I've never particularly cared for the third movement of Dvořák's New World Symphony. I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, but for me it has only ever been the thing that happens in between the serene beauty of the slow movement and the Jaws-like introduction to the finale. The third movement is fine. I've just never loved it.
Until Sunday afternoon in Tokyo's Suntory Hall. That's when the LA Phil (not necessarily known as a great Dvořák orchestra), conducted by Gustavo Dudamel (not necessarily know as a great Dvořák conductor), caused me to completely change my mind about the third movement of the New World Symphony. It was the final performance of the orchestra's two-week, four-city Asia tour (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo) and maybe there was a little extra electricity on stage because the musicians would soon be Goin' Home. Maybe morale was high because two days before, Gustavo Dudamel had surprised the ...
"Were it not for sakura in this world, our hearts and minds would not be so serene and peaceful." -Ariwara no Narihira (825-880 A.D.)
It's the most wonderful time of the year in Tokyo right now. That fleeting moment that comes each spring when the cherry trees do their best cotton candy impersonation and the entire city comes out to party. Sakura. More than just a flower, it's a state of mind.
When the sakura bloom, Tokyo--already one of the most beguiling cities in the world--is positively radiant. Not only are the views spectacular, but everyone's spirits seem to sparkle as well. Along the pathways of Ueno Park, revelers stretch out tarps and gorge themselves in elaborate picnic feasts (hanami). It's kind of like the Hollywood Bowl on steroids. (For a complete sensory experience, you can taste sakura too, in everything from condiments to fine dining to sakura-matcha Kit-Kat candy ...
The LA Phil wrapped up its Asia tour with two concerts in Suntory Hall in Tokyo. The stunning hall is tucked away in a labyrinth of office buildings, hotels, and the U-S embassy in the Minato district of Tokyo. It was the first hall designed by Yasuhisa Toyota and it was this hall that sealed the deal for the LA Phil to hire Toyota to design the acoustics for Walt Disney Concert Hall. So, for the LA Phil, Suntory is a home away from home.
The audience reception for Dudamel and the LA Phil was nothing short of amazing. After lengthy ovations (15+ minutes) at both performances, Dudamel took one final bow with the orchestra and then led Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour and the rest of the LA Phil off stage. But the ovation continued. For several minutes. And then this happened.
Both concerts here in Tokyo ended this way. (The ...
It’s kind of a chaperone’s worst nightmare—Tokyo Station at morning rush hour. Three rail companies and 14 different lines converge on this central station hauling more than 400-thousand commuters through here every single day. And today, among the throngs: 15 young musicians of YOLA.
I’m happy to report that no one got lost or separated in the madness and we all managed to squeeze aboard our scheduled high-speed bullet train, or Shinkansen, headed to Fukushima Prefecture and eventually the city of Soma—an area hit hard four years ago in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It takes 78 minutes to ride the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Fukushima. 182 miles; 78 minutes. It's enough to make us Californians ponder the what ifs of that LA to San Francisco bullet train that has been in the "proposed" stage for how many years now? The YOLA musicians certainly dug it.
I sat ...
Yesterday was a 28-30 hour day for most of the young musicians of YOLA. It started like any normal Tuesday--Karen, a 16-year-old YOLA cellist told me she got up early like she always does and drove her brother to school--but then things changed in a hurry. At Walt Disney Concert Hall, the YOLA musicians were feted with an official proclamation from LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Photo: Leni Boorstin
Photo: Leni Boorstin
The proclamation reads: "On your selection as a member of the Los Angeles tour to Asia, and in recognition of your outstanding hard work and dedication to excellence, you are hereby highly commended by the Board of Supervisors, County Los Angeles." Mayor Eric Garcetti also sent each of the students a letter: "Dear ____, Congratulations on being selected to represent Los Angeles and perform with the newly formed Japanese youth orchestra in collaboration with Gustavo Dudamel and the ...
Today,15 talented young musicians—ages 13 to 17—from the LA Phil’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) program will arrive in Tokyo, Japan. The students are traveling in conjunction with the LA Phil’s own Asian tour…and will be meeting up with their youth orchestra counterparts in El Sistema Japan to rehearse and perform together before playing for Gustavo Dudamel and a big audience in Tokyo in a few days. The students who were selected for this trip had to endure a rigorous application process, which included an audition and a written essay. There were fun parts of the travel preparation process too, though. Like a few days ago, when they headed Little Tokyo for a taste of Japanese culture and history at the Japanese American National Museum…and then a literal taste of some Japanese food at a nearby noodle shop.
Megumi Smith, one of YOLA’s teaching artists, taught the students how to ...
Alan Chapman is currently roaming through Rome with a KUSC tour of Italy. He sent us these photos, so we can travel along with him.
A nighttime view from the roof of Hotel Raphael.
Our daytime survey of the Roman forum.
A detail from the Church of Sant'Andrea, location of the first act of Puccini's Tosca.
Speaking of Tosca ... this is where she jumps at the end of Puccini's opera (atop Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo with St. Peter's in the background). The KUSC tour visited all three locations in Tosca and, in the evening, a Rome Opera House production featuring reconstructions of the original 1900 sets and costumes.