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Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra blog
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This weekend marked the start of LACO’s new season, and that’s not the only change in these parts! This very blog has changed. Hmmm, perhaps ‘evolved’ is the better word. This very blog has evolved. For the last three seasons, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on my LACO concert-going experiences under the header of “LACO Newbie” – as I’m someone who enjoys classical music but doesn’t know a lick about anything in the classical music world. But now that I’m returning for a fourth season (thank you, LACO, for inviting me back!), I think it’s time to move on from the term “Newbie.” It’s not really new anymore, now that I’ve been doing it for 4 seasons. Don’t get me wrong – during the past three years, while I’ve enjoyed many wonderful LACO evenings (and sat through a few evenings I didn’t enjoy as much), my knowledge of classical music hasn’t grown at all. I’m not sure I could pick a bassoon out of a line-up. So what does this all mean? It means my contributions to the LACO blog have been rebranded. Say goodbye to the LACO Newbie… and hello to The Untrained Ear!

Saturday evening’s concert at the Alex Theater was quite eclectic, and that made for a really special evening. The program included pieces that were, oh, I don’t know, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years old alongside brand-spankin’-new pieces that had never been heard on the West Coast before. First up was the Overture to “The Magic Flute.” I saw a production of “The Magic Flute” about 15 years ago, so I was thinking that I might recognize the Overture, but nope! It was lovely, though, and I liked the idea of kicking off a new concert – and a whole new season – with an overture. How fitting!

The two West Coast premieres followed. Next up was Sidereus, by Osvaldo Golijov. I had read on the LACO website that this piece was inspired in Galileo’s observations about the moon, and it was my favorite piece of the evening. It was celestial and mysterious, with the different sections of the Orchestra sometimes seeming to contradict each other. I like my orchestral music moody, and this piece was wonderfully moody!

Then came Ritornello, another West Coast premiere, which featured a rare instrument in the classical music world: an electric guitar. This was the piece that I was most excited for and the one that ended up making me scratch my head the most. There were parts that were melodic, and parts that were… um… less so (The Untrained Ear struggles, at times, at describing music), and while Wiek Hijmans, the electric guitarist, was fascinating to watch, when it was over, I didn’t know what to think. I still don’t know what to think. I appreciated seeing something new and exciting and different, but I can’t say I loved it.

After the intermission came Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto, during which Jeffrey Kahane led the Orchestra while playing piano. I can’t fathom how difficult it must be to keep aware of what everyone else on stage is doing while simultaneously playing the piano, but Kahane makes it look easy, and the piece demonstrated the precision and cohesion that I’ve come to love about attending LACO concerts. But I thought the concerto was a bit of a snooze. Not my cup of tea. I was quite obviously in the minority on this one, as the outburst of applause following the completion of the piece proved, and I’m so glad that everyone else in the Alex enjoyed it more than I did, because the tremendous response led to Kahane and the Orchestra playing an encore, which was the second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, and that was the other highlight of the evening for me. I can’t speak as to why I liked the Ravel more than the Beethoven (I have an untrained ear, after all), but I liked how the Ravel had a slow build that seemed to add in different sections of the orchestra one bit at a time. It was beautiful, sweeping, and romantic. Sidereus took me on an unexpected trip to outer space, and the Ravel brought me back to Earth. Despite having an untrained ear, there’s one thing I know: I can always count on LACO to take me on a journey.

2 years ago | |
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Johann Pachelbel was a very successful, very popular composer in his time. He wrote a large body of music, but today, more than three hundred years after his death, he is best known for his Canon in D. He is, to many music lovers, something of a one-hit wonder. History is filled with one-hit wonders or composers who were wildly popular in their own time, but who have faded into obscurity.

There are various forces that determine how famous a composer remains after his or her death, and in turn, there are forces that might whittle a composer’s prolific output to a few well-known works (or just one). There are composers whose names we know but we may not necessarily know any of the masterpieces that won them fame and fortune in their prime. Antonio Salieri springs to mind. Most people know him as Mozart’s rival, as he was painted in Peter Schaffer’s play and Milos Forman’s film Amadeus. The film leads us to believe that Salieri was a B-lister, someone who didn’t enjoy the kinds of triumphs that Mozart had. In reality, Salieri was a very successful composer of opera, an influential figure, and a teacher of important pupils (Schubert and Liszt among them). Can you name one of his operas? Don’t feel bad if you can’t. If it wasn’t for his unflattering portrait in Amadeus, it’s unlikely we would know him very much at all.

Popularity in the present is no guarantee of longevity. Likewise, obscurity in one’s own time might not spell absence from the historical record. J.S. Bach gave little thought to his historical destiny, but he quietly influenced many composers, and his sons—especially C.P.E. Bach—found fame of their own. In the case of J.S. Bach, it took the actions of Felix Mendelssohn to bring Bach’s music to the attention of the larger musical public, but we haven’t forgotten him since then. Beethoven is the rare example of someone whose music was famous in his own time and whose works continue today to appear on concerts all over the world. In other words, once Beethoven came to the attention of the public, he never left. His status as the misanthropic mad genius composer remains unchanged.

Being a lasting presence in history might be determined by something as fickle as weather. If a flood or fire destroys a library, we might lose the surviving copies of a composer’s work. There is no telling how many masterpieces we lost not just in fires and floods, but in wars and political conflicts. On the other hand, a composer’s legacy might be helped by a well-written biography or a film portrait. Some modern musicians make their mark by becoming specialists in little-known composers, recording works that have never been recorded before.

There are many composers working today, and it’s not possible to say whose music will stand the test of time and continue to be popular. A composer who receives multiple commissions every year might be like Pachelbel: popular in his or her own time, but known by a single piece in the future. It’s far less likely nowadays that composers would fade because we don’t have copies of their music. Now that we store things electronically and have easy recording processes, pieces now will effectively last “forever” on YouTube videos and on composers’ official websites, but whether that translates into a Beethovenian destiny, is anyone’s guess.

The truth is, we won’t be able to know who’s going to end up with the fancy boxed set and who’s going end up in the bargain bin. We don’t have the vantage point that shows us the big picture. LACO’s upcoming concert features Mozart and Beethoven, but it also features the music of two living composers, Osvaldo Golijov and Derek Bermel. Will the works of either or both of these composers still be programmed two or three hundred years from now? It’s impossible to know. Time, as they say, will tell. By the time the answer is clear, we won’t be around to see it. The best we can do is enjoy the present.

2 years ago | |
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Last winter, months before LACO premiered Derek Bermel’s Mar de Setembro on its 2011 season finale concerts, Sound Investment members who had commissioned the work gathered to hear an early reading of the title movement. Composer-in-residence Bermel described how the water imagery of the poetry influenced the soundscape he created for the piece, then sang through the title movement himself, accompanied by a pair of pianists who helped invoke the instrumental colors which, at that point, could only be heard in Bermel’s own head.

“I think it’s going to be neat to see the orchestration and what he does with it,” remarked investor Ann Horton, “how it’s going to change, how it’s going to be different, whether it will resonate the same way, or stay with me.” She was interviewed by Classical KUSC producer Katie McMurran who, with audio tech Phil Richards, were on hand at all of the LACO Sound Investment salons last season to document the evolution of Bermel’s work.

Like the luscious fruits catalogued in Mar de Setembro’s final movement, the fruits of the KUSC team’s labor is finally ready to enjoy. This Saturday, tune in to 91.5 FM at 4 pm for a behind-the-scenes look at how Bermel’s work came into being. Host Alan Chapman pulls all of the pieces together, from interviews with the artists and investors to a performance of the complete work, recorded live at Royce Hall last May and featuring the sensual vocals of soloist Luciana Souza. If you’re not next to the radio then, find the program at kusc.org, where it will be archived for seven days.

Intrigued by the Sound Investment process? You can be part of it! This season, Sound Investment commissions upstart composer-pianist Timothy Andres to write himself a piano concerto to premiere in March 2012, and investors will have the privilege of hearing it unfold, note by note. Learn more about Sound Investment at the LACO website, download a schedule of activities and enrollment form, or sign up online.

2 years ago | |
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If you’ve ever been curious about the incredibly talented and charismatic man who serves as LACO’s music director, you will most definitely want to read the Los Angeles Times article featuring Jeffrey Kahane.

The Los Angeles Times writes:

“Playing the keyboard while leading an orchestra requires special skills. Murray Perahia, Daniel Barenboim and Kahane are among the few musicians who have excelled at this task in recent history.

Kahane’s team spirit stems from his deep engagement with chamber music, a genre that generally promotes a more cooperative environment than symphonic music, where the conductor rules from the podium. But Kahane’s sensibility extends further back, to his childhood passion for improvisation. This skill would not only stand him in good stead as a vibrant improviser of Mozart cadenzas in the classical realm but also as a musician working in the collaborative genres of rock and jazz.”

Charting Jeffrey’s genealogical and musical origins, this article makes obvious why we are so happy to be celebrating Jeffrey’s 15th anniversary with the Orchestra. Jeffrey, you are one of a kind!

2 years ago | |
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You may have noticed that we have been fortunate enough to welcome many new members to LACO’s administrative team over the past several weeks. We are so excited to introduce these new people to you, and invite you to get to know them all better throughout the course of the season.

The most recent addition to our office is Sarah Singer, who joined us on September 6, having just moved to LA from Chicago. She joins us with some wonderful experience, and we are so pleased to have her on board. Here is Sarah, in her own words, to say hello:

I have very fond memories of my first experience playing in a real orchestra, and I use the term “real” very loosely. In the 6th grade, I was invited to be a part of an after school group that was not just string students, but also band members who came together to form the junior high “Honors Orchestra.” I was both delighted to be talented enough to join the group at this young age, but also scared that I would be behind the curve in terms of technical skill.

As I sat in a sea of violinists, staring at music with more sharps and flats than I had ever seen, I was given a piece of very sound advice by the orchestra director: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Frantically trying to keep up with those who were more experienced than me, this little piece of advice got me through that first rehearsal. As I began to learn and practice the music it also sunk in that with a little hard work and persistence I would actually be able to play this music and not just “fake it.”

This was just one of the many life lessons I learned playing in an orchestra, and has been applicable in many circumstances since the 6th grade. I knew that moving to Los Angeles from Chicago was going to be a challenge and that I was going to feel that same “in over my head” feeling with almost every new experience here. I have past experience working in development at an orchestra, but it’s never easy being the new girl. Having a wonderful welcome from all of my new colleagues has reassured me that though I don’t yet know how to transfer a phone call or run a donor giving report, with a little time and effort I soon will. I am so thankful to have the privilege of working with like-minded music lovers every day and am so excited to be a part of this wonderful organization. I can’t wait for the chance meet musicians and patrons at the first concert in a few weeks and to again participate in some small way in the creation of great classical music.

- Sarah

For more information about her background, please read her full bio.

Welcome, Sarah! We are so happy to have you!

2 years ago | |
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It is my great pleasure to introduce to all of your the newest member of the LACO staff, Caroline Shuhart. Caroline started with LACO mid-August, and we have had a great time working together so far. I can’t wait for each of you to also have the opportunity to get to know her! Here is a little note from Caroline:

The other day I saw this great cover band… ever hear of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra?

Get it? Because every song played by LACO is technically a cover! Okay, sometimes I write bad jokes… but what isn’t a joke is how excited I am for LACO’s 2011-12 season. Full of wonderfully diverse programs, it looks to be a promising year of chamber music. This is just one reason why I love LACO and why I am thrilled to join the organization’s administrative staff.

Another reason (and what makes this organization so special) is that LACO welcomes every listener. Whether you are a first time concert-goer or a season subscriber, LACO invites everyone to experience the excitement of witnessing a live orchestra performance. LACO understands there is always something new to learn in the world of music and does a fantastic job creating accessible programs.

I, myself, can’t wait for everything I will learn by joining the LACO team. I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Thank you!
— Caroline

You will find Caroline at our opening concerts behind the merchandise tables – so be sure to stop by and say hello (and check out the many cool CDs she is ordering for you to choose from that evening!).

You can also read Caroline’s full bio on our staff roster.

3 years ago | |
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A special early birthday present for me came in the form of Nicole Santos—LACO’s new marketing & box office associate. A talented and sharp young arts administrator, Nicole has immediately set to learning the LACO Box Office system and ensure a smooth and enjoyable 2011-12 season for all. Below, she shares the experiences of her first day.

First days are always hard, whether it’s a new job or the first day of school. It’s especially hard when you have absolutely no idea where you’re going or how long it will take you to get there. After a whirlwind week of moving to Southern California from Denver, Colorado, I took off to meet my first day at LACO head on—at the bright and early hour of 6:15. You see, I have moved to the city of Orange (a whole county away!) and everyone had warned me, “Your commute will be at least two and a half hours or even more.” Duly panicked about being late to my first day of work, whether as a result of traffic or even worse, becoming irretrievably lost, I left ample time to thwart disasters. Little did I know that I would be parked and sitting at Starbucks with a coffee in hand by 7:30, an hour and a half before my necessary arrival time. And let me tell you – sitting at a coffee shop for an hour and a half before you begin your first day at a new job is not a good idea. A combination of caffeine and too much time to mull things over reduced me from a state of minor trepidation to one of complete and utter apprehension. Where I only had a twinge of anxiety prior to my commute, I now had full-blown nerves. “Just take a deep breath,” I told myself. “You’ll be fine.”

And I was. From the moment that I walked into the LACO office, I felt welcomed. As everyone began to trickle into the office, a friendly, convivial spirit emerged, which I was immediately drawn to. My nerves began to dissipate and I began to feel more at ease. There is something to say about an organization that is so especially welcoming. I knew I had so much to learn and absorb in a short amount of time, but the notion no longer seemed insurmountable. I am elated to have the opportunity to work with such a forward-thinking and dynamic ensemble in a city like Los Angeles. Everything about LACO, from the programming to the outstanding musicians to the audience is exciting and full of possibility. There is a lot of work to be done and I have a lot of learning to do, but I am excited to be involved in such a vibrant arts community.

3 years ago | |
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No, he hasn’t disappeared! Guest conducting and soloing all over the nation, Jeffrey is certainly keeping himself busy this summer!

Track his current whereabouts…


View where in the world is Jeffrey Kahane in a larger map

...and check out his upcoming itinerary!

Blossom Music FestivalJuly 24 @ 7 pm
Watch Jeffrey will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 with the Cleveland Orchestra under conductor Hans Graf.

Aspen School & Music FestivalJuly 29 @ 6 pm
Jeffrey gives another performance of Mozart’a Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 with the Aspen Chamber Symphony and conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G major.

Ravinia FestivalAug 14 @ 5 pm
Jeffrey leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Berlioz’s Overture to Beatrice and Benedict and Mendelssohn’s Scherzo and Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

You might have already seen him at last month’s Oregon Bach Festival conducting Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and Magnificat as well as Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul, featuring Yo-Yo Ma. “Kahane expertly directed all three works, showing the impressive versatility and artistry for which he is so beloved by festivalgoers,” praised the The Register-Guard. Read the full review!

Happy travels, Jeffrey!

3 years ago | |
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LACO joins the Los Angeles arts community in congratulating violinist Nigel Armstrong for placing fourth in the violin category of the 14th Tchaikovsky International Competition in Russia. Armstrong is the highest ranked American in the world’s oldest and most prestigious competition, which is held every four years in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Armstrong also received a special prize for his performance of John Corigliano’s Stomp, a piece written specifically for the competition.

On January 21 & 22, 2012, Armstrong will join conductor Andrew Schulman for Mozart, as part of LACO’s Orchestral Series. The evening will feature Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, which Armstrong performed to great acclaim at the Tchaikovsky Competition during the semifinals. A recent graduate of The Colburn School, Armstrong has frequented the international competition circuit, taking home silver medals for both the 2010 Menuhin Competition and the First International Violin Competition of Buenos Aries. Nigel writes, “I’m truly honored and thankful to have made it . . . and thrilled to have been awarded the special prize for performance of John Corigliano’s Stomp. I’d like to give a special thank you to my teacher, Robert Lipsett.”

Watch the video below to see Armstrong perform at the First International Violin Competition of Buenos Aries.

Learn more about Armstrong and Mozart (Mostly) and the save the dates (January 21 & 22) on your calendar.

Subscriptions are available at 213 622 7001 ×1 and single tickets go on sale August 11.

3 years ago | |
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Please welcome LACO’s new marketing & development intern, Sandra Chien, who joins LACO through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission internship program.

Hello! My name is Sandra and I just joined LACO as a marketing & development intern. I’m currently an incoming senior at UCLA and set to graduate with a degree in flute performance in June 2012!

So far, working with LACO has been a very pleasant way to kick-start the summer. I am lucky to be surrounded by charismatic people, the bustle of downtown Los Angeles and lots of coffee. It is certainly a welcome break from 9 am lectures! The warmth and enthusiasm of the entire LACO team came across as soon as I entered the office. I truly feel welcomed into the family, despite having arrived not even a week ago!

I look forward to the future weeks and all the things that I know LACO has in store for the season.

3 years ago | |
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