Reporting from San Francisco
The houselights stayed dim at the start of Monday night’s concert at Davies Symphony Hall for longer than usual, as if to milk the moment for all it was worth. Only a few extra seconds elapsed before Gustavo Dudamel strode on stage to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But the sense of anticipation in the concert hall seemed to make those ticking seconds feel like an eternity.
Just as he has bewitched Los Angeles audiences since becoming music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic last fall, so the charismatic 28-year-old conductor has quickly brought Bay Area audiences under his spell. A pair of sold-out concerts in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday evenings marked the launch of Dudamel’s inaugural tour as music director of the Philharmonic — the orchestra’s first national tour in almost a decade. If audience reactions to Monday’s performance are anything to go by, the Philharmonic will be returning home later this month after completing its all-but-sold-out 10-concert journey with eight cities full of Dudamel devotees in its wake.
Avery Fisher Hall was sold out for the concert by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Thursday night, the first chance for concertgoers in New York to see him in action since he became the orchestra’s music director last fall. He has since galvanized Los Angeles with his exuberant music making and inspiring capacity for outreach.
But part of the job description for a music director at a major American orchestra involves fostering the technical skills of the players and giving assured, fresh performances of works in the central repertory. In this regard, Thursday’s concert was a disappointment. It began with an arresting account of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 (“The Age of Anxiety”) with the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet dazzling in the formidable solo part.
After intermission, however, Mr. Dudamel turned to Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony, and the performance, though rhapsodic and intensely expressive, was rough and unfocused. Mr. Dudamel conducted from memory and exuded involvement. Clearly, he knows the score and knows what he wants. But he may have wanted more than the music could bear.
How affordable is high culture? One great myth of our time — surely up there with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the Prince of Wales’s supposed eye for fine architecture — is that tickets for opera, theatre, ballet and orchestral concerts are too expensive, especially for the young. It’s a well-known medical fact that your blood boils more often as you get older. But few things set my corpuscles seething more than this oft-repeated chestnut.
In Britain, at least, it’s nonsense — as a music blogger (intermezzo.typepad.com) has just reminded me. She compared prices for top-range British orchestral concerts with similar events abroad. The cheap tickets to hear London’s orchestras range from £7 to £9 — same as a cinema ticket, and lower than at many pop and comedy venues. For comparison, when the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform with top soloists and conductors the cheapest seat is £30; and at the Berlin Philharmonic it’s a wallet-draining £46.
The great Italian composer Luciano Berio once observed that “a musical work is never alone — it always has a big family to cope with, and it must be capable of living many lives.” That insight seemed to inform Joanne Pearce Martin’s extraordinary and elegiac Piano Spheres recital Tuesday at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall.
The two premieres were both typical of a program filled with musical gestures and remembrances: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Pavane in Memory of Steven Witser,” the principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic who died last April at age 48, and Gernot Wolfgang’s “Theremin’s Journey” for Theremin, piano and electronica.
The pianist, in her ninth season as principal keyboardist for the Philharmonic, began by boldly digging into a bright-toned Fazioli piano in four selections from Stephen Hartke’s “Post-Modern Homages,” which included a pleasing riff on Satie. More impressive was Pearce Martin’s finely shaped reading of “Distances” (1988), Meyer Kupferman’s moody memorial to a friend.
Friday at Walt Disney Concert Hall, conductor Edo de Waart led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a three-part program that began with subtle Chinese philosophy and ended in Germanic self-aggrandizement.
De Waart opened the program with the orchestra’s first performance of Qigang Chen’s “The Five Elements,” a delicate and appealing 10-minute tone poem inspired by traditional Chinese beliefs about the building blocks of the universe.
The work unfolded in two-minute sections titled “Water,” “Wood,” “Fire,” “Earth” and “Metal.” Each part had a distinct orchestration and tempo, beginning with the slow, Debussy-like fluidity of “Water” and ending with the quick, perky dance rhythms in “Metal.”
Los Angeles (February 16, 2010) – Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and President and CEO Deborah Borda today announced the 2010/11 season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel and the LA Phil move into the second season of their partnership, one which allows for a greatly expanded presence for Dudamel in Los Angeles. The momentum and initiatives of Dudamel‟s inaugural season continue with 12 new commissions, 9 world premieres, 5 U.S. premieres, 5 West Coast premieres, 2 composer-based festivals, a major European tour and a series of artistic partnerships. The vibrant season, which embraces innovation, excellence and commitment to community, is further embodied in the expansion of YOLA, along with a spectrum of imaginative presentations and the continuing tradition of introducing rising artists and composers.