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Robert D. Thomas/Class Act
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

Hollywood Bowl occupies a significant place in the life of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. For nearly a century, concerts have been ongoing in the venerable Cahuenga Pass amphitheatre, which has undergone major facility renovations throughout that time.

The Bowl is a Southern California tradition and an iconic symbol of Los Angeles. Moreover, revenue from the outdoor season gives the orchestra the financial flexibility to keep moving forward as one of the world’s most progressive ensembles.

Some of the Phil’s music directors have barely tolerated performing at the Bowl, but Gustavo Dudamel — the ensemble’s 11th and current leader — is decidedly different. The Bowl was where Dudamel made his U.S. debut on Sept. 13, 2005 and where four years later, he first conducted the Phil as its music director in a free, eclectic concert that concluded with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

He speaks often and lovingly about making music for large masses of people under the stars at the Bowl and each summer he has returned to conduct there. Moreover, he has revived a tradition of opera at the Bowl that is nearly as old as the facility itself. His first concert this season next Sunday will be a performance of Verdi’s Aida, a logical choice since 2013 is the bicentennial of the Italian composer’s birth.

Kiev native Liudmyla Monastyrska will sing the title role, aided by a strong supporting cast including Jose de León as Radames, Eric Owens as Amonasro and Michelle DeYoung as Amneris. The Los Angeles Master Chorale will supply the important choral sections.

The concerts on Aug. 13 and 15 will be performances of Verdi’s Requiem, with Dudamel leading the Phil and Master Chorale, along with soloists Julianna Di Giacomo, soprano, Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano, Vittorio Grigolo, tenor, and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, bass.

The Aug. 16 and 17 concerts represent another Bowl tradition: the annual “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” concerts. Begun nearly a half-century ago, these were where the Phil’s management discovered the lucrative draw that fireworks concerts represent. Few, if any, groups do pyrotechnics choreographed to music better than the Phil and its technical team, now headed by Paul Souza.

However, the “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” tradition seems to be struggling a bit. True, the program will conclude, as always, with the 1812 Overture, aided by the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps, and Pacific Crest, marching bands. However, as of last Thursday, the balance of the program had not been announced and the conductor, Robert Moody, is a relatively young (46), relatively unknown (at least on this coast) maestro. On the other hand, that’s what we all thought about a young Venezuelan conductor named Gustavo Dudamel when he made his Bowl debut nearly eight years ago.

Information: www.hollywoodbowl.com

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

8 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

No genre dominates summer music programs quite like movie music. Nearly every presenting organization uses film scores as the basis for at least one of its summer programs; in the case of Hollywood Bowl, music from motion pictures shows up several times this season.

So it’s no surprise that Saturday night’s concert by Muse-ique at Caltech’s Beckman Mall would use this venerable format, but trust conductor Rachael Worby to come up with something beyond the ordinary for her concept, which she describes as “one of Muse-ique’s most ambitious curatorial adventures to date.”

Many of the composers will be familiar but the selections will not. For example, John Williams will be represented not by music from Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark or E.T. but with the Love Theme from Heidi — no, not the famous version with Shirley Temple that was released in 1937, when Williams was age 5, but a film made for TV in 1968, a year after Williams received his first Oscar nomination for scoring Valley of the Dolls.

Williams and many others trace their inspiration to Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who immigrated to the United States in the 1930s in part to score motion pictures. Saturday’s Muse-ique program will feature cellist Matt Haimovitz as soloist in Korngold’s Concerto in C, which was used in the 1946 movie Deception. Haimovitz will solo Saturday in the world premiere of Sleepwalking, a work with images by Peter Golub, composer and director of the Sundance Film Festival.

Other soloists for the evening will include Wendie Mallick (Hot in Cleveland), who will narrate what’s termed as a “humorous new presentation” of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, which was included in last year’s movie Moonrise Kingdom. This also gives Worby a chance to salute the upcoming centennial of Britten’s birthday, which takes place Nov. 22, 2013.

Information: www.muse-ique.com

Speaking of centennials, 2013 marks the 100th year of the debut of the score that Igor Stravinsky wrote for the ballet The Rite of Spring, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic offers yet another performance of this iconic piece on Tuesday night at Hollywood Bowl. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos will lead the LAPO; the program also includes Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with Augustin Hadelich as soloist.

The venerable Spanish conductor returns Thursday for a program that includes Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome by Respighi and Liszt’s Les Preludes and Totentanz, with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist a work that translates as Dance With Death.

Information: www.hollywoodbowl.com
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

8 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

As if you couldn’t tell from last week’s heat wave, summer is really upon us and our burgeoning music season reflects the seasonal change.

Southwest Chamber Music begins its 20th season in the Loggia of the Huntington Library in San Marino next Saturday and Sunday. The music begins at 7:30 p.m. Preconcert, three-course dinners are available by prior reservation from the Huntington’s Tea Room or you can bring your own picnic and enjoy it on the lawn. As a bonus, sections of the library are open to ticketholders prior to the concert and at intermission.

This weekend’s programs include Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh by English composer Oliver Knussen, Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds and Mozart’s Serenade, K. 361. Other programs are July 27 and 28, August 10 and 11 and August 24 and 25. Information: 800/7236-7147; www.swmusic.org

Saturday is one of this summer’s “clash nights.” In addition to Southwest Chamber Music, both the Pasadena Pops and California Philharmonic are performing in their Arcadia locations (thus creating some traffic issues).

Michael Feinstein, the Pasadena Pops’ new principal conductor, returns to the Los Angeles County Arboretum to lead a program celebrating the musical legacy of MGM movies, including Singing in the Rain, Harvey Girls, Gigi, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Wizard of Oz and others. Vocalists Christine Ebersole and Ron Raines will join the festivities. Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

Meanwhile, the Cal Phil returns to Santa Anita Racetrack on Saturday for one of Music Director Victor Vener’s perennial programming favorites: “Andrew Lloyd Webber Meets Puccini.” Singers Lori Stinson, Christine Campbell and Cedric Berry and the Cal Phil Chorale will join the orchestra for music by two of the world’s best-known composers. The program repeats July 14 at 2 p.m. indoors at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Information: 626/300-8200; www.calphil.org

Although Hollywood Bowl has presented several pops concerts during the last month, the Los Angeles Philharmonic opens its 10-week classical season at the iconic Cahuenga Pass amphitheater Tuesday night. Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, returns home to lead the Phil, Los Angeles Master Chorale and soloists Kiera Duffy and Sasha Cooke in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection).

On Thursday, Thomas leads the orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Dubinushka, along with Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, with Gil Shaham as soloist.

Next week, Bramwell Tovey returns to the Bowl stage on July 16 to lead the Phil in a Britten-Elgar-Sibelius program. On July 18, Tovey conducts a program that concludes with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Information: 323/850-2000; www.hollywoodbowl.com
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

9 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

Which to choose? That’s the question confronting classical music fans in the San Gabriel Valley on Saturday, since they get to pick from three concerts, all of which begin at 7:30 p.m. on that evening six days from now.

THE FLAG IS UP FOR CAL PHIL AT SANTA ANITA PARK
The California Philharmonic opens its 17th “Festival on the Green” summer season, and its second at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, when Music Director Victor Vener leads his ensemble in a program entitled “Beatles, Beethoven and Beach Boys.” The concert repeats next Sunday at 2 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall, marking Cal Phil’s 10th season at the iconic Frank Gehry-designed facility in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Fab Four — The Ultimate Tribute” will perform a series of Beatles hits, including Sgt. Pepper, Hey Jude, Imagine and Penny Lane. The orchestra will chime in with renditions of Beach Boys’ favorites Good Vibrations, I Get Around and California Girls. Vener will also lead his ensemble in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral).

Next weekend’s concerts are the first of five pairs this summer; the others take place at biweekly intervals beginning July 13-14 and concluding August 24-25.

The outdoor concerts take place on the racetrack’s infield concert lawn, which Santa Anita constructed last summer when the Cal Phil relocated its summer series from the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

Information: 626/300-8200; www.calphil.org

MUSE/IQUE RETURNS TO CALTECH FOR SUMMER SERIES
Music of the Beatles will also appear on Muse/ique’s opening event in its 2013 summer season at Caltech’s Beckman Mall but that’s hardly the headline. Artistic Director Rachael Worby, who delights in creating what she calls “mash-up programming,” will also include music by Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Nicolo Paganini and other, but the centerpiece will be an appearance by Grammy Award-winning singer Patti Austin.

One example of Worby’s madcap programming style will have Worby, the orchestra and concertmaster Roger Wilkie playing the second movement of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2, followed by Austin performing Sam Coslo’s jazz tune, Mr. Paganini.

Austin, who last night was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, will sing tunes from her wide-ranging repertoire. Other selections for the evening will range from classical to pop to jazz and — yes — The Beatles (Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds). Worby will knit everything together with her erudite commentary.

Saturday’s program is the first of three at the outdoor Caltech facility, located in front of Beckman Auditorium with two large concrete buildings that create a unique echo-chamber effect. The other programs will be July 27 and August 17.

Information: 626/539-7085; www.muse-ique.org

BERNADETTE PETERS TO HEADLINE PASADENA POPS CONCERT
For its second concert of the summer, the Pasadena Pops will turn the spotlight on Broadway icon Bernadette Peters at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia. Peters, a two-time Tony-award winning actress most closely identified with the music of Stephen Sondheim, will sing songs from a wide array of Broadway shows, including South Pacific, Into the Woods, Gypsy, Company and A Little Night Music.

Martin Laird, Peters’ music director, will lead the Pops during her sets. Larry Blank, who was recently named the orchestra’s Resident Pops Conductor, will lead the orchestral-only portions for the balance of the evening.

The Pops season continues on July 13, August 10 and Sept. 7. Michael Feinstein, the Pops’ newly named Artistic Director, will lead the July and September concerts.

Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

9 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

Every classical music indoor season brings two or three dates when crunches pop up as seemingly every organization decides to schedule an event on that particular day. Summertime has largely escaped these conflicts but this year — specifically Sat., June 29 — will force folks in the San Gabriel Valley to make a choice among three different orchestras.

The California Philharmonic will open its second season at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia on Jan. 29 as Music Director Victor Vener leads his band in a program entitled “Beatles, Beethoven and the Beach Boys.”

On the same date — indeed, at the same time (7:30 p.m.) — a quarter-mile away at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, the Pasadena Pops will be playing its second concert of the season with Broadway star Bernadette Peters as the centerpiece. Larry Blank returns to conduct the orchestra.

Finally, on the same day and time at Caltech’s Beckman Mall in Pasadena, Rachael Worby and her ensemble, Muse-ique, will begin its three-concert summer season with a program that features vocalist Patti Austin.

Pasadena Pops management, which announced its season several weeks ago, said that June 29 was the date chosen by Peters. A spokesperson for Muse-ique said, “Clearly each organization draws different audiences,” which sounds somewhat dubious to me but, hey, what does a lowly music critic know? The Cal Phil noted that each of its five concerts during the summer repeat Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. indoors at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Last year the Pops and Cal Phil scheduled their concerts on non-competing weekends but that has changed this year. The two organizations will have programs on July 13. The Pops plays the second of three programs being led by its new principal conductor, Michael Feinstein, this summer, while Cal Phil counters with one of Vener’s favorite programming concepts, “Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Puccini.” On Aug. 10, the Cal Phil’s “Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gershwin” evening will go up against the Pops’ own Beatles-oriented program.

Meanwhile, on July 27, Muse-ique comes up with a program of movie music featuring cellist Matt Haimovitz as soloist, which the Cal Phil offers “Dance Fever.”

One of the potential problems when the Pops and Cal Phil perform on the same night is traffic. Although those attending Cal Phil concerts enter on the northeast side of the park, which is quite a ways from the Arboretum, traffic for both concerts coming from the west exits the 210 Freeway at Baldwin Ave.

Hollywood Bowl has concerts on each of the above weekends but the crossover issue seems less likely based on the Bowl’s programming as none of the Bowl’s programs involves orchestras.

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

10 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
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Pasadena Pops Orchestra; Michael Feinstein, conductor
Saturday, Sept. 1, 2013 • Los Angeles County Arboretum
Next performance: June 29
Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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Feinstein-White

Michael Feinstein and Lari White perform at last night's concert by the Pasadena Pops at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. Photo from Pasadena Pops
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Midway through the Pasadena Pops concert last night at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, Michael Feinstein thanked the audience for accompanying him and the orchestra on what he called an “experiment” in pops programming.

The description was spot-on. This was Feinstein’s first concert as the orchestra’s Principal Conductor and his first time conducting a full-sized orchestra. Whatever you thought of his conducting ability, there was no doubting the uniquely fascinating nature of the evening’s program, Of the 19 pieces performed, I can only remember two or three that I had ever heard on an orchestra pops program in my decades of reviewing.

Feinstein played to his numerous strengths. His commentary was, for the most part, erudite and witty and many of the works were pieces he had either exhumed in his archival wanderings or had rarely been played before. Nearly all were from the mid- to late-20th century, an era in which Feinstein has focused in what has become known as the “Great American Songbook.”

As a conductor, Feinstein seemed uncomfortable at times and in his element in others. There were occasional ragged entrances and cutoffs but, for the most part, the orchestra acquitted itself well, especially considering that for many of the players a healthy slice of the program was music they were playing for the first time. Feinstein will undoubtedly get better on the podium; most fledgling conductors cut their teeth on student or community ensembles, not on a stage before several thousand people.

In the first half of the evening vocalist Lari White delivered powerful performances of Jump for Joy and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, both arranged by Nelson Riddle, whose birthday was last night. She then concluded with poignant renditions of Where is it Written? and A Piece of the Sky from the movie Yentl.

Marc Cherry proved to be the evening’s comedic highlight with a rollicking performance of Mrs. Worthington by Noel Coward. Cheyenne Jackson delivered over-wrought performances of I Get Along With You Very Well and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, but was effective in channeling Sam Cooke in A Change is Gonna Come. Jackson noted that Barbara Cook once admonished him to talk less and sing more. He should have heeded her advice.

Feinstein concluded the evening by singing a touching rendition of The Way We Were from the keyboard, a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, who died last August (which is how Feinstein ended up as the Pops leader). Feinstein’s opening concert offered a great deal of promise for what he will bring in the two other programs he will conduct this summer and, perhaps, into the future.
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Hemidemisemiquavers:
• The Pops will appear June 9 at the Ford Amphitheatre (in the Cahuenga Pass, across the 101 Freeway from Hollywood Bowl) with vocalist Mandy Patinkin. The performance is part of the inaugural “Zev Yaroslavsky Signature Series” at the Ford (Yaroslavsky’s L.A. County supervisorial district encompasses both the Ford and the Bowl). Info: www.fordtheatres.org
• Last night’s ambience was enhanced greatly by what seemed like hundreds of young volunteers who helped people to their seats and, in particular, provided light on the footpaths leading to the parking lots following the performance.
• Concertmaster Aimee Kreston led a somewhat lugubrious rendition of The Star Spangled Banner from her first-violin chair.
• Feinstein had a lot of fun with the Arboretum’s peacocks, many of whom were in fine voice Saturday night.
• The Pops second concert of the season, on June 29, will center on Broadway star Bernadette Peters. Feinstein will return on July 13 for an evening of music from MGM movies, and will conclude the season on Sept. 7 in an evening of the music of George and Ira Gershwin. In between those two, Martin Herman will lead the orchestra in a program featuring music of the Beatles.
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

10 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.

Pasadena Pops Orchestra; Michael Feinstein, conductor
Sat., June 1; 7:30 p.m. (gates open at 5:30 p.m.)
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Center; 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
Tickets: $20-$100 (children 14 and under: $10)
Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
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Feinstein_5-26-13There’s a lot riding on Saturday night’s concert by the Pasadena Pops Orchestra at the Los Angeles County Aboretum and Botanical Center. It’s the first of five concerts this summer at the Arcadia facility and marks the debut of Michael Feinstein (left) as the Pops’ Principal Conductor.

Feinstein stepped into the role when Marvin Hamlisch died unexpectedly last August. Feinstein is artistic director of the Palladium Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, and since 2010 has been director of the Jazz and Popular Song Series at New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center.

However, neither of these positions requires him to conduct an orchestra. Although Feinstein has performed with many orchestras throughout the past two decades, this will be his first time in a conductor role. Thus, even though he is a major draw, choosing him to head the Pops ensemble represents a big gamble for the orchestra’s management.

In Saturday’s concert Feinstein will lead with his strength as the program is entitled “Michael Feinstein’s Songbook.” During the past decade, the 56-year-old Columbus, Ohio native has not only performed many songs from what he calls “The Great American Songbook” but has also been instrumental (no pun intended) in preserving legendary music from the early to mid-20th century. To accomplish this, he has used educational programs, Master Classes and, in particular, his Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative. He also serves on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board.

Saturday’s program will include music by Rodgers and Hart, Leonard Bernstein, Leroy Anderson, and Ferde Grofé. Feinstein will also offer a musical tribute to Hamlisch, a legendary composer of Broadway and motion picture scores who was 68 when he died last August. Cheyenne Jackson will be the guest artist for the evening.

Feinstein will lead two other programs during the summer, including music from MGM movies on July 13, and an evening devoted to the music of George and Ira Gershwin to close the season on Sept. 7.

Broadway star Bernadette Peters will be the headliner on June 29 in an evening conducted by Larry Blank and the August 10 concert will focus on music of the Beatles, led by Martin Herman.

This summer marks the second season for the Pops at the Arboretum, following nearly 20 years at Descanso Gardens and two seasons on the lawn outside the Rose Bowl.
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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

Lionel Bringuier was just 20 years old when Esa-Pekka Salonen, at the time the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music director, invited the French teenager to join the Phil’s staff as assistant conductor. When Gustavo Dudamel took over the LAPO reins, Bringuier remained, first as associate conductor and then resident conductor, and, in May 2010, made headlines when he substituted for Dudamel midway through a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 after Dudamel injured himself.

Since he came to Los Angeles six years ago, Bringuier’s responsibilities with the Phil have grown as he has matured. He has also made orchestra and opera debuts all over the world, and in two years he will become music director of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra. So this weekend’s concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall were a leave-taking for Bringuier, at least from official LAPO responsibilities, and — perhaps not surprisingly — he chose as his final concerts an all-French program.

Bringuier continues to cut an elegant picture on the podium and in this program (heard Sunday afternoon) he again got the orchestra to deliver lean, yet luxurious sounds in all four pieces on the agenda. He opened with something of an oddity: Les offrandes outbliées — the first work played by an orchestra from 22-year-old Olivier Messiaen, a piece with three movements that reflect the composer’s deep Roman Catholic faith. The long, slow string sections of the first two sections (The Cross and The Eucharist) were in sharp contrast to the fierce accented chords of The Sin, a section that sounded very much like Stravinsky in its angular makeup. The shimmering chords dying away at the end of the 13-minute piece created a heavenly aura and Bringuier held the audience spellbound for several seconds of silence (except for several loud coughers).

After intermission came two Ravel pieces, each of which would normally conclude a program: Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. and La Valse. The former unfolded majestically, while the latter — with its weird take on 19th century Viennese waltzes — concluded with fiery gusto that, predictably, brought forth a standing ovation. The orchestra, as it always does for Bringuier, played at its highest levels, and Bringuier singled out and applauded Catherine Ransom Karoly for her flute solos in Daphnis.

Bringuier’s countryman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, was the soloist in Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5, which is subtitled Egyptian because of the second movement’s musical allusions to the music of that country. As usual, Thibaudet displayed dazzling technique and even managed to find time to exhibit sublime musicality during what was an extraordinarily fast rendition of the composer’s final piano concerto. The entire performance was much too fast for my liking, although no one could help but being swept up in the excitement.
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Hemidemisemiquavers:
• The concerto’s first LAPO performance was on March 6, 1975, with Sidney Harth — the orchestra’s concertmaster at the time — conducting and Lorin Hollander as soloist. As it happens, I was at that performance in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
• Thibaudet sat in the audience to hear the second half of the program. Nice touch.
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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

11 months ago | |
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By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
A shorter version of this article was first published today in the above papers.

As the Southland basks in summer-like temperatures that remind us of upcoming classical music seasons at locales such as the Los Angeles County Arboretum, Santa Anita Racetrack and Hollywood Bowl, there’s still a lot left in the indoor seasons for our local orchestras, including two world premieres.

• Tonight at 7 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in a concert that features the first performance of Music in Circles III by LACO’s Composer-in-Residence Andrew Norman (actually, it’s the second performance; the first was last night in Glendale). The 10-minute piece was the result of the orchestra’s “Sound Investment” commissioning program, now in its 12th year. Norman will discuss the work in a concert preview an hour before the performance.

Also on the program, Kahane will be the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482, which he will conduct from the keyboard. LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer will lead Handel’s Concerto Grosso in A Major, Op. 6, No. 11 from her first-chair position, and the evening will conclude with Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes, Op. 23.

Information: 213/622-7001; www.laco.org

• Meanwhile, the Pasadena Symphony will conclude its 2012-2013 season Saturday with concerts at 2 and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium that will feature the world premiere of Symphony No. 1 by Peter Boyer, the orchestra’s composer-in-residence. Boyer, a Claremont resident, will lead the performance and will discuss the work in a preconcert lecture an hour before each performance.

The program will open with Boyer’s Festivities and will include Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with Korean-born violinist Chee-Yun as soloist. Venezuelan-born conductor José Luis Gomez — a unanimous choice as first-prize winner in the 2010 Sir Georg Solti Conductor’s Competition in Frankfurt, Germany — will lead the segments not being conducted by Boyer.

Boyer’s Symphony No. 1 was dedicated to the memory of Leonard Bernstein. “For any composer,” says Boyer, “a commission for a first symphony is a special opportunity. While I’ve often been asked to compose works on historical subjects or to celebrate specific occasions, with this commission I’ve relished the great challenge of creating a purely musical symphonic work.”

One of Boyer’s historical works was The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, written in 2010 as the Boston Pops 125th anniversary commission. Another, Ellis Island: The Dream of America, composed in 2002, was subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

Information: 626/793-7172; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

• Before Gustavo Dudamel returns to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the month of May, the orchestra welcomes back two familiar guests, conductor Lionel Bringuier and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, for concerts next Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 28).

Fittingly for a French conductor, the Saturday and Sunday programs include Messiaen’s Les Offrandes Oubilées, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2, and La Valse, and Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian) with Thibaudet as soloist. The “Casual Friday” concert omits the Messiaen piece, is played without intermission, and includes a pre-concert talk and a Q&A session following.

Bringuier, who is completing his sixth and final year as the Phil’s Resident Conductor, is Chief Conductor designate and will be Music Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich for the 2014/15 season.

Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com

When Dudamel returns on May 2, 3, 4 and 5, he will do so with a bang, as the concerts include Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 (The Inextinguishable) and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Lang Lang as soloist.

Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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

This article was first published today in the above papers.

Fresh (?) from a triumphant tour of Europe and New York City where it joined with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for several performances of John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the Los Angeles Master Chorale resumes its current season next Sunday at 7 p.m. in Walt Disney Concert Hall with a program of music by Poulenc and Vaughan Williams.

Those reviews that mentioned the Chorale during the recently completed tour lauded its work. Andrew Clements in The Guardian of London opined, “They [the choral sections of Mary] were superbly delivered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale,” while Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times wrote, “The members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (Grant Gershon, music director), dressed in colorful street clothes, sang splendidly.”

Next Sunday, Gershon will lead 62 singers who will perform Poulenc’s Salve Regina and Figure humaine, bookending Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor and Five Mystical Songs. The soloists are all chorus members: Hayden Everhart, soprano; Michelle Hemmings, mezzo-soprano; Michael Lichtenauer, tenor; Scott Lehmkuhl, bass; and Abidel Gonzalez, baritone. John West accompanies Five Mystical Songs on the Disney Hall organ.

While on tour, the Chorale announced details of its 50th anniversary season (also its 10th in Disney Hall), which begins Sept. 22 with a gala celebration concert that includes Scottish folk songs, works by Thomas Tallis, Duke Ellington, Morten Lauridsen and others.

The other nine concerts will range from choral blockbusters, including Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Orff’s Carmina Burana to a minimalist evening featuring of Steve Reich’s You Are (Variations) and David Lang’s the little match girl passion. The season will conclude on June 8, 2014 with a program that will include world premieres commissioned in honor of the Chorale’s 50th anniversary by LAMC Composer-in-Residence Shawn Kirchner, Francisco Nuñez, Gabriela Lena Frankl, and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Information on all of the above: 213/972-7282; www.lamc.org

The L.A. Phil is also back in town with an unusually strong guest-conducting slate in April, beginning with David Robertson, who concludes his stint this afternoon at 2 p.m. in Disney Hall.

This weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki returns to Disney Hall for concerts that include Brahms’ Symphony No. 4; Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, with Leila Josefowicz as soloist; and the U.S. premiere of Markt (Market) by German composer Enno Poppe.

The following week is a series of concerts featuring music associated with Brooklyn, NY, and its Philharmonic. Organist Cameron Carpenter will be the soloist in Copland’s Organ Concerto.

Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com



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

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