OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Crazy 8th concludes the L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project”

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Saturday, February 4, 2012 Shrine Auditorium

Next performance:

Today at 2 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

The numbers for last night’s performance of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8 at the Shrine Auditorium were impressive: 190 instrumentalists
(91 from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and 99 from the Simn Bolivr Symphony
Orchestra of Venezuela), 813 singers from 16 local choruses (according to a
fact-filled article by David Ng in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times — LINK), eight soloists … and, oh yes, one
31-year-old maestro, Gustavo Dudamel, who was conducting the piece for the
first time.

 

It’s one of the few times that a performance has achieved
the work’s subtitle “Symphony of a Thousand” (a name attached not by Mahler,
who disapproved of it, but Emil Gutmann, promoter of the inaugural performance
on Sept. 12, 1910 in Munich).

 

However, in this case, the numbers don’t really begin to
describe what occurred last night. Picture in your mind the auditorium’s
mammoth stage: more than 100 feet wide by nearly 70 feet deep, large enough
that the Los Angeles Lakers and USC Trojans each have played basketball games
on it.

 

Yet it wasn’t big enough for last night’s performance of
Mahler’s 8th. To shoehorn in 1,000 musicians, the Phil had to build
an extension that doubled the depth of the stage (and reduced the seating
capacity by about 800 seats, to 5,400). The Phil also constructed 18 risers to
accommodate the choristers, who took 10 minutes to get on stage. Gigantic video
screens on the left and right sides of the hall provided images a la Hollywood
Bowl and projected translations of the text.

 

It all looked very impressive and there were many
spine-tingling moments, but at the conclusion I came away with the feeling that
less would have been more.

 

Aside from the massive expense involved, shifting Mahler’s 8th
from Walt Disney Concert Hall (where the other 16 concerts in the Phil’s
“Mahler Project” had been played) to the Shrine meant some serious acoustic
compromises. Although the combined orchestra was heard clearly, the ensembles
often swamped the soloists and the 100+ members of the Los Angeles Children’s
Chorus and National Children’s Chorus in the cavernous Shrine space.

 

Having Dudamel nearly 100 feet away from the back row of
choristers and 50 feet away from the farthest reaches of the instrumentalists
presented some major coordination issues; what’s amazing is how cohesive the
performance sounded most of the time, although were some shaky moments.
Finally, although the electronic organ imported for the performance wasn’t as
weak as the one at Hollywood Bowl when Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler’s 8th
a few years ago, it paled in comparison to the sound that would been produced
by the Disney Hall pipe organ.

 

Dudamel, who conducted with a score for the first time in
“The Mahler Project,” relied on many of the same propensities in this performance
(which clocked in at about 85 minutes) as he has shown in the other 8.5
symphonies of the three-week-long survey. He slowed tempos in the delicate
moments or when the soloists were singing and put his foot on the pedal as he
propelled the powerful moments forward. Soft passages (especially at the
beginning of the second movement) were ethereal; loud moments hurled
thunderbolts.

 

The opening movement (which is based on the medieval Latin
hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus), opened
and closed with massive walls of sound; the ending was augmented by a large
brass choir perched in one of the old opera boxes to the far left of the stage.
One advantage to a 100-foot-wide stage is that, with the women at the outside
of the risers, the ensemble really sounded like the double chorus that Mahler
wrote for. Considering the difficulty of merging 800+ singers from 16 choruses
(comprised of professional and amateur singers), the ensemble was remarkably
precise for most of the performance. When they were heard, the seven soloists
were uniformly strong (the eighth, soprano Kiera Duffy, doesn’t appear in the
first movement).

 

The second movement, Mahler’s conception of the final scene
from Goethe’s Faust, Part II, opens
with orchestra alone and Dudamel and the instrumentalists captured the
mysterious nature of Mahler’s writing effectively. The only shaky choral
moments came during their soft entrance (for which the singers were seated),
but they rallied smartly as the movement progressed. With a score in front of
him, the need to be ultra-precise with his stick movements, and the worry about
keeping everything together, Dudamel looked less relaxed than he has during the
rest of the “Project” concerts but, with the offstage brass choir again
punctuating the final measures, the movement and the symphony ended in a blaze
of glory, after which The Dude looked as if he was ready to collapse from
exhaustion.

 

One supposes that concluding “The Mahler Project” in this
grandiose manner was a given in a town where Hollywood reigns but, as we
learned last night, more is not always more. Although last night’s performance was a valiant effort by all concerned, let’s hope that is was also a “one-off” performance (well, “two-off,” since it’s being played again on Feb. 18 in Caracas) and that when Dudamel decides to reprise Mahler’s 8th in the future, he will use a single orchestra and 250 or so choristers in Disney Hall. “Symphony of 350″ may not have
the same catchy ring for marketing purposes, but it makes far more musical
sense.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

For the record: the soloists were Manuela Uhl,
Julianna Di
Giacomo
, and Kiera Duffy, sopranos;
 Anna Larsson
and Charlotte
Hellekant
, altos; Burkhard
Fritz
, tenor; Brian
Mulligan
, baritone; and Alexander
Vinogradov
, bass. Fritz was ill but overcame it to sing
solidly.

The choruses were:

Los Angeles
Master Chorale
, Grant Gershon, music director;

Los Angeles
Children’s Chorus
, Anne Tomlinson, artistic director;

Angeles
Chorale
, John Sutton, artistic director and conductor;

Pacific
Chorale
, John Alexander, artistic director;

Gay Men’s
Chorus of Los Angeles
, E. Jason Armstrong, artistic director;

Angel City Chorale, Sue
Fink, artistic director;

Choir of All
Saints Church, Pasadena
, James Walker, director of music;

Chorus of the
Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles
, Charles Dickerson,
music director and conductor;

Los Angeles
Chamber Choir
, Chung Uk Lee, music director;

Los Robles
Master Chorale
, Lesley Leighton, artistic director;

National
Children’s Chorus
, Luke McEndarfer, artistic director;

Pasadena Pro
Musica
, Stephen Grimm, director;

Pasadena
Master Chorale
, Jeffrey Bernstein, artistic director;

Philippine
Chamber Singers – Los Angeles
, Anthony Angelo Francisco, artistic
director and conductor;

Renaissance
Arts Academy
, Ross Chitwood/Will Johnson, artistic directors;

Vox Femina
Los Angeles
, Iris S. Levine, artistic director.

Gershon served
as overall chorus master.

Some of the choristers wore choir robes, colorful dresses
and other uniforms, which helped break up the “concert black” wall of the other
singing groups.

The evening’s principals were split between the LAPO and
SBSOV. The organist, Pablo Castellanos, was from the Bolivars; Joanne Pearce
Martin, the Phil’s keyboard principal, played piano.

Following this afternoon’s final performance of Symphony
No. 9, everyone decamps to Caracas, Venezuela. Dudamel’s Web site lists the
SBSOV beginning the Venezuela cycle with a performance of Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) on Feb. 8, followed by
Symphony No. 3 the next day and Symphony No. 5 on Feb. 10. Interestingly, all
of these performances are simply listed as “Caracas,” with no hall given. The
Phil picks up the cycle on Feb. 12 (Symphony No. 1), 13 (No. 4), 14, (No. 6)
and 17 (No. 9), all in the Simn Bolivr Hall in Caracas. The orchestras and
Caracas singers (one report has placed the total number at 1,600) will combine
for Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 18 at Caracas’ Teresa Carreo — that performance
will be telecast in movie theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of
the “LA Phil LIVE” series. Unless Gustavo’s Web site inadvertently omitted it,
Symphony No. 7 won’t be performed in Caracas.

_______________________

 

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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Bottom of the 9th for L.A. Phil’s “Mahler Project”

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Friday, February 3, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances:

Tonight at 8 Shrine Auditorium

Mahler: Symphony No. 8 (Symphony
of a Thousand)

Information:
www.laphil.com

Tomorrow at 2 p.m. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Information:
www.laphil.com

______________________

 

It would certainly be understandable if last night’s
performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 was less than spellbinding.

 

For one thing, Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles
Philharmonic have spent the last month (along with the Simn Bolivr Symphony
Orchestra of Venezuela) performing Mahler’s 9 symphonies (plus a song cycle)
in the Phil’s “Mahler Project.” By the conclusion of tomorrow’s concert,
Dudamel will have led 17 concerts in 24 days, all from memory. And there’s no
rest on the horizon: the orchestras fly to Caracas where they begin the cycle
again on Wednesday (see Hemidemisemiquavers
below for details).

 

This week, the Phil has been sandwiching rehearsals of the 9th
and 8th symphonies between programs (including the 7th
Tuesday night). Yesterday morning, the Phil, SBOV and eight soloists and 800+
choristers spent 2 hours polishing Mahler’s 8th (which plays tonight
at the Shrine Auditorium) about 12 hours after the end of Thursday night’s
performance of Symphony No. 9 and about seven hours before last night’s rendition.

 

 

So the Phil — and in particular, Dudamel — must be verging
on exhaustion but you’d never know it by last night’s performance of Symphony
No. 9. Adrenaline can be a wonderful thing for a performer and it surely must
be driving Gustavo at this point. The orchestra’s playing was astounding — I’m
not sure I’ve ever heard them play better.

 

Much has been said and written about this last symphony that
Mahler completed (click HERE for Herbert Glass’ program note). Like many
commentators, Glass calls it a “farewell symphony,” but preconcert lecturer Dr.
Marilyn McCoy argued (persuasively, I think) that, rather than depicting
sadness, Mahler wrote the piece “with a passionate love of life.”

 

Although by 1907, Mahler had been diagnosed with the heart
condition that would ultimately contribute to his death four years later and
had suffered deaths of many siblings and a daughter, McCoy noted that when
Mahler began writing Symphony No. 9 in 1909, he was in fact in good health and
looking forward to a new season with what would become the New York
Philharmonic, both which call into question (in her mind, at any rate) whether
this was, indeed, a “farewell.”

 

It’s also worth noting when approaching a performance of
Symphony No. 9 that the piece — as do many of Mahler’s works — looks backward
to the last part of the 19th century but is also a precursor to the
music that would come that would come in the 20th. Glass quotes
English composer-musicologist Deryck Cooke as believing “that the overall
structure of the 9th Symphony was influenced by the layout of
Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony
(1893) with its two huge slow movements surrounding a steady dance and fast
march.” On the other hand, 20th century composers such as Berg,
Schoenberg and Webern were certainly influenced by Mahler’s music (Cooke even
adds Shostakovich to that mix).

 

To that latter list, I would add Bartok. While Mahler wrote
no concertos by name, Symphony No. 9 — to my ears — is as much a Concerto for
Orchestra as it is a symphony. Nearly every principal player and every section
get their moment — sometimes many moments — in the solo spotlight. All were
uniformly brilliant last night, although Principal Horn Andrew Bain has to
merit a special nod for his stellar work. It’s also worth noting that Dudamel
had the wind principals — David Buck, flute; Whitney Crockett, bassoon; Carolyn
Hove, English horn; Adriana Ghez, oboe; and Michelle Zukovsky, clarinet — stand
first for solo bows following the performance.

 

One other takeaway from last night’s performance is how much
Dudamel and the Phil have grown together during the last year. They played this
symphony at about this time in 2011 and then took it on a European tour but
last night’s performance was less edgy and far richer than what we heard last
winter. That kind of artistic growth bodes well for the future.

 

Dudamel seemed to adopt the positive outlook espoused by
McCoy about the symphony. His tempos were often vigorous, but never rushed
tempos in the performance, which clocked in last night at 87 minutes. Although
I don’t usually compare performance timings, last night’s concert finished a
minute under the recording that Carlo Maria Giulini made with the Chicago
Symphony in 1976. Even that is somewhat misleading, since Dudamel waited about
a minute after the first movement ended for latecomers to be seated and 35 seconds
elapsed from the time the final note “melted into the ethereal blue” (to use
Bruno Walter’s evocative description) and the standing ovation began (it wasn’t
really 35 seconds of silence due to a good deal of coughing, but impressive
nonetheless).

 

The first three movements were quite propulsive at least
compared to Giulini’s recording. The first movement last night was particularly
noteworthy for the burnished sound from the entire brass section. Dudamel paced
the second movement’s Lndler (an
Austrian folk dance) with stately grandeur while the intruding rustic village
dances were more pulsating (Mahler called for them to be “heavy footed”). The
third movement’s outer sections were brisk, while the inner portion — which
looks forward to the final movement Adagio
– was lushly expansive.

 

In the final movement, with echoes of Symphony No. 3′s
finale, the strings poured out luxurious sound and the interplay between
strings, Crockett and Bain was magical. Incidentally, last night’s final
movement took four minutes longer than did Giulini — something I wouldn’t have
realized without checking the recording timing. The entire 29 minutes seemed to
float by gloriously.

 

For those in attendance Thursday night and last night, the
final episode of “The Mahler Project” will be the massive Symphony No. 8 at the
Shrine Auditorium, which is about as far from the 9th as you can
get. However, in some ways, I think those who are concluding with the Symphony
No. 9 on Sunday afternoon at Disney Hall may be ending on a more appropriate
note.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

McCoy proved to be a nice academic bookend to Stephen
Hefling, who began the preconcert lectures what seems like an eon ago with a
discussion of Symphonty No. 4. Hefling and McCoy were quite different in style
from Gilbert Kaplan and Norman Lebrecht but one of the superb aspects of the
entire project was this quartet of lecturers.

Philadelphia Inquirer Music Critic Peter Dobrin is
reporting that Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Trombonist Nitzan Haroz will
join the L.A. Phil in a similar position in August. Haroz has been with the
Philadelphia Orchestra since 1995. (LINK)

The performances of the 9th are being recorded
for future release. Although last night’s performance had a great deal of
coughing, there were no cell phones that went off as occurred seconds after the
conclusion Thursday night.

Dudamel’s Web site lists the SBSOV beginning the Venezuela
cycle with a performance of Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
on Feb. 8, followed by Symphony No. 3 the next day and Symphony No. 5 on Feb.
10. Interestingly, all of these performances are simply listed as “Caracas,”
with no hall given. The Phil picks up the cycle on Feb. 12 (Symphony No. 1), 13
(No. 4), 14, (No. 6) and 17 (No. 9), all in the Simn Bolivr Hall in Caracas.
The orchestras (and 800+ singers) will combine for Symphony No. 8 on Feb. 18 at
the Teresa Carreo in Caracas — that performance will be telecast in movie
theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of the “LA Phil LIVE” series.
Unless Gustavo’s Web site inadvertently omitted it, Symphony No. 7 won’t be
performed in Caracas.

_______________________

 

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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Gustavo Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic play Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 6

Friday, January 27, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances:
Tonight at 8, tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

Of all of Mahler’s 9.5 symphonies (10.5, if you count Das Lied von der Erde as a symphony),
No. 6 is probably the strangest (although some might vote for No. 7). At a
glance the 6th looks like a traditional format — four movements with
titles that read pretty much like standard symphonic fare — but when you hear
it there’s not much traditional about how it plays out. The contrasts are
formidable: lyrical one moment, then grotesque, then grandiose. It moves from
weird to wonderful and back over 87 minutes (last night).

 

In some ways, Symphony No. 6 looks backward towards the 19th
century of Brahms, Wagner and Richard Strauss; it also looks forward to what
would come, including the atonal music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern, to the
20th and even the 21st centuries. During his preconcert
lecture, Asadour Santourian quoted Mahler as saying that to understand the
sixth symphony, you have to know the other five, so hearing it within the
context of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Mahler Project” certainly fulfilled
that requirement for many people. Nonetheless, I have never completely grasped
the piece and still don’t, even after a sweeping performance by Gustavo Dudamel
and the Los Angeles Philharmonic last night.

 

Among the work’s intriguing aspects:

Mahler began the piece in the summer of 1903, one of the
happiest times of his life personally and professionally. Yet in the fourth
movement he wrote of the downfall of his “hero” (and/or of himself) by
inserting three massive hammer blows that were, as he later wrote, “on whom [the
hero] falls three blows of fate, the last of which fells him as a tree is
felled.”

 

When he revised the work, Mahler omitted the third hammer
blow as being too agonizing — some conductors play the work with two hammer
blows, others with three (Dudamel reportedly rehearsed it with three yesterday
morning but in last night’s performance omitted the third).

 

Incidentally, Mahler’s hammer is not a stick beating on a
bass drum or timpani. The Phil’s mallet looks like it was pilfered from the
“ring the bell” game at a carnival and it was pounded on a wooden box that
measured about four feet long by four feet high and two feet deep — the
percussionist had to mount steps to whack the top of the box.

 

Mahler originally wrote the Scherzo as the second movement, then later reversed its order with
the Andante. Throughout the
subsequent century, conductors have performed the symphony following one order
or the other. Last night’s printed program called for the LAPO perform it with scherzo followed by andante, Dudamel reversed the order and management added a slip
sheet into the program to announce the change.

 

The hammer is just one of a large number of percussion
instruments that Mahler employs during the symphony. The list includes snare
drum, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone, glockenspiel, two sets of cowbells (one
onstage, the other offstage), offstage bells, two sets of timpani, and three
pair of giant cymbals that at one point are played together. The work is also
scored for two harps and two celestas.

 

As he has done throughout the cycle, Dudamel conducted
without a score, but unlike other performances, this one emphasized propulsive
energy rather than languid tempos. The Philharmonic was again in top form
throughout the evening. For all of the massive fortissimo outbursts, what stood
out for me was the Andante with
luscious string sounds interspersed with exquisite solo work from Ariana Ghez,
oboe; Carolyn Hove, English horn, Michelle Zukovsky, clarinet; and Andrew Bain,
French horn.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

British author and columnist Normal Lebrech provides the
preconcert lecture tonight and tomorrow. If his crowds approach those at his
lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, plan on arriving early as those crowds in BP
Hall were overflowing.

The Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela
continues the Mahler cycle on Tuesday with Symphony No. 7. The Phil returns
next Friday and Sunday (Feb. 3 and 5) with Symphony No. 9 and both ensembles
join eight soloists and more than 800 choristers at the Shrine Auditorium on
Feb. 4 for Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a
Thousand).

_______________________

 

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

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Taking the 5th — Gustavo Dudamel and the SBOV at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

Simn Bolivr
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Thursday, January 26, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next concerts:

Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 6

Information: www.laphil.com

______________________

 

As I was riding the Gold Line home from last night’s concert
at Walt Disney Concert Hall, I contemplated the difference in audience reaction
to the concerts of “The Mahler Project” played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic
as opposed to those played by the Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of
Venezuela. Both ensembles have received standing ovations for their
performances, but there are LA Phil ovations and then there are those for the
Bolivr “kids.”

 

It’s not that the Bolivrs have played better than the Phil
– close, but not better. Moreover, Gustavo Dudamel (who celebrated his 31st
birthday last night) has conducted every program from memory. The hall has been
packed for each concert, although there were a few more empty seats last night
than for Sunday and Tuesday. Nonetheless, there’s an excitement level to the
reaction to the Bolivrs that palpably exceeds that accorded the Phil.

 

Part of the difference lies in the symphonies played. The
Phil opened two weeks ago with No. 4, the sunniest, shortest and least dramatic
of Mahler’s completed symphonic output. Last weekend, it came back with No. 1
and the Adagio from No. 10, and since
the Thursday and Saturday program concluded with the somber Adagio, that surely dampened the
audience’s enthusiasm. Although the “Casual Friday” concert was just Symphony
No. 1 and did receive a thunderous ovation, the excitement level was diluted
somewhat by the knowledge that a Q&A session (and/or drinks with the orchestra
members) was following.

 

By contrast, the Bolivrs have played three of the five
symphonies with the loudest, most pulsating endings. On Tuesday, they get No. 7
(also with a big finale) and they’ll be part of the combined orchestra that
plays No. 8, the other work that fits this description.

 

Another rationale for the difference in reaction is size.
The Bolivrs are putting about 175 players on stage each night, about 65 more
than the Phil for their performances (the LAPO will play Symphony No. 6 tonight,
tomorrow and Sunday and No. 9 on Feb. 3 and 5 to conclude the cycle). The 96
Bolivr string players equal what would be a large orchestra for almost
anything except Mahler. Size isn’t everything but when the Bolivrs are playing
full force, they can, indeed, make a mighty noise as we have heard to conclude
their three programs, and most in the audiences react.

 

Even with all the caveats, the excitement level for the
Bolivr concerts has been noticeably high than for the Phil. It was also that
way in 2007 when the “kids” made their Disney Hall debut in two concerts that
were among the most exciting I’ve ever attended. Excitement isn’t everything in
a concert, but once again this year it’s been noticeable.

 

Symphony No. 5 was the first symphony Mahler wrote without a
specific programmatic theme and the first since Symphony No. 1 to eschew
soloists or a chorus. The work was begun in 1901 shortly after Mahler nearly
died from an a hemorrhage that program annotator Herbert Glass called
“intestinal” and preconcert lecturer Norman Lebrecht placed slightly lower on
Mahler’s body. Like nearly all of Mahler’s symphonies, this one includes –
indeed, in this case, begins with — a funeral march but it also includes a love
poem to his bride, the famous Adagietto
for strings that Luchino Visconti would appropriate 70 years later as the theme
music for the movie Death in Venice.

 

Mahler 5 is also a piece with which Dudamel and the Bolivrs
are closely identified. They played it on their opening Disney Hall concert in
2007 (and on their subsequent cross-country tour) and later recorded it.

 

Last night was the most cohesive collaboration between
Dudamel and his youthful colleagues during this cycle and the orchestra’s
playing was exemplary. The entire brass section, led by the principal trumpet
and principal horn players, was stunning throughout the performance (the
Bolivrs don’t provide principals lists but since their listing in the program
isn’t alphabetical, I’ll take a guess that these two were Toms Medina and
Rafael Payare — they eminently deserve to be singled out). The strings played
with a rich, unified sound and amazing rhythmic precision (especially
considering their numbers); not only do these folks wield their bows in unison,
they also sway in unison.

 

As he has done in other performances during this cycle
Dudamel continues to emphasize luxuriant tempos. In both the third and fifth
movements, he occasionally got a little too cutesy in his moments of elasticity
but overall this was a smartly paced 74-minute performance that sustained
tension admirably. The Adagietto glided
along with effortless ease and the final movement was less frenetic than what
shows up on the recording or what I remember from the concert four-plus years
ago.

 

Untimately, that adds up to a level of increased maturity
that holds a great deal of promise for succeeding Dudamel years (presumably
many of them) in Los Angeles. At the same time, may he never lose the sense of
excitement that continues to pour out of all of these programs.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

Although it’s not quite as noticeable as the Vienna
Philharmonic, a colleague seated next to me noted that the Bolivrs had just 24
women in the 175 players who were on stage last night, and most of those are in
the string sections. Just two of the 32 brass players were female and none of
the percussionists.

In his preconcert lecture before Symphony No. 1, Gilbert
Kaplan said that he has heard the Adagietto
played in as little as eight minutes and as long as 15. Dudamel was in the
middle: 11 minutes.

Lebrech’s lecture last night was again insightful. He’s on
tap for the lectures on tomorrow and Sunday — arrive early; the crowds have
been overflow. Asadour Santourian, Vice President for Artistic Administration
and Artistic Advisor for the Aspen Music Festival, is listed as giving the
lecture tonight.

_______________________

 

(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 January 26, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

______________________

 

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:

______________________

 

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

Simn Bolivr
Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No.
5

This was one of the works with which Gustavo Dudamel
introduced Los Angeles to this dynamic orchestra in 2007. Thus, part of the
intrigue will be to see what changes have occurred in Dudamel’s interpretation
and in the orchestra’s playing. The Bolivrs conclude their individual portion
of the cycle on Tuesday with Symphony No. 7 Information: www.laphil.com

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.
at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School)

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Baroque Conversations

LACO begins its season of baroque chamber-music programs
when Principal Oboist Alan Vogel leads five of his colleagues and soprano
Elissa Johnston in a program of music by J.S. Bach and Heinrich Ignaz Franz
Bieber. Information: www.laco.org

 

Friday and Saturday
at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No.
6

The Phil swings back into action with what is perhaps the
darkest of Mahler’s symphonies. Information:
www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at AT&T Center Theatre, Los Angeles

Sunday at 3 p.m.,
First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica

Musica Angelica:
Pergolesi/Bach: Stabat Mater

Although Giovanni Pergolesi set a version of Stabat Mater, the work is at least as
well known through its German edition when J.S. Bach put different German text
atop Pergolesi’s music (composers during that time were freer about “borrowing”
music both from themselves and others). Martin Hasselbck will lead his
top-notch period-instrument ensemble along with soloists Dame Emma Kirkby,
soprano, and countertenor Daniel Taylor. Sacred arias by Bach and Handel will
fill out the program.

 

The Saturday performance will be the group’s first time in
the AT&T Center Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Old-timers will recognize
this as the old Transamerica Life headquarters. Radio station KUSC 95.1 FM
recently moved to the AT&T Center. Originally used as a conference hall,
the performing space reportedly has been acoustically retrofitted by KUSC to
accommodate small- and medium-size musical groups.

 

Information: www.musicaangelica.org

 

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

Pacific Serenades

For more than a quarter-century, Pacific Serenades has been
known for (a) beginning its season after the New Year holiday and (b)
commissioning new works. The inaugural concert of its 2012 season will feature
its 103rd commissioned work: the world premiere of Different Lanes for string quartet and
iPad by Los Angeles native and Emmy-award winning composer Laura Karpman (the
title refers to five L.A. freeways) The program will also include Beethoven’s
String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3, and Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and
Cello (2001).

 

Information:
www.pacser.org

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Friday at 8 p.m. at
First Church of the Nazarene, Pasadena

Pasadena Community
Orchestra; Alan Reinecke, conductor

PCO opens its 28th season with a program of
Smetna’s Sarka (from Ma Vlast), Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, and
Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with Joyce Pan as soloist. Pan is a member
of the orchestra’s violin section; in her “other” life, she’s a technical
director for Dreamworks Animation. Information:
www.pcomusic.org

  

OPERA NOTES

Both Long Beach Opera and San Diego Opera open their seasons
this weekend. Long Beach presents Maria
de Buenos Aires
by Astor Pizzola and Horacio Ferrer on Sunday at 2 p.m. and
Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. at The Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. Information: www.longbeachopera.org

 

San Diego Opera begins with Richard Strauss’ Salome, which opens Saturday at 7 p.m.
and also plays Tuesday at 7 p.m., Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. Lise
Lindstrom sings the title role. Information:
www.sdopera.com

_______________________

 

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

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