Classical Music Buzz > Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra blog
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra blog
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Each season, the LACO commissions and premieres a new piece of music composed especially for its virtuosic musicians. LACO patrons can take part in this creative process by donating toward the composer’s fee and costs of the premiere concerts. These Sound Investment members get to meet the composer in intimate previews of the new works.

This season, award-winning composer George Tsontakis is the 2009-10 recipient of LACO’s Sound Investment Commission. LACO performs the world premiere of his new work at the Great Romantics concert on May 15 and 16.

Recently, Tsontakis was in Louisville for the premiere of Impetuous, composed for the Louisville Orchestra and commissioned by Nana Lampton. While there, he chatted with local radio host Daniel Gilliam of Classical 90.5 about composing a new work for an orchestra, teaching and masterclasses and the value of commissioning new music.

Listen to the interview, and be sure to hear LACO’s world premiere of Tsontakis’ work in May!

8 years ago |
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As of last weekend’s Baroque+ concerts, our Orchestras Feeding America food drive for 2010 is well under way! We received enough monetary donations to purchase 240 meals for families in need, and a few people showed up with full grocery bags to donate and claim their free tickets to the concert.

The drive will continue through the end of March. You can make a donation by visiting our online drive here. And don’t forget about those free tickets! Bring a full grocery bag to Hope, Westside Connections 2 or Family Concert 2 and receive a seat in return.

If you have any questions, contact Nick at nicknorton@laco.org or 213 622 7001 ×200.

8 years ago |
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Before I get into the specifics of this evening’s LACO concert, I’m going to discuss expectations. Everyone has expectations when it comes to attending an event. For example: “This party should be fun.” “I heard this movie was really funny.” “I’m gonna get the dumplings because this place has great dumplings.” “I’m dreading this concert of baroque music because I didn’t like the last baroque concert at all.” Now guess which one of those I was thinking to myself all day today? The answer is actually both the 3rd and 4th ones… I do love a good dumpling. But that’s besides the point. Last season, LACO performed the Brandenburg Concertos, and it was my least favorite concert of the season. In my blog about it, I talked about all manner of things besides the music because I didn’t want to go on and on about my boredom. So I expected, going into this evenings Baroque + concert, that I would come out grumpy and displeased. But I didn’t! What a surprise! Could it be that I like Baroque music after all? Since this was the Baroque + (plus) concert, I’ve decided that the difference must all be in the plus. Now, if only I knew what that was.

All the pieces in the line-up tonight were performed by a relatively small number of musicians, around a dozen or so. The music was lively and spirited, and even though there was a harpsichord (not my favorite), there were plenty of strings, which I love, to help drown that out. My favorite piece was the final one, Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 5. Which, by the way, as the program notes pointed out, was written when he was 12 years old. Mendelssohn wrote 12 symphonies between the ages of 12 and 14. How many did I write at those ages? Nine. I mean None.

I also really enjoyed the other piece in the second half, which was Bach’s Oboe Concerto. Excuse me, Oboe d’amore Concerto, where Allan Vogel was a soloist on the Oboe d’amore, which is a different type of Oboe than a regular Oboe. That’s right, I just used Oboe four times in one sentence. I think one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much is that I have trouble picking out the Oboe when the entire orchestra is playing, and whenever I hear it performed by a soloist, I’m reminded that it creates a very unique sound that I think is really beautiful.

In the first act, it was quite fun to watch the three featured violinists, Tereza Stanislav, Josefina Vergara, and Sarah Thornblade, just tear it up on the Bach Concerto for Three Violins, and there was also a very energetic performance by Andrew Shulman on cello during the Vivaldi Cello Concerto. And the concert began with a Purcell Chacony, about which I have two questions: 1) How do you pronounce that word? Cha-Cone-Knee? Chas-Son-Knee? Something else? 2) Why did the musicians stand while playing that piece (and the Mendelssohn) but sit for all the others?

Lastly, there was an instrument on stage tonight that I hadn’t noticed before. A big box with pipes and holes and appendages. From where I was sitting, I thought it was some sort of attachment to the harpiscord, like how you might attach a pasta roller to your Kitchenaid Mixer. It turns out it was a portable organ! I didn’t notice when it was played (apparently during the Vivaldi), nor did I ever see the keyboard (which was blocked by the pipes from my seat), nor did I see the organist (who was also blocked from my seat), but now I know that organs are portable! It can even be stacked with the harpsichord! Now that’s a versatile instrument. Try stacking tubas. You won’t get far. And thanks to LACO staffer Amy Bassett for all the organ info. If you have questions about portable, stackable organs, you should shoot her an email. You can find her address here!

8 years ago |
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On February 20 and 21, LACO assistant concertmaster Tereza Stanislav is one of the featured musicians at Baroque +. In this unique concert, five LACO principals, including Tereza, step into the spotlight to showcase their brilliance in masterworks by Purcell, Vivaldi, Bach and Mendelssohn.

As the concert approaches, learn more about LACO’s assistant concertmaster by listening to this new podcast on laco.org. In the podcast, Tereza sits down with KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen to talk about her musical background, her role in the Baroque + concert and more.

You can also watch Tereza talk about the experience of performing with LACO and her favorite thing about Los Angeles in this post on the Fine Arts LA blog.

Enjoy!

8 years ago |
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From now until the end of March, LACO is collecting food for the Orchestras Feeding America national food drive. We’ve partnered with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to take part in making a difference in our community.

Last year over 250 orchestras from all 50 states collected over 200,000 pounds of food for local communities. And just a dollar donation to our online food drive will buy four meals for families in need. There’s a big perk in this for you too: if you bring a grocery bag full of food to Baroque +, Hope, Westside Connections 2 or Family Concert 2, you’ll get a free ticket.

The most needed foods are:

  • Soup/Dry Soup
  • Rice
  • Powdered/Canned Milk
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Cereal
  • Peanut Butter
  • Beans
  • Canned fruit and vegetables
  • Tuna
  • Canned meats
  • Stew
  • Pasta
  • Fruit Juices

We cannot accept items in glass jars or bottles, unlabeled or dented cans, any open or resealed packaging, perishables, homemade foods, expired products, or non-food items.
Keep an eye out at our concerts from now until the end of March for our collection bins. To donate online, click here, then select “join a team” and “Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,” then follow the directions.

If you have any questions, please contact Nick Norton at nicknorton@laco.org, or 213 622 7001 × 200. Thank you!

8 years ago |
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Last week, Nick Norton joined the LACO staff as the administrative associate, just in time for LACO’s Made in California Gala. Here is his introduction in his very own words. Welcome, Nick!

Hi there! My name is Nick and I’ve just joined the staff of LACO, and I want to introduce myself.

I grew up in Newbury Park, California and began playing guitar and saxophone at an early age. Though I’ve now been through college and graduate school as a composer, most of what I listened to growing up was punk in various forms, and I feel that much of my approach to music today comes from my background playing in bands.

I became interested in politics and social issues quite young as well, and when I went to UCSD I double majored in music and political theory, with the hope of either using music as a vehicle for positive change or being in a position to broaden the role of music in society. I’d actually forgotten about that goal until I sat down to write this, and it makes me even more excited to be working for LACO. Over the past few years I’ve focused more narrowly on music itself, seeking out as much training and experience as I can get in the art. I went to Paris after graduating to study counterpoint in Nadia Boulanger’s method, then headed to King’s College London for an MMus and the music education system the British are famous for. Throughout all of this I continued to play in bands, and loved putting on concerts and events in both fields (even though I think they’re really the same; just the context changes). I joined LACO to make putting on concerts my profession, and now that I’ve remembered my original intent upon entering school, I am even more ecstatic to be here and ready to work like crazy. I also serve this goal as VP of Artist Relations for Music to Heal, a charity dedicated to improving patients’ healing through the use of music, founded by my close friend and band-mate Matt Fradkin.

As for the getting to know you stuff, being with my friends and my girlfriend are my favorite things, pretty much regardless of what we’re doing. A close second place would go to playing concerts, be that with my band Honest Iago or having the music I’ve composed for other ensembles performed. I love the ocean and spent my summers growing up working at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island. Beyond that I like film, reading, art, TV, awesome food (who doesn’t?), ridiculous desserts, kayaking, hot weather, armchair philosophy and geeking out about new guitar equipment. If you like any of those things (or don’t, actually), we could probably find something to talk about, so I’ll look forward to meeting all of you who read this at our upcoming concerts. Cheers!

8 years ago |
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On Saturday, February 6, LACO wowed attendees with its Made in California gala at the California Market Center in the fashion district of downtown LA. The evening included a fantastic concert featuring Jeffrey Kahane, his son Gabriel and the incredible Punch Brothers performing with LACO strings; a silent and a live auction filled with art, collectibles and once-in-a-lifetime experiences; and dinner and dancing under a twirling disco ball in the fun retro-inspired Club 213.

On the Los Angeles Times blog, Irene Lacher chronicled the humorous interaction between celebrity attendees Steve Martin (Saturday Night Live and much more) and Ed Helms (The Office , The Hangover) and quoted their reactions to the dynamic concert.

BizBash, the trade publication for the event industry, described LACO’s gala in glorious detail in an Event Report filled with colorful pictures on its website. Check it out!

Thanks to our devoted patrons and friends who attended this year’s gala. If you missed this fantastic event, we hope you can make it to next year’s gala!

Did you attend Made in California? What was your favorite moment of the evening? Comment below!

8 years ago |
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I haven’t written a non-concert-related blog in a while, but there are a couple music-related things on my mind that I can’t stop thinking about. Firstly, after nearly 8 years of living in Los Angeles, I finally went to a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. To be nitpicky, it wasn’t my first time at the Concert Hall – I’ve parked there to go to MOCA down the street, and a couple times have gone up and walked around on the roof – an totally legal activity that, contrary to the initial imagery in my head, doesn’t involve suction cups, a unitard, or a black ski mask. Here’s how to do it: There’s a public plaza/park on the roof that’s accessible from two stairways (one on the corner of Grand and 2nd; the other on the corner of Hope and 1st). On the roof are some nice gardens and a little amphitheater and stairs that lead you on a path up and through the metal sheeting. There are some cool views of downtown and the building itself. But I digress.

I got a brochure a few weeks ago advertising upcoming Master Chorale performances, and saw that one was just a week after a LACO concert and featured, like that LACO concert, a piece composed by Nico Muhly (for those of you keeping track, this is the third time Mr. Muhly’s name has come up in my blog – the first two are this one and this one. Anyhoo, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a ticket, mainly to finally go to the Concert Hall, and fully aware that if there’s one thing I know less about than orchestra music, it’s choral music.

The concert itself was lovely, although I thought it was kinda boring. While it’s amazing to hear a huge, impressive space like the Concert Hall filled with just the voices of about 100 singers, it’s not a very visual affair. I can’t tell the sopranos from the altos from the tenors from the… blanking… blanking… baritones! and I can’t differentiate much beyond the 4 main parts anyway – and some of this music was written for 12 parts! But I’m digressing again. The building itself is magnificent, although completely confusing. It’s pretty nifty that you can turn a corner and have no idea what to expect, in terns of windows and curves and railings and staircases and ceilings, but it sure can be a pain in the ass when you’re trying to find a restroom and then, all of a sudden, the fact that nothing makes sense is terribly frustrating. I suppose I’ll get my bearings after a couple more visits, which, based on my current rate of attendance, will be around 2026. Hopefully they’ll have replaced the hideous casino carpet by then.

Moving on. Have you all been seeing the television commercials for Aria, the new casino/resort/hotel/whatever in Las Vegas? The Aria people seem to think Today show watchers are their target audience, because they’ve been running the same ad every day, while I’m getting ready for work, for the past 2 months. And for the past 2 months, I’ve wondered about the music of piano music they use in the ad. Namely, who wrote it, and why didn’t they go with an actual aria (which seems fitting, given the name of the place, and therefore a wasted opportunity in my book). Then I saw a Tweet from Aria, and learned that it’s a new piece written for the ad by Kostia, a Russian composer.

Since I kinda liked music in the Aria ad, I thought I’d check out some other stuff Kostia has written, and that’s when I learned, via the iTunes store, that he’s considered a “New Age” artist. So my question to you, dear readers, is this: what is New Age music? I remembering hearing the term growing up, in reference to Enya music being used in Crystal Light ads, but I don’t get it.

One of the definitions Wikipedia has is this: “Music which is found in the New Age section of the record store.” Hmmm, that’s super helpful. But it also says that it’s “used by listeners for yoga, massage, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in their home or other environments.” But that doesn’t so much describe the music as it does the listeners. So what do you all think of New Age music? A lot of it seems to be instrumental… is there a big overlap between Classical Music and New Age? If I listen to my favorite classical music while I read or to create atmosphere in my home, does that make it New Age music instead? Leave your insights in the comments section below!

8 years ago |
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I’ve wanted a mandolin for a really long time. I’ve seen them on TV, and at a store once, and enjoyed watching others use them. Of course, I’m thinking of the kitchen tool that makes easy work of cutting vegetables into slices of equal thickness… but here’s a fun fact: there’s another type of mandolin, which was played during this evening’s LACO concert, and it looks like a little guitar! The mandolin player was Chris Thile (which, as I’ve gathered, is pronounced like ‘tea leaf’ but without the ‘f’, but please correct me if I’m wrong…), who was phenomenal. My friend Tavi, who came with me to the concert, noted that his hands and fingers, as they flew across the mandolin with furious speed, looked like they were on crack. Nicely put, Tavi! Mr. Thile played a Mandolin Concerto that he composed, and followed it up with 2 really amazing encores.

While Mr. Thile’s performance was passionate, evocative, and really fun to watch, my favorite pieces of the evening were the two Aaron Copland works – which is a departure for me, because I usually like LACO’s newer pieces more than the classics they perform. One of the Copland pieces was the very famous Appalachian Spring, which I was familiar with but had never heard live. And it was stunning, and eventually brought a tear to my eye. I loved how it alternated between livelier, upbeat sections and more moody, mournful parts. The other Copland piece, Music for the Theatre, was built around a sorrowful melody that was almost haunting.

That leaves the piece that kicked off the evening, Nico Muhly’s By Any Means. I’ve written about Mr. Muhly in the past – he’s a hot shot composer in his late twenties, and I listened to an album of his to practice writing about music when I got this blogging gig. I was looking forward to hearing this piece this evening, but afterwards, felt more like a Newbie than ever before. I just didn’t get it. Jeffrey Kahane spoke before the show, and mentioned that Mr. Muhly was referencing two other works with this piece (this was also explained in the program), and I wondered during the piece if I would appreciate it more if I was familiar with the two pieces being referenced. To me, it seems to be a collection of sounds and noises. I guess I like music with more of a thru-line. I get to listen to more of Mr. Muhly’s work next weekend, because I ‘m going to listen to the Master Chorale at the Disney Concert Hall perform a number of pieces, including one of his. I’ve never been to Disney Hall before! I hope to blog a little about it afterwards, so check back here for that.

One more thing: Mr. Thile looked remarkably clean-shaven this evening. That’s a reference for a friend of mine. If you don’t understand why I would write that, than it’s not you!

8 years ago |
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If you study music and the history of music, there are composers who emerge from the names and dates and facts and become whole human beings instead of biographical sketches on the page. Sometimes our imaginations are aided by biographical films like Amadeus or Immortal Beloved. Documentaries may provide enough information to give a historical figure flesh and blood. Sometimes, we feel closest to the composers who were born in our hometowns or who referenced the folk songs of our youth. Or perhaps we relate best to the ones with similar life stories, or those who accomplished what we have only wished.

As for me, I feel like I know Aaron Copland. He was born in New York, in the boroughs, like me. His borough was Brooklyn, and mine was Queens. The places where he played as a kid, where he sat reading on his front steps (what we would call a “stoop”), where his family ran a business, are so similar to places that I played and where my parents spent their childhoods, and where my grandfather had his butcher shop. Like me his was not a particularly musical family. We were born into families of music lovers, not composers or professional musicians. To me, he was a walking breathing person who walked the same streets that I walked, and knew the same kind of family life as I did. (Jewish families like Copland’s and Italian families like mine, share remarkable similarities. I always joke that only the food is different, the guilt from Grandma is the same.)

You don’t have to be from the boroughs to feel close to Aaron Copland, however. In fact, despite being a first generation American and a Brooklyn-ite, Copland managed to capture a sound that many feel is truly pan-American, if I can use that term. His ballets especially, like Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, and Billy the Kid, feature music that evokes the Great Plains, the southwest, the countryside. With these works, Copland showed that he was able to use his influences—among them the Jewish music of his upbringing, his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and Jazz—to create something truly unique. My theory is that the diversity of his influences mirrors the diversity of the American experience, hence his distinctly “American” music.

Copland achieved much in his life and career. He composed film scores and an opera, conducted orchestras in the U.S. and Europe, wrote pedagogical texts, and helped young American composers in their careers. He’s known as the “Dean of American Music” for that last one. Someone with humble beginnings grew up to do amazing things. It’s something we can all aspire to, and something that makes him a real person for me. Not bad for a boy from Brooklyn, right?

—Christine Lee Gengaro, Ph.D.

8 years ago |
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