Play On, California! is our noontime spotlight on the great musicians from our Golden State. From San Diego to Sacramento and from the LA Phil to the San Francisco Symphony, we have a goldmine of local musical talent across our state. So, each weekday at noon, join Dianne Nicolini for homegrown favorites. We’re also updating this blog daily, highlighting in detail some of the incredible efforts taken on by our arts communities to share music on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, their own websites and more! If you have any favorites to add, let us know in the comments.

X – Ecstasy & Ecstatic States is the provocative title of the next recital presented by pianoSpheres, with soloist Aron Kallay, this Tuesday night (30) at the Colburn School’s Thayer Hall. “Metal strings struck by hammers excite the air. Peaks and troughs radiate outwards in precise predetermined relationships. Vibrations are transduced into electrical impulses by the smallest of bones. Synapses fire. Neurotransmitters are released. An intense euphoric experience follows.” Included works on the program are by Scriabin, Frances White, Alvin Curran, as well as new commissions by composers Rajna Swaminathan and Dante De Silva.

This Thursday through Saturday (1-3) Guest conductor and composer Teddy Abrams leads the Pacific Symphony in a concert program that opens with a piece he wrote, Overture in Sonata Form. They’re joined by guest soloist Louis Lortie for Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto, and finishes with Stravinsky’s score for the ballet Petrushka (1947 version). The evening concerts are at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Alan Chapman will be giving the Concert Preview Talk at 7, an hour before the concerts begin.

Photo of Louis Lortie by Elias Photography

This weekend at the BroadStage, Westside Ballet of Santa Monica will be presenting its Soirée and Spring Showcase – Friday (26) night’s Soirée includes Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, performed by guest artists Andrea Laššáková and Adrian Blake Mitchell. It’s the Westside premiere of the work from 2005 to the music of Arvo Pärt. There’s also George Balanchine’s Stars & Stripes Pas de Deux, with music by John Philip Sousa, danced by Maté Szentes and Westside alumna Lyrica Woodruff.  The “Masters of Movement: Ballet through the Centuries,” showcase will continue (without the guest artist pieces) on Saturday, including a suite from Raymonda, with choreography by Marius Petipa. There’s also a newly commissioned work called Color of Spring by Vanessa Van Wormer, with live accompaniment of music by Manuel de Falla.  The pre-professional dancers and alumni will be featured in excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, the Westside premiere of Balanchine’sEmeralds Pas de Trois, and much more. The soirée is 8pm Friday, and the Spring Showcases are Saturday at 1 and 5 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center.

Photo of Andrea Laššáková and Adrian Blake Mitchell by Eric Williams

The groundbreaking composer Iannis Xenakis will be celebrated by the ensemble Wild Up this weekend, in honor of what would have been his 101st birthday. The Romanian-born Greek-French composer approached music thinking architecturally, and was an early figure in electro-acoustic music. On Saturday (27) night at 8, there will be a screening of the documentary “Iannis Xenakis, Persépolis,” a behind-the-scenes look at a work that premiered in 1971. Then on Sunday, also at 2220 Arts + Archives, there’s a concert with four of his musique concrete and electroacoustic music pieces (plus cake!)

The San Diego Symphony is joined by the San Diego Master Chorale for the Cantata criolla (A Creole Cantata) by Antonio Estévez, one of two major works by Venezuelan composers programmed this weekend at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park Friday and Saturday (26-27) evening. The other piece is Santa Cruz de Pacairigua by Evencio Castellanos. The concerts will be led by Venezuelan Music Director Rafael Payare, and rounded out with La Péri, a ‘dance poem’ by Paul Dukas, and the Suite from Pelléas et Mélisande by Fauré. The piece by Estévez is subtitled “Florentino, the One who Sang with the Devil” about a cowboy who enters into a singing competition with the devil, and is one of the best known works of music by a Venezuelas composer. Both performances are at 7:30 at the Rady Shell.

Pacific Opera Project is presenting its taken on Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic The Pirates of Penzance, opening this weekend, and running through May 28 at Glendale Forest Lawn. Tickets are nearly sold out for opening weekend, and attendees are invited to come in appropriate Victorian or Pirate costumes to the shows which all start at 7:30. It’s directed by Josh Shaw, with Caleb Yanez-Glickman conducting – Chloe Sundet is Mabel, and Brian Wallin is Frederic, the young lovers thwarted by his leap-year birthday; E. Scott Levin is the (Very Model of a Modern) Major-General.

Courtesy Pacific Opera Project

On Saturday, a six-hour multimedia opera by composer Dylan Mattingly has its premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Stranger Love is an LA Phil commission that has been percolating for years, with a libretto by Thomas Bartscherer, and explores the nature of love in an ever-expanding and leisurely way: “a world where time bends to love like gravity, and moments of bliss, of fear and of rapture – the moments in which you’ve felt most alive – are the pillars that hold up the fabric of the stars.” Its orchestra is provided by the ensemble Contemporaneous, and includes three microtonal pianos, as the work travels from the intimate to the (literally) universal, with singers, dancers, and a light show.

Composer Lera Auerbauch has written a symphony honoring Japanese Vice-Consul Chiune Sempo Sugihara, whose actions saved thousands of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. It’s her sixth symphony, called Vessels of Light, and it has its West Coast premiere Thursday (18) night at 8 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The work is for cello, choir, and orchestra – and the cello soloist, Kristina Reiko Cooper has a personal connection to the historical events: her husband’s father was one of those who were saved when Sugihara issued visas to Jews in Lithuania trying to escape Europe. Also on the UCLA Philharmonia concert is Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. It’s part of the Music and Justice Series of concerts presented by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

The Baroque ensemble called Kontrapunktus is presenting concerts (May 20-June 2) showcasing the works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, in programs they’re calling “The Begotten Son.” He was one of the composers who began in the Baroque, steeped in the musical life of his father, Johann Sebastian, and continued well into the classical period. The concerts (in LA, Pasadena, Carson, Torrance, Newport Beach, and Long Beach) will feature works that C.P.E. Bach wrote in Berlin, including concertos for cello and harpsichord, a trio sonata and a symphony. The ensemble is led by Hannah White, Sphinx Competition First Place Laureate and Concertmaster, with soloist Aubree Oliverson.

Pacific Symphony is presenting a “three-part celebration” in their next concerts, an immersion in the concert hall, ballroom, and cinema. At the center of the concert is the music of George Gershwin and his contemporaries conducted by Carl St. Clair, including Rhapsody in Blue in the orchestration by Ferde Grofé, and with pianist Jeffrey Biegel as soloist, as well as An American in Paris. There’s music that influenced him, by Eubie Blake and Scott Joplin, as well as classics by W.C. Handy, Kurt Weill, and Duke Ellington. The second part of the evening is a Roaring Twenties Party in the lobby, with dancing and a speakeasy, before culminating with It, the 1927 silent film starring Clara Bow (the original “It Girl”). The concerts are Thursday through Saturday (11-13) at 8pm in the Segerstrom Concert Hall. There’s a concert (without the movie and dancing) on Sunday afternoon at 3 as well.

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson will be bringing a recital of “Mozart and his Contemporaries” to Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday (10) at 8, part of the Colburn Celebrity Recital series. He’ll play the same program on Thursday (11) night at 7 at Hahn Hall in Santa Barbara, as part of the UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures series. He will intersperse Mozart works between those by C.P.E. Bach, Domenico Cimarosa, Haydn, and Baldassare Galuppi, who he describes as being in the same ecosystem of 18th-century music. As he writes, “It is my hope that this particular context, a mix of the celebrated and the obscure, can slightly alter our psychological attunement, removing some of the baggage we all bring with us as we come to Mozart’s music.”

Photo of Víkingur Ólafsson by Ari Magg

The Pasadena Chorale presents Brahms and Beyond this Saturday (6) – a performance that brings together works by Johannes Brahms, as well as five contemporary Los Angeles composers who have written new works in response to Brahms. The composers are Dr. Zanaida Robles, Juhi Bansal, Amy Gordon, Kevin Hartnett, and Jeffrey Bernstein. The concert is at the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena at 7:30, and is free, but ticket reservations are required, and donations are welcome.

A program that spans more than 800 years will finish the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s Chamber Series this week, with performances Tuesday (2) and Saturday (6). Called “Masterworks for String Orchestra,” it will include music from the 12th Century by German mystic and abbess Hildegard of Bingen, Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony, a Sinfonia by a teenaged Felix Mendelssohn, Paul Hindemith’s Five Pieces for String Orchestra, and Grieg’s Holberg Suite. The concerts are Tuesday night at The Huntington, and Saturday night at The Wallis, and led by concertmaster Margaret Batjer.

Monday Evening Concerts is presenting an unusual set of concerts this weekend (29-30) at the Getty Center, with the work FEMENINE by Julius Eastman paired with newly commissioned pieces called MASCULINE. Eastman did write a piece with that name, and the two were performed on the same concert back in 1975, but a manuscript and recording survive only for Femenine. MEC commissioned three artists – Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork, Sarah Hennies, and Davóne Tines – to write new works to fill the “tragic and poetically charged void where MASCULINE once was.” The chamber ensemble Echoi will perform Eastman and Sarah Hennies’ works, Davóne Tines will present his own MASCULINE, and Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork will be joined by Kumi James, Jonathan Mandabach and special guests. As in 1974, when the pieces were played simultaneously in different locations, the musicians and audiences will be in different locations on the Getty Center campus for these performances.

Kensho Watanabe leads the Pasadena Symphony in two performances of a concert called “An American in Paris” on Saturday (29), as they end their season at the Ambassador Auditorium. Joining Gershwin’s classic tone poem on the program is Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, with soloist Tai Murray. There’s also The Block by Carlos Simon, inspired by the paintings of Romare Bearden (part of the Composer’s Showcase series) and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. The concerts are at 2pm and 8pm.

Tai Murray

The Dream House Quartet brings together an unusual pairing of instruments – two pianos and two guitars. The pianists are Katia & Marielle Labèque, and the guitarists are Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin. They’ll be performing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Friday night (28) and at Royce Hall at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance Sunday night (30). They’re on their inaugural tour, playing newly commissioned works by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and others, as well as music by Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin. “The all-star ensemble Dream House Quartet fuses musical mastery of classical and contemporary forms.”

There’s a free outdoor community concert this Sunday (23) hosted by The Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA)Eisner Intergenerational Orchestra, Choir, and Big Band.  With musicians ranging in ages from 10 to more than 80, they’ll play a program of all kinds of genres of music. The concert is open to all, and will take place at 3pm at 615 South Lafayette Park Place. Tony Brown, the founder of the HOLA Eisner Intergenerational Music Programs says: “This concert is a celebration of the power of music to unite communities and bridge generations. We hope that everyone who attends will be moved by the incredible performances and the energy of the day.”

Image courtesy of HOLA

American Youth Symphony is celebrating its 58th year with a season-closing concert this Sunday afternoon (23) at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Carlos Izcaray will be leading the orchestra in music by Samuel Barber (Overture to The School for Scandal), Esa-Pekka Salonen (LA Variations), and Richard Strauss (Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, and Ein Heldenleben, or A Hero’s Life. The concert is at 4pm, with a reception after for AYS members.

Photo of Carlos Izcaray courtesy of American Youth Symphony

Rafael Payare and the San Diego Symphony play at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park this weekend (21-22), for a pair of shows with guest pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and soprano Hera Hyesang Park. Debussy’s Prelude to “Afternoon of a Faun” is followed by the unusual work for piano and orchestra he wrote called Fantaisie, which was never performed during the composer’s lifetime. Mahler’s fourth symphony will close the concert, which features a soprano soloist in the fourth movement, singing of “Das himmlische Leben,” the heavenly life.

Photo by Elisabeth Caren

Pianist Helene Grimaud gives a Colburn Celebrity recital this Wednesday (19) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. She’ll be performing works of the three “B’s” (with an assist from another  one, Ferruccio Busoni). On the program is a late Sonata by Beethoven (No. 30 in E, Op. 109), Brahms Intermezzos (Op. 117) and Fantasies (Op. 116) and Bach’s famed “Chaconne” from the Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin. That movement was arranged for piano by Busoni in 1893, expanding it to the full range of the keyboard. The concert is Wednesday night at 8pm.

The Pacific Symphony brings a semi-staged version of Verdi’s Rigoletto to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, with three performances, on the 20th, 22nd, and 25th. Carl St. Clair leads the orchestra with soloists joined by the Pacific Chorale. The tragic tale follows the court jester who hopes to takes revenge on the lecherous Duke of Mantua who has been secretly meeting Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda. Pacific Symphony has been presenting these cross-genre performances since their 2011-12 season, when they undertook their Opera and Vocal Initiative. The opera will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Photo of Carl St. Clair courtesy of the Pacific Symphony

The Emerson String Quartet will make two Southern California appearances this weekend, on its final tour after more than 40 years. They’ll be at the Samueli Theater of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Saturday (15) and La Jolla on Sunday (16) as part of the Revelle Chamber Music Series. They’ve recorded many of the staples of the quartet literature for Deutsche Grammophon, releasing more than 30 albums, and winning nine Grammy Awards. The programs include Haydn, Bartok and Beethoven on Saturday, and Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Dvorak on Sunday evening. The group will be back for an appearance with Renée Fleming in June, but will be finishing their season with a concert in New York in October (which will include long-time Emerson cellist David Finckel).

Santa Barbara Symphony presents a program called “Beethoven’s Dreams” this weekend, with a pair of works by the composer, and the US premiere of a work inspired by him. The Piano Concerto No. 4 (with guest soloist Inna Faliks) and the Symphony No. 4 will be introduced by a recent staged monodrama called The Eternal Stranger (based on a dream by Beethoven.) The new work is by composer Ella Milch-Sheriff, and it’s a collaboration with the Ensemble Theatre Company, directed by Jonathan Fox. Nir Kabaretti will be conducting. The text is from a poem inspired by the description of a dream Beethoven included in a letter in 1821, and was written to help celebrate the composer’s 250th birthday. There are performances at 7:30 Saturday (15) and 3:00 Sunday (16) at The Granada Theatre – with a “Conversations with Kabaretti” discussion about the concert an hour before Sunday’s show begins.

Pianist Inna Faliks

There’s a Recovered Voices concert Wednesday night (Apr 12) as James Conlon conducts musicians from the Colburn Conservatory of Music in works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Arnold Schoenberg, and Franz Schreker. They were composers who the Nazi regime tried to suppress. It’s part of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices, to help the world hear and discover musical voices whose “careers and lives were disrupted or ended” during the period of Nazi power. The concert will include  Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing Suite for Chamber Orchestra, Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1, and Schreker’s Chamber Symphony.  The free concert is at 7pm at Zipper Hall (tickets are required) and will also be livestreamed.

Composer Franz Schreker

Delirium Musicum has released a recording on Warner Classics called Seasons, with works by Max Richter and Philip Glass – including Richter’s updating and reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Glass’s American Four Seasons.  They’ll also be having concerts in Pasadena on the 15th and Santa Monica on the 16th with a program called TRAVELS, “taking musicians and audiences on an international journey” that includes music from France, Hungary, Romania Korea, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, and the US.

Conrad Tao wishes Rachmaninoff a happy 150th birthday this Thursday at The Soraya (Apr 6), with a recital that traces the connections the Russian-born composer had with American composers and works. “In my program, Rachmaninoff’s move to New York in 1918 serves as a jumping-off point for a speculative evening exploring the influence of jazz and American popular music on Rachmaninoff, his influence on composers of those same traditions, and other surprising musical connections along the way.” Among the composers included: Billy Strayhorn, Art Tatum, Irving Berlin, and Stephen Sondheim. Tao will be playing works by Rachmaninoff including the Études Tableaux, Preludes, Symphonic Dances, and the Cello Sonata, with cellist Jay Campbell.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra continues its season with guest soloist HyeJin Kim playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, in the original jazz band version from 1924. The concerts (Apr. 1-2) Saturday evening at the Alex Theatre and Sunday at Royce Hall, will be led by Jaime Martín. The repertoire for the concerts covers a wide stylistic swath, with Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 2, the Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, and ending with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony No. 5 in D major.

Pianospheres presents a Gloria Cheng recital called “Looking Above” on Tuesday the 28th  at Zipper Hall. It features works by William Kraft and Mike Lang, an unpublished piece written for Cheng for her wedding by none other than Pierre Boulez, as well as the concert premiere of Sonata in Darkness by Michael Giacchino, from the filmscore to The Batman. There are also two Valsa Choro (“crying waltzes”) by Adelaide Pereira da Silva, and more. The concert is at 8pm Tuesday.

There’s a pair of European-based chamber groups coming to the Segerstrom Center this weekend, as Saturday (25) the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, led by violinist Daniel Hope play a program of American music, and Sunday (26) afternoon members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Camerata RCO play works by Martinu and Poulenc, opening with a suite from a ballet Martinu wrote called La Revue de Cuisine which premiered in 1927, inspired by jazz dances of the day. The ensemble from Zurich will play pieces by Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Florence Price, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and Kurt Weill (fittingly, his American Song Suite.)

Pianist Conrad Tao joins the Pacific Symphony Thursday through Saturday (16-18) as soloist for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. The guest conductor for the performances is Michał Nesterowicz, and also on the program are the symphonic poem Orawa by the late Polish concert and film composer Wojciech Kilar, as well as the Symphony No. 3 by Felix Mendelssohn, the “Scottish.” The concerts are at 8pm at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Hilary Hahn brings a recital of solo Bach to Walt Disney Concert Hall this Wednesday night (Mar 15) for a Colburn Celebrity Recital through the LA Phil. It’s a program of a Sonata and two Partitas – the Sonata No. 1, and the first and second Partitas – including the famed D minor Chaconne. Her very first studio recording in 1997 was of solo works for violin by Bach, and more than 20 years later, she returned to record the remaining pieces. She hadn’t performed them formally until a few years ago, though. “Pretty much every concerto I’ve played, I’ve done a movement of solo Bach as an encore. Not as part of a plan, but I always just have it in my hands, because I’m always working on it. I don’t even carry the music with me anymore, because I just always have it in my head. It’s really beautiful music that seems to work for every audience and transforms every space I play it in.”

Photo by OJ Slaughter

Mozart meets the world of videogames in Pacific Opera Project’s The Magic Flute AKA #Superflute which reunites some of the stars of classic ‘80s and ‘90s games in six performances from March 17 to 26. Artistic Director Josh Shaw has again combined pop culture nostalgia with a classic hit, in the production which premiered in 2018. With Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Princess Peach, and a libretto in English (co-written by Shaw).  The performances are at El Portal Theater beginning on Friday, March 17, and they’ll be livestreaming their final performance on the 26th.

Photo by Martha Benedict

This weekend (March 10-12) Zubin Mehta leads the LA Phil in a performance of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique in three performances, paired with George Crumb’s song cycle Ancient Voices of Children, with soprano Sophia Burgos and boy soprano Sebastian Dolinar. The Conductor Emeritus led the orchestra from 1962-78, beginning when he was 26, six decades ago. George Crumb’s cycle sets text by poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and “offers a transcendent phantasmagoria of sounds and silence.”

It’s Kahane Plays Kahane at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra this weekend (March 11 and 12). LACO and a consortium of other chamber ensembles commissioned a work by Gabriel Kahane called Heirloom, which will have his father, Conductor Laureate Jeffrey Kahane as piano soloist (and will be conducted by Christopher Rountree). The rest of the program, selections from Rameau operas and Haydn’s final Symphony, (No. 104 in D Major, “London”) will be conducted by Jeffrey Kahane. About the work, Gabriel Kahane says: Heirloom is an aural family scrapbook, exploring in its three movements, a series of inheritances…” His musical life is split between concert music and his singer-songwriter repertoire, which he says he learned at the feet of his father, who would take a break from rehearsing a Mozart concerto by listening to a Joni Mitchell album. “That collision of musical worlds might help to explain the creative path I’ve followed, in which songs and storytelling share the road with the Austro-German musical tradition.” The performances are at Royce Hall at 8pm on Saturday, and the Alex Theatre at 7pm Sunday.

Photo of Gabriel Kahane by Jason Quigley

The Pasadena Chorale’s concert this Saturday is sold out, but some tickets remain for Sunday afternoon’s (Mar 5 at 2:30) concert of Josquin des Prez’s Pange Lingua Mass. The work is built around a hymn tune that was well known, and hundreds of years old when Josquin wrote his work in the early 16th Century. The concert will present additional settings of the tune, including one by L.A. composer Paul Gibson, and one by conductor Jeffrey Bernstein. They’ll also be joined by student singers from Pasadena area  schools for selections, as well as the original hymn. Here the choir rehearses the “Sanctus” movement from Josquin’s mass. The concerts are at the Altadena Community Church, and Sunday’s performance is  a benefit concert to raise money for the Pasadena Chorale.

A world premiere this week at The Soraya: a piece inspired by, and dedicated to trees that are native to California and endangered by climate change. It’s in three parts, by three composers: Billy Childs, Steven Mackey, and Gabriella Smith. It’s called Treelogy, and is a response to the recent wildfires that threatened the Giant Sequoia, Coastal Redwoods, and Joshua Trees. The ensemble Delirium Musicum will perform each of the three pieces, joined by Steven Mackey on electric guitar (Coastal Redwoods), Billy Childs on the piano with his quartet (Giant Sequoias), and electronic sampling that Gabriella Smith recorded in the Californian Desert (Joshua Trees). After its premiere, Treelogy will be performed on tour to California State Universities in San Jose, Sonoma, and Chico. The premiere is at 8pm on Thursday (23) at The Soraya.

The Santa Barbara Symphony welcomes jazz saxophonist Ted Nash this weekend (18/19) with a world premiere re-orchestration of his Transformation, the piece that gives the concert both its theme and name. Music and Artistic Director Nir Kabaretti will be conducting the program that opens with Ernst von Dohnányi’s Variations on a Nursery Tune, which elevates a familiar melody into a Romantic rhapsody. Also on the program are Richard Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration, and Ravel’s slowly-evolving Bolero. For Transformation, the orchestra and Ted Nash will be joined by the Josh Nelson Trio. That piece began as a project he put together with actress Glenn Close for the Jazz at Lincoln Center program – in keeping with the spirit of the program, its new incarnation will blend sounds from Jazz with inspirations from Dali, Mozart, Scriabin, and more. There are concerts at the Granada Theatre at 7:30 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday, with a pre-concert talk between Nir Kabaretti and Ted Nash at 2.

Photo of Ted Nash courtesy of Santa Barbara Symphony

Long Beach Opera presents the world premiere of a work by Kate Soper called The Romance of the Rose beginning this weekend, conducted by Christopher Rountree, and directed by James Darrah. Inspired by a 13th-century poem, Soper has written the libretto too, with characters including “The Dreamer” (Lucas Steele) “Lady Reason” (Anna Schubert) “Shame”, “Idleness,” “God of Love” and more. James Darrah describes it as a bit indescribable: “While it plays into our expectations of everything that a big opera with fantastic voices should offer, it also mocks our own obsessions with narratives and our fear of abstraction. The work quickly plunges us headfirst into Kate Soper’s wild and wonderful sense of sound merging with voice to yield an overwhelmingly original evening of pure theater.” There are three performances, on the 18, 19 and 25th  at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.

Photo of Kate Soper by Liz Linder

The Pasadena Symphony welcomes soloist Zuill Bailey this Saturday (11) to play Elgar’s beloved Cello Concerto on a concert led by François López-Ferrer. Also on the program are Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and as part of the ensemble’s Composers Showcase, a work called subito con forza by Unsuk Chin. It was written to help celebrate the 250th birthday of Beethoven, and reimagines musical gestures from Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture. There are two performances at the Ambassador Auditorium, at 2pm and 8pm.

This Sunday (the 12th) the LA Master Chorale presents Choose Something Like a Star, a program themed around the idea of a beaconing star: “a person, place, dream, or literal star serves as a fixed point to which we project our imagination, ideals, and feeling of home.” The concert will include two world premiere commissions, by Matthew Brown (VOYAGER) and Diana Syrse (Alas de Noche, “Nightwings”) with other works by composers from Brahms and Schumann to Arvo Pärt and Michael Abels. The performance is Sunday at 7 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with a pre-concert talk with Alan Chapman, Grant Gershon, Matthew Brown, and Nilo Alcala, whose I Am Here with You Always is also on the program.

Photo by Tao Ruspoli / LA Masterchorale

The New York Philharmonic has announced that Gustavo Dudamel will be their next Music and Artistic Director, in 2026. He’s been the Music Director at the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009, where he’s led the symphony, and championed new music, education, and more diversity. His own background as a student in Venezuela’s El Sistema program helped shape the musician he would become, and help set his priorities on the podium, including special attention to young musicians in the Latino community, with YOLA, the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. He’ll succeed Jaap van Zweden to be the NY orchestra’s 27th Music Director – following in the footsteps of conductors including Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, and Pierre Boulez. In a statement, Dudamel said: “I gaze with joy and excitement at the world that lies before me in New York City, and with pride and love at the world I have shared – and will continue to share – with my dear Angelenos over the next three seasons and beyond. All of us are united in our belief that culture creates a better world, and in our dream that music is a fundamental right. I look forward to the work ahead.”

Photo by Ryan Hunter

Yuja Wang and Gustavo Dudamel kick off a festival celebration of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff this week, playing all of his works for keyboard and orchestra across two weekends. On Thursday (9) she’ll play the Piano Concerto No. 1; on Friday morning at 11, she’ll be playing the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; over the weekend (11,12) it’s the Piano Concerto No. 2; next week includes the knuckle-busting “Rach 3” (16,17); and they’ll end with the rarely programmed Piano Concerto No. 4 (18,19). It’s part of a February series of events celebrating the composer who spent his final years in Los Angeles, joining many other creative artists who became émigrés during the years of World War II. This series of concerts, as impressive as they are, will at least allow the soloist to catch her breath – just last month at Carnegie Hall, she performed all of the works in a single four-and-a-half-hour concert with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

This fall will mark the premiere of a new festival that will bring together musicians from all across California, with repertoire that’s been written in the past five years. The California Festival: A Celebration of New Music will launch in November, and was the brainchild of the music directors of three of the state’s ensembles: LA Phil’s Gustavo Dudamel, the San Diego Symphony’s Rafael Payare, and San Francisco Symphony’s Esa-Pekka Salonen. More than fifty organizations – orchestras, chamber music groups, choirs, jazz ensembles – will be taking part across the state. As their announcement declared: “Each participating organization will curate its own program or project under the festival umbrella, making this massive new survey as eclectic, exciting and kaleidoscopic as it is insightful and thought-provoking.”

The San Luis Obispo Symphony will play a concert on Saturday night (Feb 4) called Cello on Fire with guest cellistAmit Peled playing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1. For six years, Peled played a cello that had been played by the legendary Pablo Casals for most of his major recordings – a 1733 Goffriller cello that Casals’ widow loaned him. (An experience that led him to write a book for young students called A Cello Named Pablo.) The orchestra, led by conductor Andrew Sewell, will open the concert with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and the two works that close the program are by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on Greensleeves) and one of his students, New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn. Earlier in the day there’s a free “No Ties Allowed” open dress rehearsal at 11am. The evening concert is at 7:30 at the Performing Arts Center’s Harold Miossi Hall.

Amit Peled

LA Opera’s brand-new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opens on Saturday, the 4th of February, with six performances through the 26th. James Conlon will be conducting, with Craig Colclough as Figaro, Janai Brugger as Susanna, Lucas Meachem as the Count, and Ana Maria Martinez as the Countess. It’s directed by James Gray, and features period costumes designed by Christian Lacroix.

Check back for daily updates! If there’s anything you’d like to add, let us know in the comments.

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