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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS: L.A. Phiilharmonic 2013-2014 season to fete Disney Hall’s 10th anniversary

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

Some orchestras struggle to find an overarching theme for their seasons but the Los Angeles Philharmonic has not experienced that problem for a decade. Its 2013-2014 season, announced Monday, predictably centers around the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall, Frank Gehry’ iconic building that is both an acoustical marvel and a world-famous landmark for Los Angeles.

The Phil’s upcoming season will be headlined by its celebration of Disney Hall entitled — Inside Out — (the title comes from Gehry’s own description of the hall, which he said was designed from the inside out — i.e., he started with the interior of the hall itself and then build the now-famous shell to surround it).

The season will begin not in the hall itself but in three neighborhood concerts — at venues yet to be named — on Sept. 25, 26 and 28. On Sunday, Sept. 29, Dudamel will conduct the Phil and the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) in a joint concert, the first official appearance by YOLA musicians in Disney Hall.

The “opening night” gala on Sept. 30 will feature cellist Yo-Yo Ma — he filled a similar role 10 years ago. Then come two weeks of subscription concerts led by Dudamel and two weeks of concerts led by the Phil’s conductor laureate, Esa-Pekka Salonen sandwiched around a “Green Umbrella” concert led by Salonen featuring the world premiere of Frank Zappa’ 200 Motels, which is described as —a combination of rock, jazz and orchestral music.—

As it continues to dedicate a healthy chunk of its programming to contemporary music, the Phil will present 11 world premieres, four U.S. premieres and four West-Coast premieres. Sprinkled into that group will be 13 LAPO commissions.

Beginning his fifth season as L.A. Phil music director, Dudamel will lead 13 weeks of subscription concerts and will take the Phil on a North American tour, with U.S. stops in San Francisco, Kansas City, New York City, Boston and Washington D.C., along with visits to Toronto and Montreal. The tour will alternate two programs: Tchaikovsky’ Symphony No. 5 with John Corigliano’ Symphony No. 1, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Yuja Wang as soloist) and a new work by Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason.

The Simùn Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel’s other music directorship, will return to Disney Hall in February and join with the Phil in “TchaikovskyFest,” a series that will present all six of the composer’ symphonies, the violin concerto and Variations on a Rococo Theme, and a reprise of the program from two years ago presenting with the Bolivars playing the Hamlet, Tempest and Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overtures accompanied by staging and narration. Both orchestras will join together in the final concert on March 2 in a program that will include the 1812 Overture.

Interestingly, “TchaikovskyFest” omits any of the piano concertos, although the ubiquitous first shows up in the first subscription concerts, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist.

Dudamel and the Phil will present a staged production of Mozart’ Cosi Fan Tutte in May to complete its triology of Mozart/DaPonte operas. Other —minifestivals— taking place during the upcoming season will include —Minimalist Jukebox,— a reprise of the concept first presented in the 2005-2006 season. Once again, John Adams is both curator and conductor. Among the programs will be the world premiere of an organ concerto by Terry Riley, with Cameron Carpenter as soloist, and a presentation of the Rome section of Philip Glass’ the CIVIL warS, with Grant Gershon leading the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Except for Manfred Honeck, all of the guest conductors have appeared at Disney Hall prior to next season and all are conducting for one week at a time. Notably absent from the list is Zubin Mehta.

You can get the complete season by clicking HERE. If you want to print the entire press kit, click HERE (but make sure you╒ve got lots of paper in your printer).

(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

(Revised) AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Sat., Feb. 23 — Mark Your Calendars

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
The revision is a change of date in the Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts on March 7, 8 and 10.

The upcoming fortnight has several major orchestral concerts on the schedule and next Saturday (Feb. 23) is one of those occasional overflowing days in terms of classical music that seem to show up every year about this time.

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra returns to Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena for its annual one-night “Discover” concert on Saturday at 8 p.m. During Ambassador’s heyday as an arts impresario organization, Ambassador was home to LACO for several concerts each season at the acoustically friendly auditorium (the orchestra now performs at the Alex Theatre in Glendale), but these days LACO returns for just one program annually.

On Saturday, Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will take the first half of the concert to delve deeply into Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with the orchestra on stage to illustrate his lecture. Following intermission, Kahane will lead the orchestra from the keyboard and perform as soloist in this landmark concerto.


There are several other Saturday evening concerts, as well, including:

Musica Angelica — one of the world’s premiere period-instrument ensembles — celebrates its 20th anniversary with performances of Handel’s Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and a suite from Handel’s Water Music, and Telemann’s Concerto for Three Trumpets led by Music Director Martin Hasselböck. The concert is at 8 p.m. at the AT&T Center Theatre in downtown Los Angeles and at 3 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica. Information:

The La Mirada Symphony plays the third free concert in its 50th anniversary season at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts as Music Director Robert Frelly conducts Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, with Teresa de Jong Pombo as soloist. Information:

Organist Meaghan King makes her Southern California recital debut in a free concert Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. King, the church’s assistant organist, will play music by J.S. Bach, César Franck, Franz Joseph Haydn, Olivier Messiaen and Charles-Marie Widor on the church’s massive Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. Information:

The Los Angeles Philharmonic also plays Saturday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall but fortunately that’s just one of four opportunities to hear this week’s concert, which mark the return to L.A. of Gustavo after a four-month hiatus. He’ll be in town for a flurry of concerts during the next three weeks before he heads out again — this time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in tow for a tour of London, Paris, Lucerne and New York City.

Dudamel’s latest sojourn begins Tuesday night when he leads The Colburn Orchestra in Disney Hall in a program of Revueltas’ Sensemayá, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, with Colburn Conservatory student Sang Yoon Kim as soloist.

The program is noteworthy on several levels. First, since the concert is part of the Philharmonic’s “Sounds About L.A.” series (which presents student ensembles), tickets run from just $20.50 to $45. Second, Tchaikovsky’s fifth was the work with which Dudamel had his local debut, in 2005 at Hollywood Bowl.


Dudamel returns to the L.A. Phil podium with concerts Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday that feature Siegfried’s Death and Funeral Music from Wagner’s Götterdämerung, along with Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish) and Brahms’ Violin Concerto, with Gil Shaham as soloist. Information:

The Feb. 28, March 1, 2 and 3 will showcase Debussy’s La Mer and the complete Firebird by Stravinsky. All except the “Casual Friday” concert on March 1 will open with the first LAPO performances of Zipangu by French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier. Information:

The whirlwind series of Dudamel concerts concludes March 7, 8 and 10 with the first staged performances of John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, with Dudamel conducting the L.A. Phil, L.A. Master Chorale, six singers and three dancers.

When the oratorio version of this work premiered last spring, I called it “a very important work, stunningly performed by all forces.” (LINK) It was also nearly three hours long and Adams was, reportedly, very late in delivering the piece to the Phil and others. So part of the intrigue will be whether Adams has trimmed the work in any way and if — or how — Sellars’ staging contributes to the work’s overall impact.


(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Exsultate! Kiera Duffy with Gustavo Dudamel and Los Angeles Philharmonic

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mozart: Exsultate,
Jubilate, K. 165
(Kiera Duffy, soprano); Serenade in D Major, K. 320, Posthorn

Friday, May 25, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances: Tomorrow at 2 p.m. (includes the Overture
to The Marriage of Figaro)




“Casual Friday” concerts have always been a somewhat odd
creation: a truncated version of the week’s Los Angeles Philharmonic program
played without intermission, preceded by a talk from an orchestra member and
followed by a question-and-answer period or a chance to schmooze with orchestra
members amid drinks afterwards. The idea is to create a shorter program aimed
at those not used to attending an orchestral concert, although if you factor in
the post-concert conviviality, it’s usually not much shorter, and many of those
in attendance are concert veterans.


This week’s program, shoehorned between performances of the
orchestra’s presentation of Mozart’s Don
at Walt Disney Concert, is
already short; in fact, if they had started at 8:05 instead of 8:11, Gustavo
Dudamel and his reduced forces could have added the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and still ended
at 9:30. They could play the entire program tomorrow without intermission and
call it “Casual Sunday.”


60414-Kiera Duffy.jpg

However, any concert with young American soprano Kiera Duffy
(pictured left) as the centerpiece is always a major event, IMHO, and last
night validated that opinion. Her vehicle was Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, which Mozart wrote at the age of 17 during his
third visit to Milan. The three-movement work is best known for its jubilant
“Alleluia” final section, which, by the way, Duffy, Dudamel and the Phil took
at quite a brisk clip.  Duffy sang the piece with a gleaming
tone, sailed exquisitely through the runs and trills, and delivered sublime
musicality throughout the 17 minutes.


Dudamel (who conducted without a score, although Duffy used
one) and the orchestra supported their soloist sympathetically.


The other piece on the program was Mozart’s Posthorn Serenade, which Dudamel and the
orchestra had played two weeks ago on Thursday and Saturday. As was the case
then, the orchestra played wonderfully, with the winds (most notably David
Buck, flute, Marion Arthur Kuszyk, oboe, and Sarah Jackson, piccolo) and James Wilt on posthorn holding
the major share of the spotlight. Dudamel seemed more relaxed and animated in
his conducting.



On Deck:

The Phil concludes its 2011-2012 indoor season next
weekend (Thursday through Sunday) with the world premiere of John Adams’
oratorio, The Gospel According to the
Other Mary.
This is a bookend to Adams’ nativity oratorio, El Nio, which had its premiere in
December 2000 in Paris and was later performed in Los Angeles.


Dudamel conducts the orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale,
six soloists and three narrators (counter tenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings
and Nathan Medley — Bubeck and Cummings performed in the world premiere of El Nino). Mezo-soprano Kelley O’Connor sings
the role of Mary Magdalene.


The first half of The
Gospel According to the Other Mary
tells the Biblical stories of the family
of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus (including the raising of Lazarus
from the dead). The second half deals with Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and


As they did with 
El Nio,  Adams and librettist Peter Sellars weave
contemporary writings into the Biblical stories that are at the heart of  TGAOM,  using material from American social
activist Dorothy Day and poet/essayist June Jordan, contemporary poet Louise
Erdrich and Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos, along with the 12th-century
mystic and abbess Hildegard of Bingen. Moreover, as was the case with El Nio, the orchestra plays a central
role in the new work.


A fully staged version of this new oratorio will be
performed next March, first in Los Angeles and then in New York, London,
Lucerne and Paris.


Information (which
includes a link to Adams discussing the new piece):



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

PREVIEW: Sir Simon Rattle to lead L.A. Philharmonic at Disney Hall this weekend

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Sir Simon Rattle, conductor

Ligeti: Atmostpheres; Wagner:
Prelude to Lohengrin

Mahler: Rckert-Lieder
(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:

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:
For now, Sir Simon and the LAPO are enough of a reason to get downtown to
Disney Hall.



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

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Major concerts on calendar during next fortnight

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

This article was first
published today in the above papers.


Four major concerts occur in our region during the next
fortnight — and that doesn’t count the final two events of the Piatigorsky
International Cello Festival at Walt Disney Concert Hall: a 2 p.m. concert by
the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein (LINK), and a
7:30 p.m. recital by 110 (!) cellists that will wind up the nine-day-long
festivities (LINK).


Also on today’s agenda is the final “LA Phil Live” movie
theater telecast: the season-opening all-Gershwin concert with Gustavo Dudamel
conducting and legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue. (LINK)


And then comes:



Rachael Worby begins this group’s second season with a
typically cheeky program entitled “Ebony Meets Ivory.” Six pianists, including
the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Joanne Pearce Martin, will perform on three
Steinway pianos in a program that ranges from Baroque to jazz, rap to classical
(Moonlight Sonata), and the spoken
word. The program takes place on stage — literally — as both performers and the
audience will be on the stage and a loading bay of the Pasadena Civic
Auditorium. This is the first of seven performances on Muse-ique’s 2012 season.


ORCHESTRA ON MARCH 24 (Alex Theatre, Glendale) AND MARCH 25 (Royce Hall, UCLA)

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads his ensemble and
pianist-composer Timothy Andres in the world premiere of Old Keys, the latest installment in LACO’s “Sound Investment”
commissioning program. Also on the concert is the West Coast premiere of
Andres’ “reconstruction” of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26, K. 531 (Coronation). Mozart wrote only a few
measures for the left hand of this work although the first published edition
was complete, possibly from Mozart’s publisher. In this new version, Andres has
replaced those left-hand sketches with his own creation; how this “mash-up”
works will be part of the concert’s intrigue. Information:



Nicholas McGegan, known worldwide as one of the premiere
interpreters of Baroque music, takes on a larger task as he leads concerts at 2
p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium that conclude with Beethoven’s
Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). Prior to
intermission, Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan will be the soloist in
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466. Information:



LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon conducts 40 singers of his
Chorale, soloists and one of the nation’s premiere period-instrument ensembles
in the first performances of Bach’s St.
John Passion
to be played at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Information:



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

SAME-DAY REVIEW: L.A. Philharmonic, Charles Dutoit at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Charles Dutoit, conductor

Stravinsky: Symphonies
for Wind Instruments;
Debussy: La Mer

Prokofiev: Suite from Romeo
and Juliet

Friday, February 24, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances: Tomorrow at 8 p.m.




Los Angeles Philharmonic management earns a gold star for
its scheduling prowess this week. After a grueling, month-long traversal of
Gustav Mahler’s 9.5 symphonies twice, including a trip to and from Caracas,
Venezuela, the Phil returned home Sunday and got right back into playing at
Walt Disney Concert Hall.


Music Director Gustavo Dudamel is taking a four-week hiatus
from conducting, presumably getting some rest and reacquainted with his wife
and baby son, but for the orchestra members, there are two more weeks of
concerts before taking a one-week vacation.


A 10-week-run of guest conductors began this week not with a
young tyro (that happens next week when 34-year-old Spaniard Pablo Heras-Casado
returns to Disney Hall) but with a welcome veteran presence: Charles Dutoit,
who is about as far away from Dudamel and Heras-Casado as one could imagine.


Now age 75 (although he doesn’t look it), Dutoit is tall and
slender, with a quizzical, patrician look as he calmly strolled on stage this
morning to lead a program a long ways removed from Mahler. Unlike Dudamel (who
conducts nearly everything from memory), Dutoit used a score for all three
works. He reordered Dudamel’s seating pattern, placing the cellos on his far
right with the basses next to them and the violas in the middle. Following
performances, he took bows with an ironic grin from in front of or beside the
conductor’s podium rather than from deep within the orchestra, as does Dudamel.


Dudamel is currently finishing up his four-year tenure as
chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and for 25 years he was artistic
director of the Montreal Symphony (although that sojourn ended in acrimony).
Nonetheless, Dutoit is a welcome annual guest-conducting presence on the podium
in Los Angeles, not least because he gets excellent results from the LAPO, this
week on even shorter rehearsal time than normal.


That was evident again this morning, beginning with
Stravinsky’s quirky Symphonies for Wind
which opened the program. In his book, An Autobiography, Stravinsky said. “[Symphonies for Wind Instruments] is not meant ‘to please’ an
audience or rouse its passions.” To these ears, his assessment was correct; the
nine-minute work juxtaposes angular, rhythmic measures with sonorous chords,
but while the orchestra (in this case, the term “wind instruments” included the
brass section) played the piece with dispatch, the work served as no more than
an introduction to the balance of the program.


Dutoit, who was born in Lausanne, Switzerland (the French
quadrant of the country, has always had an affinity for French music and it was
on full display with today’s performance of Debussy’s La Mer. If the Stravinsky was a symphony in name only, La Mer is the closest Debussy came to
writing a symphony. Written in 1903-1905 (the same time Mahler was composing
his sixth and seventh symphonies), La Mer
is eons away Mahler, being instead an impressionistic work inspired by the


Dutoit led the work with just the right amount of tension
and sweep and the orchestra responded to his every gesture. As is usual, Dutoit
got the strings to play with a lean, clean sound and the brass maintained the
mellow power it displayed during the Mahler performances. The surging sea was ever-present
in the 25-minute performance.


After intermission, Dutoit turned to a suite of eight
selections from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo
and Juliet.
The orchestra seemed to catch fire in this 45-minute
performance, playing with razor-sharp precision when called for and with
elegant sweep the rest of the time. The entire performance was exhilarating. Along the way, David Buck, flute; Michelle
Zukovsky, clarinet; Ben Hong, cello; and James Rotter on saxophone delivered
polished solos.




Although Thursday night’s concert was dedicated to
Co-Principal Clarinet Lorin Levee, who died Wednesday at the age of 61 after
battling a blood disorder, there was no mention this morning of the man who
held the LAPO principal position from 1981 (Michelle Zukovsky remains as the
orchestra’s other principal clarinet). Levee played his last concert with the
Phil on Jan. 8 but didn’t participate in “The Mahler Project.” A Los Angeles Times article on Levee is

Heras-Casado, who last December was named principal
conductor of New York City’s Orchestra of St. Luke’s, returns to the Phil next
weekend leading Richard Strauss’ Ein
and the west coast premiere of James Matheson’s Violin
Concerto, with LAPO Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour as soloist. Friday
is a “Casual Friday” concert; the Saturday and Sunday performances add
Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Information:



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

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on Feb. 16, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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



Each Thursday, I list five events (six today) 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 7:30
p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Los Angeles Opera:
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra

As noted in my review (LINK), this is an excellent production
that features Plcido Domingo in his first true baritone role after more than
half a century as a tenor. There are other reasons to make the trip downtown,
especially soprano Ana Maria Martinez. Other performances are Feb. 21 and March
1 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 26 and March 4 at 2 p.m. Information:


Saturday at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium

Pasadena Symphony

Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov leads the PSO in
Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances (from
which came the song Strangers in Paradise,
made famous in the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet);
Rimsky-Korsakov’s version of Scheherazade,
with concertmaster Aimee Kreston playing the solos that portray the Arabian
princess spinning tales for 1,001 nights; and Saint-Sans Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian), with Colburn School graduate
Esther Keel as soloist. Information:


Saturday at 2 p.m.
in local theaters

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

If you weren’t able to attend the performance of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8 last week at the Shrine Auditorium, you can see and hear the
“Symphony of a Thousand” live in movie theaters from Caracas, Venezuela on Feb.
18 at 2 p.m. via the “LA Phil LIVE” series. Actually, this performance will
reportedly have more than 1,200 musicians as Gustavo Dudamel leads both the Los
Angeles Philharmonic and Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, eight
soloists and more than 1,000 choristers. Several local theaters will also show
an “encore” performance is set for Feb. 29.  Mark Swed of the Los
Angeles Times
is in Caracas and filed this preview story HERE. Telecast Information:


Saturday at 7 p.m.
at Civic Theatre, San Diego

San Diego Opera: Jake
Heggie’s Moby Dick

When Dallas Opera premiered this new operatic version of
Herman Melville’s famous novel in April 2010, it met with widespread audience
and critical acclaim (LINK). San Diego, one of the four commissioning
companies, gets its turn in the spotlight beginning Saturday night. Prior to Moby Dick, Heggie was best known for his
opera Dead Man Walking, written in


One of the world’s premiere tenors, Ben Heppner, who created
the title role in Dallas, is back on the deck of the Pequod again (and above it
– see HERE) but Karen Keltner, SD Opera’s Resident Conductor, has withdrawn due
to illness. Fortunately, Joseph Mechavich, who just finished conducting Calgary
Opera’s run of Moby Dick, was
available to step in, so things should be in good hands in the pit (LINK).
Other performances are Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.  Information:


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

Olivier Latry,

Latry, who is titular organist at the Cathedral of Notre
Dame in Paris, returns to Disney Hall for a recital that will surely spotlight
the WDCH organ’s power and many colors. To conclude the program, Latry will be
joined by Korean organist Shin-Young Lee for a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, using an adaptation of
the composer’s four-hand piano arrangement of what was originally a ballet
score (when the ballet premiered on May 29, 1913, it caused a riot (literally)
in the concert hall). Information:


And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …


Saturday at 8 at La

La Mirada Symphony

Russian music seems to be everywhere this weekend. Robert
Frelly leads his ensemble in Tchaikovsky’s 1812
(presumably, since it’s indoors, sans fireworks) and Variations on a Rococo Theme, with Kihae
Kim DeFazio as soloist. Also on the program is Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite. Information:



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

NEWS AND LINK: Dudamel, L.A. Phil win 2012 Grammy Award

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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


58453-Brahms 4 Album Cover.jpg

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have won a
2012 Grammy for “Best Orchestral Performance” for their performance of Brahms’
Symphony No. 4, which was recorded by Deutsche Grammaphon (DGG) live in Walt
Disney Concert Hall as part of the Phil’s “Brahms Unbound” festival last

The award was Dudamel’s first Grammy. It’s the second Grammy in which the Phil has been involved. In 1986, the orchestra’s recording of Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 3 (led by Esa-Pekka Salonen) won the award for “Best Contemporary Composition.” As a Phil spokesperson noted, “The awardee was Lutoslawski as it was a composition award, but the recording was done by the LA Phil.”


Dudamel and the Phil beat out Andrew Davis and the BBC
Philharmonic’s recording of English composer York Bowen’s Symphony Nos. 1 &
2; Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra playing Haydn’s
Symphonies 104, 88 and 101; Marek Janowskiu and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester
Berlin playing Hans Werner Henze’s Symphony Nos. 3-5; and Jir Belohlvek and
the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing the six symphonies of Bohuslav Martinu.


The Phil’s Brahms Symphony No. 4 is available download from iTunes but not (at this point) on a CD.

The 2012 Grammy for “Best Opera Performance” went to the
Metropolitan Opera for its Sony Classical recording of Dr. Atomic by John Adams, who is the L.A. Phil’s Creative Chair.
Adams wrote the opera in 2005 and the Met first presented it last year.





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

NEWS AND LINKS: Sir Neville Marriner to receive 2012 Richard D. Colburn Award, lead The Colburn Orchestra April 22 at Disney Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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


Conductor Sir Neville Marriner has been named recipient of
the 2012 Richard D. Colburn Award and will lead The Colburn Orchestra, the
flagship ensemble of The Colburn School, in a gala concert on April 22 at Walt
Disney Concert Hall as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Sounds About
Town” series.


The award honors an individual “whose lifelong dedication,
work, talent and reputation enhance the teaching and performance of classical
music or dance in the Southern California Community.” This is the first time
the award has been given to a musician. Previous winners were Ernest
Fleischmann, former executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009,
former L.A. City Councilman and L.A. County Supervisor Ed Edelman in 2010 and
Toby Mayman, the school’s founding president, last year.


Marriner, who will turn 88 a week before the event, co-founded
and was music director of Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1969-1978. In
announcing the award, Sel Kardan, the school’s President and CEO, said: “Sir
Neville shaped the artistic landscape of Los Angeles with his time as the Music
Director of LACO and inspired and mentored our students during his guest
conductor residency in 2011. We are thrilled to honor him with a special night
of performance and celebration.”


Marriner will conclude the April 22 concert (which will
start at 6:30 p.m.) by leading Elgar’s Enigma
Earlier, current Colburn Orchestra Music Director Yehuda Gilad
will conduct Rossini’s William Tell Overture
and Barber’s Violin Concerto, with Mayumi Kanagawa, a Colburn student and
winner of the 2011 Irving M. Klein International String Competition in San
Francisco, as soloist.


The Colburn Orchestra concert becomes the second event on
the Phil’s “Sounds About Town” series this season. “SAT” presents top-notch
local performing groups and is the cheapest way to see concerts in Disney Hall
(tickets for the Colburn Orchestra concert are $15-37).  Information:


The first event on the current “SAT” series will be a joint
appearance by the American Youth Symphony and Los Angeles Children’s Chorus on
March 4 at 7:30 p.m. James Conlon, Los Angeles Opera music director, and
Alexander Treger, AYS music director, will lead the ensembles in a program that
will feature the world premiere of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s The isle is full of noises, a joint
commission by AYS and LACC.  Information:


The Colburn Orchestra is also scheduled for the 2012-2013
“SAT” series on Feb. 19, 2013 when LAPO Music Director Gustavo Dudamel will
lead the ensemble. The orchestra’s next concert at Ambassador Auditorium is
March 3, when Bramwell Tovey (music director of the Vancouver Symphony) will be
the guest conductor (LINK).


In addition to help to found and lead LACO, Marriner founded
London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra in 1959, which
he led from both the concertmaster’s chair and the podium until the 1990s. He
was also music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1979-1986. He was
knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985.


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the
birth of Richard Colburn, a noted philanthropist whose donation in 1980 helped
the then-30-year-old school grow into one of the nation’s premiere music
schools. The school moved to its present location atop Los Angeles’ Bunker
Hill (across the street from Disney Hall) in 1998.



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