts on its cars. The chamber-music group performs five concerts in four
locales from Santa Barbara to Pasadena each month from September through May
(except for December).


Its 22nd season will begin next month (including recitals
on Sept. 20 at The Huntington Library in San Marino and Sept. 22 at The Colburn
School’s Zipper Hall) with a program that features Joanne Pearce Martin,
principal keyboardist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic who was a Camerata
Pacifica member for 10 years.


Martin will join with another acclaimed local pianist, Vicki
Ray, CP Artistic Director Adrian Spence on flute, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, and
percussionists Ji Hye Jung, Doug Perkins, Michael Zell and Svet Stoyanov for
music by Rachmaninoff, Crumb, De Mey and Reich.


The October concerts (including Oct. 18 at The Huntington
and Oct. 20 at Zipper Hall) will celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of
Franz Liszt (on Oct. 22) with pianist Adam Neiman discussing and playing the
composer’s Transcendental Etudes.


For information on the season’s other six concerts and
details on the opening program, click HERE.



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

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