Classical Music Buzz > Robert D. Thomas/Class Act > AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Orchestras in...

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

Because the holiday season is dominated by choral music, orchestras have, in the past, tended to shy away from programs in December unless they were holiday-theme oriented (e.g., Handel’s Messiah). This year, things are different.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, who music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 17 years, is in town for two weeks of concerts with his old band (his L.A. Phil title is now Conductor Laureate). Today he’s leading Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2, with an old friend, Emmanuel Ax, soloing in the concerto (which, despite its number, was actually the first piano concerto that Beethoven wrote).

The second half of the program is Sirens by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. Soprano Hila Plitmann and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter join the orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale in the work, which is based on The Siren Song from Homer’s The Odyssey and is receiving its world premiere this weekend. (Read my review of Friday’s performance HERE.)

Salonen is leading another world premiere Friday, Saturday and next Sunday: the Prologue to Shostakovich’s Orango, an unfinished satirical opera that the composer sketched in 1932 while he was writing his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Only the 40-minute Prologue was completed in piano vocal score, which was discovered in 2006. The Phil, a large group of soloists, and the Master Chorale will present the work, orchestrated by English composer Gerard McBurney and staged by Peter Sellars. The program concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4. I have more on this concert at the bottom of the review posted above and I’ll add more details on my “Five-Spot” post on Thursday.

On Dec. 8, 9 and 10, Thomas Wilkins — principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — leads the Phil in a program of movie music as the orchestra’s contribution to the “Pacific Standard Time” series under the auspices of the Getty Museum. Information:

Elsewhere on the orchestral front:
• The Pasadena Symphony will get into the holiday spirit with a candlelight program Saturday at 7 p.m. at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Grant Cooper, artistic director and conductor of the West Virginia Symphony, will conduct the PSO, vocalist Lisa Vroman, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Donald Brinegar Singers and L.A. Bronze (a handbell ensemble) in an eclectic program of holiday music. Information:

• The Colburn Orchestra continues its season next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium as guest conductor Gerard Schwarz leads the ensemble in Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Takemitsu’s From Me Flows What You Call Time, with a local percussion ensemble, Smoke and Mirrors, as soloists in the Takemitsu piece. For Schwarz, it’s something of a homecoming. Prior to becoming music director of the Seattle Symphony, Schwarz held a similar position with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which used to perform in Ambassador. Information:

• Music Director Jeffrey Kahane will lead his Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on Dec. 10 at the Alex Theater in Glendale and 11 at Royce Hall, UCLA. Cellist Ralph Kirshbaum will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. The program also includes music by Ravel, Respighi and Thomas Adés. Information:

(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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