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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 will run tomorrow in the above papers.
The revision is the addition of a link to David Ng's story on Steven Stucky.


Seems like only yesterday when we were inaugurating Gustavo Dudamel’s reign as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic but with Thursday’s gala opener and this weekend’s first subscription weeks — both at Walt Disney Concert Hall — the now-31-year-old Venezuelan begins his fourth season at the Phil’s helm.

Thursday’s gala is unusual. It features Dudamel conducting the orchestra as it accompanies various dance troupes in music by John Adams, Stravinsky, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein. Among the selections is The Chairman Dances from Adams’ opera, Nixon in China, with Los Angeles’ “BodyTraffic” company dancing new choreography by Barak Marshall.

Information: www.laphil.com

The weekend’s LAPO concerts spotlight one of the most famous dances in history, Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), eight months shy of the centennial of its historic/infamous premiere on May 29, 1913 in Paris.

Legend has it that the avant-garde music and choreography caused a near-riot in the audience at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Pierre Lalo in Le Temps wrote in his review of the premiere: “The most essential characteristic of Le Sacre du Printemps is that is the most dissonant and the most discordant composition yet written. Never was the system and the cult of the wrong note practiced with so much industry, zeal and fury. From the first measure to the last, whatever note one expects, it is never the one that comes …” A certain H. Moreno, in Paris’ Le Ménestrel a year after the premiere, summed up the work thusly: “One recalls the scandalous spectacle of this Sacre du Printemps, or rather a Massacre du Printemps ….”

Today audiences tend to take this work in stride but it remains one of the 20th century’s most compelling compositions. It was a signature piece for Dudamel’s predecessor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and this will be the first time that Dudamel has conducted the work locally.

The weekend programs will also include the world premiere of Steven Stucky’s Symphony, a 20-minute work with four connected sections. Stucky has a 21-year-connection with the Philharmonic. In 1988 then-Music Director André Previn appointed him composer-in-residence; later he became the orchestra’s consulting composer for new music, working closely with Esa-Pekka Salonen. Commissioned by the Phil, Stucky’s Second Concerto for Orchestra won him the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2005 Read David Ng's profile in the Los Angeles Times HERE.

Incidentally, Stucky will be the “Upbeat Live” presenter an hour before each concert. If you can’t be there, you can dial 1-605-475-4333 and enter access code 184648 to listen on your cell phone (toll charges may apply). Also, if you haven’t already signed up the Phil’s “FastNotes” email information, click HERE for the details.

Concert Info: www.laphil.com

This weekend will be busy for local classical music lovers. In addition to the Phil concerts and performances of I Due Foscari and Don Giovanni at LA Opera:

• The Colburn Orchestra opens its 10th season at Ambassador Auditorium Saturday night. Music Director Yehuda Gilad will conduct Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the latter with Colburn Conservatory student Beiyao Ji as soloist. Info: www.colburnschool.edu.

• Pasadena Presbyterian Church begins its “Friends of Music” season of nine free-admission concerts on Saturday evening with Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony and The Company of Heaven. The latter is a cantata on the subject of angels that will be presented on the 75th anniversary to the day of its inaugural performance as a broadcast on England’s BBC Radio.

Timothy Howard will conduct the church’s Kirk Choir, soprano Judith Siirila, tenor Micheal Smith, narrators Frances Nicholson and Ray Quiett, and the Friends of Music Orchestra in Saturday’s performance.

A post on the entire “Friends of Music” season is HERE. Concert Info: www.ppcmusic.org.

• Pasadena Master Chorale opens its season Sunday afternoon at Altadena Community Church as Artistic Director Jeffrey Bernstein leads a program of folk music from Scotland, the U.S. and Japan. Info: www.pasadenamasterchorale.org.

Farther afield, the New West Symphony welcomes Marcelo Lehninger as its new music director with concerts Friday in Oxnard, Saturday in Thousand Oaks and Sunday in Santa Monica. The programs feature violinist Anne Akiko Meyers as soloist in Barber’s Violin Concerto, along with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 and Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger. (Read a story that I wrote two years ago about Meyers and her then “old/new” violin HERE).

The Brazilian-born Lehninger will conduct four of the season’s six concerts. In addition to his New West Symphony gig, he is also one of two assistant conductors of the Boston Symphony. Info: www.newwestsymphony.org

• The Pacific Symphony, which opened its season this weekend, has a one-performance concert Thursday at the Renée and Henry Segersrtrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa with Lang Lang as soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor). Carl St.Clair conducts. Info: www.pacificsymphony.org

One additional note on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: the reviews quoted were cited in Nicolas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective, a collection of negative (or worse) reviews of classical compositions now considered part of the standard repertoire (e.g., symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky). The book is available in soft cover although not, alas, in Kindle or other electronic forms (at least that I could see). It remains one of my favorite books.
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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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