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.

Combining archival footage, historical documents, and original music, Orchestra Santa Monica has created a film project called “We Gather.” It tells the story of Black life in Santa Monica “through music, visuals, and narrative.”

Composer Derrick Skye performs with musicians of OSM and Music Director Roger Kalia, underscoring images of neighborhoods that were destroyed to make room for the freeway; home movies showing the rich history of community gatherings, and celebrations with families, neighbors, and church congregations.

The film is broken into three movements – “Mending the Chasm,” “Front Porch View,” and “Bay Street Beach.” The last movement (about the area of the oceanfront that was an important gathering place for Black residents) includes spoken words from local historian Robbie Jones, as well as images created by painter Kevin McCants, celebrating the history of the community.

It was made possible by the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs program called “Art of Recovery.”

We Gather: Black Life in Santa Monica told through Music, Visuals, and Narrative from Orchestra Santa Monica on Vimeo.

The LA Phil’s Power to the People! festival is back starting on Sunday, with a program spotlighting organist Nathaniel Gumbs. He’s the Director of Chapel Music at Yale University and has planned a performance that combines classical repertoire with arrangements of hymns and spirituals. The program is called “Hold On, We Shall Overcome!” and it kicks off a series of performances and discussions about “advancing social change, civil rights, and humanitarian causes.” The series is curated by Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel with Herbie Hancock, the orchestra’s Creative Chair for Jazz. Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges will join the Phil on June 2nd and 5th to sing songs by Peter Lieberson based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda. On that same program is the world premiere of a work by Angelica Negrón called Moriviví, and the “Afro-American” Symphony of William Grant Still. On Saturday the 4th, there’s a program of protest music from Latin America and the US, and on Tuesday the 7th, there’s an oratorio by Ted Hearne called Place, which was an LA Phil commission.

Photo of Angelica Negrón by Quique Cabanillas

Long Beach Opera’s Spring and Summer season launches this weekend with a new take on Handel. His opera Giustino was written in 1737, and this version adds new music and arrangements by composer Shelley Washington. It’s directed by LBO’s Artistic Director James Darrah, and Christopher Rountree will conduct, with the Baroque ensemble Musica Angelica. In this production, Giustino becomes a site-specific work, in the sculpture garden and galleries at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, and will incorporate live video elements in a ‘cinema-theater’ hybrid style. The action is set in a motel in the Mojave Desert, and builds on the already ambiguous gender roles of Baroque Opera. There are performances May 21, 22, and 28th at 7:30.

Photo of Shelley Washington by Peter Yankowsky

The unique acoustics of the Mount Wilson Observatory will be filled with chamber music again this weekend, as they begin their Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome series. Two concerts, at 3pm and 5pm will offer music by Beethoven, Mozart, and world premiere by LA-native composer Todd Mason. The performers are Rachel Mellis on flute; LA Phil’s Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour; violist Victor de Almeida; and on cello, Cécilia Tsan, the Artistic Director of the Series. The audience will be sitting in front of the 100-inch telescope under the dome, in the thinner air of the mile-high elevation.  Here’s a small sample of a performance from five years ago:

The Egyptian setting of LA Opera’s upcoming production of Aida might seem familiar to Angelenos – the artistic design of the production is by graffiti artist RETNA. His images are in part inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics. Music Director will conduct the six performances of the production, from the 21st to June 12th. It’s the first Aida here since 2005. Latonia Moore will be singing the title role (she’ll be in a production at New York’s Metropolitan Opera this December), with Russell Thomas as Radames, and the production is directed by Francesca Zambello. It’s a grand spectacle, with a full chorus, orchestra, and ballet.

A song cycle called Imagine a City that was written by 50 high school students in Van Nuys will have two performances this Friday. It’s this year’s Oratorio Project from the LA Master Chorale. Over the past year, teaching artists from the ensemble have worked with and mentored students as they came up with the libretto and music for the seven songs, which this year have the theme of utopian cities. It’s the 11th year of the program, and for the free performances (at 1:30 and 2:30 on Friday in the Van Nuys High School auditorium) singers and instrumentalists from the school will be joined by a group of singers from the Master Chorale. Last year’s work, called Naia: The Spirit of Hoyo Negro had its premiere as a virtual performance (below)

Courtesy LA Master Chorale

After a two year wait, the Verdi Chorus will be presenting its Spring concert – the same program that had to be canceled two years ago at the start of the pandemic. There are two performances of “Hélas mon Coeur” (Alas my Heart) with a program featuring choruses from Verdi’s Ernani and Macbeth, Fidelio, La Gioconda, Andrea Chénier, and The Tales of Hoffmann. Soloists Julie Makerov, Todd Wilander, and Roberto Perlas Gomez will also be singing arias. The concerts are dedicated to the memory of Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum’s late husband, Dr. Aurelio De La Vega, who died earlier this year. A fund in his name has been announced to help hire guest artists. This is the start of the Chorus’s 39th season – the concerts are at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Courtesy Verdi Chorus

I Can’t Breathe, an opera inspired by the experiences of violence upon members of the Black community at the hands of the police, has its West Coast premiere performances this weekend with Pacific Opera Project. In six monodramas, fictional characters from all walks of life sing of how their interactions with law enforcement went horribly wrong. It’s by composer Leslie Burrs, with a libretto by Brandon J. Gibson, and had its world premiere just this February in Knoxville. Pacific Opera Project was one of the co-commissioners, along with Opera Columbus and Cleveland Opera Theater. It explores themes of “grief, loss, love, identity and hope,” as the characters are named only by their archetype, such as The Athlete, The Thug, and The Mother. There are three performances, Friday at 8, Saturday at 6, and Sunday at 3, at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.

Photo courtesy Pacific Opera Project

This weekend there’s a concert celebrating the memory of Namhee Han, who came to Los Angeles to study Applied Linguistics at UCLA, and went on to spend more than 20 years as organist at Westwood Presbyterian Church, after becoming fascinated with the instrument. She had only studied the piano growing up in South Korea, and was ‘faking it’ as a church organist when she decided to pursue graduate degrees in Organ Performance at UCLA, and was accepted into the program despite having no undergraduate degree in the subject. (She would earn doctorates in both Organ and Linguistics). Namhee Han collaborated with many Southern California musicians and ensembles, including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Pacific Symphony, and Southwest Chamber Music. She died, after several years of being treated for cancer, in the Spring of 2020. The performance on Sunday afternoon at Westwood Presbyterian will be by organists Stephen Karr and her former teachers, Christoph Bull and Phil Smith.

Namhee Han

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica will be featuring some special guest artists who left Russia when the war in Ukraine began. “A Petite Soirée” is a fundraiser and performance Saturday the 7th. Joy Womack and Adrian Blake Mitchell, both alumni of Westside, and Andrea Laššáková, who danced as a soloist with Mitchell at the Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet Company in St. Petersburg, found themselves having to leave Russia hurriedly following the invasion. Joy Womak had danced with The Bolshoi Ballet, The Kremlin Ballet Theater in Moscow, and Astrakhan Opéra and Ballet. The other guest artists are Lyrica Woodruff and Maté Szentes. The Spring Performance program “New Horizons” will present the dancers of Westside Ballet in classical, neo-classical and contemporary pieces. There’s a second performance of “New Horizons” on Sunday afternoon, with a Mother’s Day champagne reception, and Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Laššáková will be dancing on that program as well.

Photo of Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Laššáková by Ira Yakovieva

Guitarist Sharon Isbin gives a recital of Spanish solo works in Los Angeles this Sunday afternoon, with a masterclass in Santa Monica on Saturday at 6:30. In 2020, she was the first guitarist ever to be named “Musical America Worldwide Instrumentalist of the Year,” and has appeared as a soloist with more than 200 orchestras, as well as being the founding director of the Guitar department at the Juilliard School. The concert will be at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles at 4 on Sunday.

Photo by J. Henry Fair

On Gold Mountain is an opera that tells the story of one Chinese immigrant’s experience coming to California in the 1800s. Based on the book by Lisa See, whose great-great grandfather came to the US to work on the transcontinental railroad, it tells the story of his son, Fong See, who arrived as a 14-year-old, looking for his father. Despite institutional discrimination, with laws that put obstacles in front of him, he became a successful businessman, and a patriarch of LA’s Chinatown. He also defied the laws of the time preventing interracial marriage, marrying an American woman, Lettice “Ticie” Pruett, and raising five children. The opera has a libretto by Lisa See, and music by Nathan Wang, and there are eight performances at The Huntington’s Chinese Garden between Thursday the 5th and Sunday, May 15th. It’s a site-specific co-presentation between The Huntington and LA Opera, and part of Nathan Wang’s residency as The Huntington’s Cheng Family Foundation Visiting Artist.

Photo of the See family © The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

As they celebrate their season with a performance and gala Saturday night, the American Youth Symphony will include a world premiere by Alexander Mansour, the orchestra’s principal cellest and Creative Youth Fellow. It’s a work called Zephyr, which is split into two parts – “Before,” and “After.” As the name might suggest, the piece is a tone poem that builds into a frenzy with the orchestra and electronic tape playback of wind sounds. Since it was written specifically for this ensemble, Mansour describes it as being a bit like “a concerto for orchestra, a showcase for my talented friends.” The concert will be led by Music Director Carlos Izcaray, and will open with John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and close with the Fifth Symphony of Gustav Mahler. It’s at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Saturday at 5pm.

Photo courtesy American Youth Symphony

Santa Barbara Symphony presents “Fandango Picante” this Sunday afternoon (and the following Thursday evening) – a program rescheduled from January. Guest soloist Anne Akiko Meyers will be playing a violin concerto called Fandango that was written for her by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez, and the orchestra will be playing his best-known work, Danzon No. 2. He’s infused the concerto with the kinds of music he heard growing up – on the radio, at the movies, and played by his father, who was a Mariachi violinist. When he was approached by Meyers about writing a piece infused with the spirit of Mexico, Marquez says, he was able to revisit the idea of a concerto that he had wanted to write 20 years earlier. The other works on the program are impressions of Spain, as written by foreigners: Georges Bizet’s Carmen Suite, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol. Music and Artistic Director Nir Kabaretti will be conducting the performances at the Granada Theatre.

Photo by David Zentz

500 high school singers from 18 schools will be taking part in the LA Master Chorale’s High School Choir Festival this Friday. This will be the first return to a live concert event after two years of virtual performances. Students prepare for the concert program throughout the school year, and they’ll be conducted by LAMC Artistic Director Grant Gershon in a program that stretches from Handel to a work by their Artist-in-Residence, composer Reena Esmail. There are also traditional songs, as well as arrangements of pop songs. The performance is free to the public at the Music Center’s Grant Park, at 11am on Friday. The Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Ensemble, led by Jenny Wong, will open the performance with a short program before the high school singers. This is the 33rd annual festival – here’s a screenshot from their 2021 Virtual Festival:

This Sunday there’s going to be a free “Concert in Solidarity with Ukraine” in Culver City. It’s a benefit to help provide the victims of the War in Ukraine with critical health care.

Taking part will be Ukrainian-born pianist Inna Faliks and violinist Miroslava Khomik, along with cellist Anonio Lysy, pianist Steven Vanhauwaert, and the Lyris Quartet. There will also be a celebration of Ukrainian poetry and art, and music by living Ukrainian composers Valentin Silvestrov and Jan Freidlin, as well as the late Mirolav Skoryk. Other music on the program will be by Gliere, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, as well as Henryk Gorecki.

It’s being presented by Jacaranda Music, the Wende Museum of the Cold War, Culver City Forward, Classical Underground, and the Culver City Unified School District, and will be held at the Robert Frost Auditorium in Culver City on Sunday night, May 1st. Tickets are free, and donations can be made via smartphone during the evening.

It will end with a performance of the Ukrainian National Anthem, with singers accompanied by the Jacaranda Youth Chamber Orchestra.

Photo by David Travis via Unsplash

The LA Phil launches its Gen X Festival Friday night, celebrating the composers who fall between the Boomers and Millennials… The first concert, “Voices of a Generation,” is both curated and conducted by Thomas Adès, who has selected an international group of composers: Anna Meredith (whose Nautilus has her US premiere), Brazilian-American Felipe Lara, Veronika Krausas, and Francisco Coll, from Spain. There’s also a US premiere of Märchentänze by Adès, with violinist Pekka Kuusisto as soloist. The Festival, which has a series of related events through mid-May, continues Saturday and Sunday with a program conducted by Teddy Abrams. Those concerts will have music by Jonathan Bailey Holland and Andrew Norman, and finish with a work by a composer who wasn’t in Gen X, John Corigliano. His Symphony No. 1, remembering those who died during the AIDS crisis, helped shape the way younger composers to follow would approach symphonic writing. There’s a post-concert concert on Sunday, by the musicians of the contemporary ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

Courtesy LA Phil

Pittance Chamber Music presents Liebeslieder! this weekend: with four singers and two pianists on the same bench, both of Brahms’ two sets of Liebeslieder Waltzes. The two pianists will be Grant Gershon and Jeremy Frank, and the singers are soprano Elissa Johnston and members of the LA Opera Chorus – Melissa Treinkman, Edmond Rodriguez, and James Martin Schaefer. Although the pieces are often today performed by large choruses, this is the way they were originally heard and performed, becoming very successful (the reason Brahms revisited the idea with the Neue (New) Liebeslieder five years after the first set was published. He wrote them after moving from Hamburg to Vienna, writing in the tradition of his new home city. The performance will be at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena at 7:30 Saturday night.

Photo by Eric Scot

A world premiere performance this weekend that had to wait for two years: this Sunday, the Choral Arts Initiative will be singing From Wilderness: A Meditation on the Pacific Crest Trail by Jeffrey Derus. It’s a piece inspired by — and written to reflect — the trail that runs from Mexico to Canada, passing through Southern, Central, and Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. It’s for the choir plus crystal singing bowls and solo cello.  Derus wrote the piece as a meditation, offering an opportunity for self-discovery and self-healing, “taking a break from our hectic lives, recharging and reconnecting with nature.” The ensemble had been just about to give the world premiere two years ago, when everything locked down. They decided to record the piece as soon as they were able, and after being apart for 16 months, recorded an album that’s also being released this week. This is the tenth anniversary season of the Choral Arts Initiative, led by their Artistic Director, Brandon Elliott. The performance on Sunday afternoon is at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach. Here’s a sample of the work, from one of their final rehearsals before lockdown two years ago:

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason are in Southern California with several concert stops: there’s a recital Tuesday night in Santa Barbara, at Campbell Hall on the UCSB campus; Wednesday they’ll be in LA at the Walt Disney Concert Hall; Thursday takes them to Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, where they’ll be introduced by Brian Lauritzen; and Saturday they’re in La Jolla at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall, part of the Revelle Chamber Music Series. That’s before heading to San Francisco on Sunday evening, where they’ll wrap up the West Coast leg of their tour. On the program are sonatas by Frank Bridge, Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich, and (except in LA, where it will be swapped for a Beethoven sonata) one by Karen Khachaturian, the nephew of Aram Khachaturian.

Photo by James Hole

A documentary about conductor Marin Alsop (available for streaming this week through PBS’s “Great Performances”) follows her career from her childhood, when she decided what she really wanted to do was to lead an orchestra. At nine years old, she’d already been playing the violin for years (her parents were both professional musicians: her father was a violinist and her mother was a cellist) when she saw a Young People’s Concert hosted by Leonard Bernstein. She continued to study and play violin, forming an ensemble of classically trained women string players called “String Fever” that played swing-inspired music – but she still wanted to conduct. She was able to study with Bernstein at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Summer home of Tanglewood – and there’s archival footage of them interacting during masterclasses. Alsop would go on to be the first woman named conductor of a major US orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, in 2007 – and also led the Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, and currently also leads the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Having been told at a young age that she couldn’t become a conductor because girls don’t do that, she says: “Don’t tell me I can’t do something”. For more than 20 years, she was Music Director of the Cabrillo Festival of New Music in Santa Cruz, and throughout her career has been teaching and mentoring young composers – including Joseph Young, now Music Director of Berkeley Symphony. You can watch the full documentary, called “The Conductor” here.

 

A seasonally appropriate oratorio by J.S. Bach will finally have its first LA performance this Saturday night on a program called “Passion” – his Easter Oratorio, written in 1725. Somehow or other it’s never been heard in concert in Los Angeles. But Jacaranda’s Chamber Orchestra will be changing that on Saturday night. They’ll be joined by their resident vocal ensemble, the singers of Tonality for the performance, which will take place at 8pm at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica. They’re pairing it with Lou Harrison’s Suite for Violin and Stringswith violinist Alyssa Park, a piece that they also gave the local premiere of ten years ago. Bach’s telling of the St. Matthew and St. John Passion stories are much better known – and would have been performed in the leadup to Easter in the church where Bach was working. The Easter Oratorio is shorter than those works, and more joy-filled, and would have ended the Holy Week musical observances. Lou Harrison’s Suite for Violin and Strings was written in 1993, a reworking of the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan. It had its LA premiere with Jacaranda in the 2011-12 season, almost a decade after the composer’s death.

When composer Frederic Rzewski died last Summer, plans were well along for him to come to Los Angeles and give a recital through Piano Spheres. Covid forced other delays, but this Saturday at 4, they’ll instead offer a free outdoor marathon concert on the Colburn Plaza, followed by a ticketed concert at Zipper Hall at 8. One of the performers on the evening program is Ursula Oppens, a longtime friend and champion of his works. “This is just a wonderful tribute,” she says, “Because usually there aren’t so many people involved in playing, and that’s very exciting. And it also is true that Frederic’s music has basically crossed over to the general piano-playing public. You find it in competitions, and in auditions at Juilliard, and other places.” She’ll play two of his later works, Rondo, which the composer was originally planning to play himself, and a piece Rzewski wrote for her called Friendship. Oppens says he was a quite accomplished pianist as well as a composer, and was known to include his own improvised cadenzas while playing masterworks like Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata. The evening concert will include the world premiere of a four movement suite (which will be played by Piano Spheres core artists); Lisa Moore will play a 1977 piece as well as the West Coast premiere of 2020’s Amoramaro; and the piano duo HOCKET will play an arrangement of Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues.

Photo by Michael Wilson

There’s a world premiere run at REDCAT – an opera by composer Du Yun called In Our Daughter’s Eyes, starring baritone Nathan Gunn. He’s an expectant father, “struggling to overcome his personal demons and become a man his daughter will be proud of.” He sings passages from the journal that he’s keeping for her, which tells the story of her mother’s pregnancy, and that he’ll eventually give to her. Meanwhile, he’s encountering and telling of his own personal shortcomings and flaws. Du Yun won the Pulitzer Prize in music for her opera Angel’s Bone in 2017, and was also one of the composers of Sweet Land, which The Industry presented outdoors shortly before the arrival of the pandemic. In Our Daughter’s Eyes is LA Opera’s latest “Off Grand” production, and runs through Sunday.

Students from some of the top music conservatories around the US and Canada will be taking part in a streaming benefit concert this Saturday, to raise funds to aid the Ukrainian people. The concert, called Unite for Ukraine will be hosted by The Violin Channel, and introduced by violinist Midori. The schools represented are the Colburn School, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, New World Symphony, Cleveland Institute of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Colburn School musicians will play movements from Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Concertino for Violin and String Orchestra, performed by Anais Feller and Academy Virtuosi – part of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices, resurfacing music suppressed by the Nazis during World War II. A quartet of musicians from the SFCM’s Roots, Jazz and American Music (RJAM) program will be taking part, playing Eddie Harris’s Freedom Jazz Dance. During the concert, which begins streaming at noon (Pacific) on Saturday, viewers will be able to make donations which go toward humanitarian aid, supplies and transportation, as well as medical services.

Photo by Alexei Scutari via Unsplash

Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists give three Southern California performances this week, as they wrap up the California leg of a tour, with music of Haydn and Mozart. The ensemble, which Gardiner founded in the mid 1970s, is a period instrument orchestra, specializing in music from the time of Monteverdi (at the beginning of the Baroque) to the end of the Classical era with the composers on this program. They’ll be playing the “Drumroll” symphony of Haydn, No. 103, Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, and between the two, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante – a work that is part symphony, part double concerto for violin and viola. The soloists will be the Leader (concertmaster) of EBS, Kati Debretzeni, and Fanny Paccoud, Principal viola. On Tuesday night, they’re at the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara; Wednesday at The Soraya in Northridge; and they finish in Costa Mesa Thursday evening at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Courtesy of the artist and The Soraya

It’s easy to forget Beethoven’s Deafness when listening to his works – but a collaboration between the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Deaf West Theatre of his Fidelio this week will approach the opera through that lens. In a semi-staged production at Walt Disney Concert Hall, there will be singers and a parallel cast of signers, with the aim that the performance can be enjoyed by both Deaf and hearing audiences. Gustavo Dudamel will conduct – it’s a project he wanted to do for the 250th birthday of Beethoven. They’ll be joined by singers from the LA Master Chorale, as well as members of the Coro de Manos Blancas, or White Hands Choir. That group, part of Venezuela’s El Sistema program of immersive musical education, allows children and young adults who might otherwise be excluded from artistic performance to take part and contribute. Dudamel led that ensemble in rehearsals and concerts when he was in Venezuela – including their first symphonic performance. Fidelio runs from Thursday through Saturday nights.

Courtesy LA Phil

When pianist Anthony de Mare was growing up, he discovered the musicals of Stephen Sondheim, and wanted more than anything to learn how to play them. Decades later, he began an ambitious commissioning project he called Liaisons, asking 36 composers from all corners of the world of music – classical, jazz, film and more – to reimagine a song of Sondheim’s as a solo piano work. He sought, and received, Sondheim’s blessing for the project, saying he was humbled and curious to see what the group of A-list composers would make of his songs. For the celebration of the Broadway master’s 90th birthday in 2020, another 14 commissions were added, from composers including Meredith Monk and Jon Batiste. Sunday night at 7, through CAP UCLA, de Mare will present selections from both sets, with the West Coast premiere of Liaisons 2020 at Royce Hall.

When Conrad Tao begins his piano recital at Soka University’s Performing Arts Center this Sunday, he’ll be playing an improvisation of his own. He’s been seriously composing as well as playing the piano since he was a child (he also played the violin well enough to be able to play a Mendelssohn concerto on each instrument in the same concert back when he was a teenager).  There’s another of his works, Keyed In, later in the program, as well as a work by Jason Eckardt that was written for Tao, inspired by a plant that can be found in the Catskills: Antennaria plantaginifolia: “Pussytoes”. John Adams’ China Gates is followed by Bach’s Chromatic fantasia and fugue – and Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) is followed by a work dedicated to Schumann by jazz composer and pianist Fred Hersch. The recital ends with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

The festival celebrating New Music called Noon to Midnight fills the Walt Disney Concert Hall this Saturday. There’s a full lineup of Southern California ensembles, a dozen world premieres and five LA Phil commissions, with special guests including flutist Claire Chase, and composer John Adams. He’ll be conducting an evening concert called “Focus on Andreissen,” with music by the late Louis Andriessen, who died in 2021. Ensembles with appearances in and around the WDCH include Southland Ensemble, Wild Up, Tonality, Jacaranda Music, Piano Spheres and the LA Phil New Music Group. The festival begins and ends with Claire Chase leading the Pauline Oliveros work Tuning Meditation, which uses the audience as an singing instrument, and inspires deeper listening and focus.

Photo courtesy LA Phil

Robert Schumann’s music (Waldszenen/Forest Scenes) will be alongside much more recent works when composer-pianist Timo Andres makes his LA recital debut at The Wallis this week. The Palo Alto-born, Brooklyn based composer will be playing one of his own new works as well as pieces he commissioned from Sarah Goldfeather and Eric Shanfield.  Andres describes his 2021 composition Honest Labor as “a short piece which attempts to uncover a kind of Transcendental satisfaction in routine tasks.”  He gave the world premiere of Fern Canyon by Sarah Goldfeather at the end of last year – she’s a violinist/composer who’s played in pit orchestras on Broadway as well as being part of an experimental pop band. And the piece by Eric Shanfield is called Timo Variations, composed for and dedicated to Andres. It has nine variations and a recapitulation based on a theme that Andres himself suggested. The recital is Thursday night at 7:30 at the Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis.

Photo by Michael Wilson

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance for the recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the “Symphony of a Thousand” – which included the vocal forces of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Los Angeles Master Chorale, the National Children’s Chorus, and the Pacific Chorale. It was recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall at the end of May/beginning of June, 2019 – ending the LA Phil’s centennial season with – if not a thousand – 346 performers taking part: eight solo singers, two mixed choruses of adults, and a children’s choir. (In 2012, Gustavo Dudamel’s “The Mahler Project,” featured concert performances of all nine of Mahler’s symphonies within the span of a month.) The recording was also nominated for Best Engineered Classical Album, but that went to “Chanticleer Sings Christmas” – the eighth Christmas recording the men’s choral ensemble has released, with seasonal works from the Renaissance as well as gospel tunes… staples of their always-popular Christmas concerts.

Photo by Vern Evans

The Pasadena Chorale’s “Listening to the Future” concert returns this Saturday – with their Master Chorale presenting new choral music by Pasadena area high school students: the next generation of composers. The program, which began in 2015 allows students to work with composer mentors, and hear a performances of their pieces. This year’s performance is sold out, but you can see an excerpt of one of the new pieces from a rehearsal here…

Members of the Silk Road Ensemble come to The Soraya this weekend to perform a multi-media work by Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh called Home Within. While the music is playing, visual artist Kevork Mourad will be live illustrating, creating images that impressionistically depict recent Syrian history, events which caused so many Syrians to have to flee their country and become refugees. The piece is a rumination on the changing definition of the word Home, which has been forced to be much more dynamic and flexible in response to tragedies. As Azmeh says, whether it’s a geographical place you consider home, where you’ve landed, or where you ultimately go, “home is the place you wish well for.”  The concert is 8pm at The Soraya in Northridge.

The war in Ukraine has inspired a piece of music called Invasion, written this month, which will have its world premiere on Saturday. The piece by Lewis Spratlan (who won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2000) will open a recital by Ukrainian pianist Nadia Shpachenko at Chapman University’s College of Performing Arts in Orange. It’s one of two world premieres on the program – and the rest of the concert will be pieces Shpachenko commissioned for a project that will ultimately make up her next recording project: works inspired by the game of soccer. Ian Dicke has written Telstar Loops for piano and electronics, based on the pattern of the 12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons of a classic soccer ball; David Sanford’s La Pulga Variations is divided into seven movements each about a different player; Dana Kaufman wrote Honeyball in honor of Nettie Honeyball, the founder of the first women’s soccer team, the British Ladies’ Football Club, in 1895. Last Dance by Adam Schoenberg imagines a player’s final game; and Pamela Z’s world premiere Balón explores the geometry of passing patterns. The concert is at 8pm at Salmon Recital Hall.

Photo by Victoria Innocenzi

Festival Mozaic returns in the last week of July, with 24 events in San Luis Obispo county. Music Director Scott Yoo has planned a variety of performances – beginning with a “Baroque in the Vines” concert featuring the Festival Orchestra and artist-in-residence violinist Abigel Kralik.  There are midday mini-concerts, and chamber music performances, a family concert with Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals  There’s a “Notable Insight” event, with an in-depth look and listen to the music of Cesar Franck with Scott Yoo and fellow musicians are joined on stage by the audience. There are also gastronomical experiences, with a “Notable Encounter Dinner” that mixes a Mozart Viola Quintet with fine dining and wine, as well as wine tastings. And special guest Helene Grimaud will be playing the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Festival Mozaic Orchestra in a concert on July 30th that wraps up this year’s festival.  

Photo of Scott Yoo by Kate Lemmon

The Pacific Symphony will be celebrating the Iranian New Year with a Nowruz concert this Saturday evening at Segerstrom Concert Hall, with Music Director Carl St. Clair, and special guests: singers Alireza Ghorbani and Mojgan Shajarian, conductor Shardad Rohani, and guitarist Lily Afshar. The concert which celebrates the ‘rebirth of nature’ will begin with the Dance of Spring Overture composed by Rohani, who is the principal conductor of the Tehran Symphony. Lily Afshar will be playing a Vivaldi Guitar Concerto, and the second half of the program will be music of Alireza Ghorbani, arranged for orchestra by Rohani. There will be dancing and Iranian folk music in the lobby before the concert. Nowruz has been celebrated to mark the arrival of Spring for more than 3,000 years.

Photo by Niloofar Farkhojasteh via Unsplash

The St. Lawrence String Quartet pays a visit to The Soraya for two concerts of works (mostly) by contemporary composers – part of the Onstage Sessions Chamber Music series. The quartet has been ensemble-in-residence at Stanford for almost 25 years, and their program will include music by John Adams, arrangements by Osvaldo Golijov, and bassist/composer Doug Balliett. The Adams Second Quartet was written for them, and they’ve worked closely with him over the years, including performing the world premiere of his Infinite Jest with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas. In the Spring of 2021, they live-streamed the complete Opus 76 quartets of Haydn from several locations, and released their recording of the complete Opus 20 quartets. The concerts are Thursday and Friday night at 8.

Photo by Marco Borggreve

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra have several California performances coming up… In their first ‘long-haul’ tour concerts in exactly two years, they’ll begin at Stanford Live on Saturday the 19th, with a Cal Performances appearance in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa Tuesday night, before having a five-day residency in Santa Barbara at Music Academy of the West.

Saturday, they’ll be joined by soprano Nicole Cabell at the Bing Concert Hall, who will perform George Walker’s Lilacs for voice and orchestra, a “ravishing exploration of longing and loss” with text by Walt Whitman. Also on that program is Dvorak’s American Suite, and Schumann’s Second Symphony.

The programs for Berkeley, Costa Mesa, and the first Santa Barbara concert include the Corsaire Overture by Berlioz, Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin – Suite, Symphony No. 7 by Sibelius, and Ravel’s La valse.

There’s also a work called The Spark Catchers by contemporary composer Hannah Kendall, which “depicts the working lives of the women who worked in the Bryant and May match factory… and how they had to keep a watchful eye, catching any stray sparks that might set the factory alight.” Rattle describes it as a piece that always grabs orchestras and audiences by the lapels, and never lets go.

On Saturday, the LSO presents a Family Concert, with a wide selection of excerpts to introduce younger listeners to classics by Copland, Beethoven, Mozart, and more.

Their final performance on Sunday the 27th is the Music Academy of the West’s 75th Anniversary Community Concert, along with MAW Summer Festival fellows who won auditions to perform in London with the LSO, playing alongside them. At the center of that program is Bruckner’s ‘Romantic’ Symphony No. 4.

This is the final season of Rattle’s music directorship of the LSO, and he says plans for the coming year include works on a grand scale – the sort that were not possible during the height of the pandemic. (One performance planned for June in London will be Berlioz’s colossal Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale, which will fill St. Paul’s Cathedral (and include nearby landmarks and public spaces).

Photo by Oliver Helbig

 

Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta is based on a fairy tale – and the story revolves around a blind princess who doesn’t know she’s blind. Her father and all those around her have been keeping that knowledge from her. In the production that Pacific Opera Project will be opening this Sunday afternoon, the lead is sung by soprano Cristina Jones, who happens to be blind. It’s part of a season of fairy tale-based operas for POP, and this marks their first production sung in Russian. The performances will be at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo this Sunday and next weekend. They’ve partnered with low-sight organizations, and braille programs will be available to the audience. Here’s Cristina Jones singing Dvorak’s Song to the Moon from Rusalka:

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra is joined by first-time guest conductor Roderick Cox this weekend, and violinist Randall Goosby, who’s soloing in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. The program also includes Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and the Brahms Serenade No. 2. Cox is the subject of an upcoming documentary called “Conducting Life,” which explores his career, as well as the program he’s set up to award scholarships to young musicians of color from underrepresented communities. Randall Goosby was signed with Decca Classics a few years ago when he was 24. The concerts are Saturday night at Royce Hall, and Sunday night at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena.

Photo of Roderick Cox by Larrynx Photography

Pacific Symphony’s recently announced 44th Season begins on the 22nd of September – but a few days before that, there’s a special concert with soloist Lang Lang to help celebrate the upcoming opening of the Orange County Museum of Art as part of the Segerstrom Center campus. (He’ll play the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2, and appropriately, the orchestra will be playing Pictures at an Exhibition.) Music Director Carl St. Clair will be launching the Classical Series with “Beethoven and Bolero”, featuring the Ravel classic, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, and a percussion concerto by their new composer-in-residence, Viet Cuong. There’s an emphasis on new works by women composers this season, including Gabriela Ortiz, Anna Clyne, and Clarice Assad, and there are world premieres by James MacMillan (a work for choir and orchestra called Fiat Lux, with a text by Dana Gioia) and John Christopher Wineglass (a violin concerto for Concertmaster Dennis Kim). In May there will be a program celebrating “The Roaring Twenties” that includes dancing and a silent film from the era. There are four collaborations with Pacific Chorale, the return of the Sunday Matinee series, more special events and guest artists.

Photo courtesy Pacific Symphony

The Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is in the midst of a North American tour with dates in California this week – on Thursday the 10th he’s at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Friday the 11th he’ll be at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, and on Sunday in Berkeley through Cal Performances. This fall, he’ll be starring in San Francisco Opera’s new production of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice. He’s had a very busy season already, making his Metropolitan Opera debut at the end of 2021 in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice. Aside from his vocal skills, he’s gotten attention for another of his passions – breakdancing. His Instagram page includes photos from the concert halls of the world, as well as some freestyle breakdancing in the plaza at Lincoln Center in New York.

The latest Digital Short from LA Opera is We Hold These Truths, a “musical and cinematic triptych” – by composer Tamar-kali, setting three texts by Black American poets: Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask,” Langston Hughes’s “I, Too,” and Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die.” The director of the film is dream hampton. The visuals juxtapose young Black girls playing by the shore with archival images of young African-Americans from the early days of the Civil Rights movement, and underwater footage of a man swimming, weightless in the water. Tamar-kali says about the work: “The first wave of the Civil Rights Movement in America dates back to the late 1800s. The thought that, more than a century later, ‘these truths’ are still unattainable for a portion of our population seems unconscionable.”

Still from “We Hold These Truths” courtesy LA Opera

Michael Tilson Thomas has announced he’s going to be scaling back his conducting and administrative responsibilities, following his treatment for brain cancer. In a statement he says he’ll be stepping down as Artistic Director of the New World Symphony and “taking stock” of his life – “It takes strength to meet the demands of the music and to collaborate on the highest level with the remarkable musicians who so generously welcomed me. I now see that it is time for me to consider what level of work and responsibilities I can sustain in the future.” He’ll be continuing working with orchestras in the US and Europe this season, and “the many musical collaborations planned for next season.” But as he says, with his diagnosis, even after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the future is uncertain. “I will continue to compose, to write, and to mull over your thoughts and mine. I’m planning more time to wonder, wander, cook, and spend time with loved ones… Life is precious.”

Photo of Michael Tilson Thomas by Brandon Patoc

The 2022/23 Season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall is out – with several major projects planned – including a six-program series called “Rock My Soul,” curated by soprano Julia Bullock, which will highlight the achievements and collaborations among Black women artists. There’s also a continuation of the Pan-American Music Initiative, showcasing Latin American Symphonic and Choral Music. John Adams is celebrating his 75th year, and he’ll conduct his opera Girls of the Golden West in a concert performance (its LA premiere) next January that will be recorded for future release. In December, Gustavo Dudamel will lead the LA Phil in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. He’ll open the season with a celebration of John Williams’ film music; there’s a 10-day Rachmaninoff marathon with Yuja Wang playing all four piano concertos and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Michael Tilson Thomas and Zubin Mehta will return to conduct, and Susanna Mälkki will lead the US premiere of an LA. Phil-commissioned Double Concerto by Felipe Lara for flutist Claire Chase and bassist Esperanza Spalding. Other guest artists include Anne-Sophie Mutter, Mitsuko Uchida, Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma.

Courtesy Los Angeles Philharmonic

The Centennial season of San Francisco Opera will bring two world premieres by Bay Area composers, alongside Verdi, Puccini, Gluck and Tchaikovsky, and revisit a pair of works that had their US premieres in San Francisco. John Adams’ next opera is Antony and Cleopatra, which will open the season in September, retelling the Shakespeare tragedy (along with texts from Plutarch, Virgil, and others) and starring Julia Bullock and Gerald Finley in the title roles. Then, there’s Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, based on the Pushkin classic. In the second half of October, there’s a work first staged here in 1957, Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. It’s set in Revolutionary France, with the guillotine looming over an order of Carmelite nuns. New productions of La Traviata and Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice run into December. In the Summer season of 2023, there will be a new co-production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, directed by Amon Miyamoto; Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, and the second new work of the season, a co-commission premiere by composer Gabriela Lena Frank and librettist Nilo Cruz called El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego) about the groundbreaking artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Photo of San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun-Sun Kim by Kim Tae-hwan

Putting to the test Stravinsky’s line “All composition is frozen improvisation,” pianist Vicki Ray brings together improvisatory pieces by composers like Bartok and Poulenc, but also works by avant garde jazz composers like Cecil Taylor and Harold Budd… It’s the next Piano Spheres concert Tuesday night at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall. With titles that contain the word “Improvisation,” “Fantasia,” and “Impromptu,” she’ll capture the  spontaneity of creation on the performing stage. In this video, from a 2018 Piano Spheres performance, she plays Pierre Jodlowski’s Série Bleue for piano and backing track.

Isata Kanneh-Mason makes her San Francisco Performances recital debut at Herbst Theatre on Monday, Mar 7. The program includes works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Sofia Gubaidulina, with a new work by Jamaican-born British composer Eleanor Alberga. As part of the musical Kanneh-Mason family, she frequently performs with her siblings, including her brother, Sheku… but as a soloist has already released two albums on Decca Classics – The Piano Music of Clara Schumann (which debuted at No. 1 on the UK classical charts) and last year’s Summertime.

Photo by Robin Clewley

The 2022 Hollywood Bowl season has been announced, with big plans for a celebration of its Centennial Season. The LA Philharmonic will have 34 performances, ten with Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel on the podium. The season will kick off in June with a two-day free “101 Festival” along with The Ford, on the other side of the 101 Freeway (programming information will be announced in May).

Gustavo Dudamel’s first concerts on July 12th and 14th will celebrate “The Music of Leonard Bernstein.” Then in July, an operatic turn, in a collaboration with director Yuval Sharon: the third act of Wagner’s Die Walküre, with a cast that includes Christine Goerke and Matthias Goerne as Brünnhilde and Wotan. That’s followed closely by a performance with the Paris Opera Ballet, and guest pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Soloist Seong-Jin Cho plays the Emperor Concerto of Beethoven in a program called “Beethoven’s Fifths,” paired with the Symphony No. 5 on July 26th. Two days later, it’s the world premiere of a commissioned concerto for the guitar-like cuatro by Gonzalo Grau, on a concert program with Orff’s Carmina Burana. Soloists will be joined by singers of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Dudamel’s final performance of the summer season will be August 2nd in a program called Musical Encounters, joined by members of YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles).

As the summer continues, the orchestra will be led by guest conductors, including LA Phil Associate Conductor Paolo Borolameolli, Dalia Stasevska, Lina González-Granados, Joseph Young, Marta Gardolińska, Eva Ollikainen, and Nicholas McGegan, who’ll conduct an all-Mozart program on September 6th.

There will be Fireworks for the July 4th concert – when the LA Phil will be led by Thomas Wilkins – as well as the Tchaikovsky Spectacular on August 12, led by Bramwell Tovey, with violinist Joshua Bell and the USC Trojan Marching Band. And there are three performances of “Maestro of the Movies” a tribute to John Williams, who’s just celebrated his 90th birthday.

You can find more information at the Hollywood Bowl website.

Photo by Adam Latham

Festival Mozaic will be introducing their 2022 Artist-in-Residence in an upcoming recital this month. Violinist Abigel Kralik will be joined by pianist Maxim Lando for the concert, which will include works by Richard Strauss, Ravel, and Jessie Montgomery. Kralik, whose mother was Nicaraguan-American and father was Hungarian has lived in Dublin, Budapest, and Paris, and now lives in New York City, where she got her Master’s degree from Juilliard, studying with Itzhak Perlman. The concert is at the Templeton Performing Arts Center, north of San Luis Obispo on the 23rd – and in mid-April, she’ll be playing chamber music by Mozart and Tchaikovsky with friends.


Photo by Jiyang Chen

Pianist Hilda Huang flew from New York to San Francisco at the end of last year, to record a performance for the Noontime Concerts series at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral. It’s part of their series that’s been running for more than 30 years that they call the “Musical Lunch Break.” The program includes a sonata by Beethoven and partita by Bach. Her association with Bach goes back a long way – when she was only 11 years old, she was one of the featured performers in a documentary called “Bach and Friends,” which also had appearances by Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, and the Emerson String Quartet. You can see some of that documentary here, with a performance that she gave at a retirement home in Baltimore.

Handel’s Messiah returns for seasonal performances in Northern and Southern California – the American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir will be filling up the spacious acoustics of San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral on Thursday and Friday evening, led by Jeffrey Thomas, their Artistic Director. And they’ll also head to Weill Hall at the Green Music Center for a Sunday afternoon performance. In Los Angeles, the LA Master Chorale returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall for a performance of the work, with a chamber orchestra and 48 singers, led by Artistic Director Grant Gershon. They’ve decided to cancel the (40th annual) Messiah Sing-along that had been scheduled for Monday the 20th. Instead, they’re inviting people to join them for free outdoor caroling on the Jerry Moss Plaza at the Music Center. That begins at 6pm on Monday.

There are plenty of options around for fans of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker – here are a couple of notable ones – the Long Beach Nutcracker returns this weekend, with five performances from the 17th to the 19th, boasting a full symphony orchestra, on-stage pyrotechnics, and a flying sleigh. It’s the 39th season of the production, which includes guest performances and surprises. The shows are at the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Los Angeles Ballet will be at Royce Hall at UCLA the 17th-19th, and then at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on the 23rd, 24th, and 26th. The setting is 1912 Los Angeles, with Spanish-influenced architecture, bougainvillea, and a backdrop of the Sierras and the Pacific Ocean. And through January 9th, a slightly different take on the story – at Bob Baker Marionette Theater, more than a hundred puppets leap into action for the production that had its start in 1969. 


Photo by Katie Ging, courtesy Long Beach Ballet

Felix Klieser is a remarkable horn player – he’s recorded six albums in the past eight years, and has recently begun as Artist-in-Residence with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the next two years. That he plays his instrument at all is unexpected, because he was born without arms: he plays the horn’s keys with his left foot. He’s going to be the guest at the next Salastina virtual “Happy Hour” Tuesday from 10 to 11am. 

The men of Chanticleer have begun the final part of their annual “A Chanticleer Christmas” tour – which takes them across the country after Thanksgiving, returning to California in the days leading up to the holiday. The program begins with a candlelit processional, to a chant, and then tours through music history from the Renaissance to today, with traditional carols, seasonal songs, and finishing with Gospel favorites. The ensemble has shows in the Bay Area, in Palo Alto, Petaluma, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara and Carmel – and Tuesday night they’re on stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.  

Photo by Lisa Kohler

LA Master Chorale continues its celebration of the season with its “Festival of Carols” this Saturday afternoon at Walt Disney Concert Hall – as Jenny Wong leads 62 singers in a program of traditional carols, classic arrangements, and new works. Among the pieces being performed are arrangements by former composer-in-residence Shawn Kirchner, and pieces by contemporary composers Rosephanye Powell and Reena Esmail. There still remain a performance of Handel’s Messiah on the evening of December 19th, and free outdoor Carols on the Plaza the following evening, Monday the 20th.

A tradition that grew out of nostalgia for caroling gets repeated this weekend and next in Northern California… Unsilent Night takes place in Berkeley and Sacramento on the 11th, and in San Francisco on the 18th (and also in Arcata further north on the 21st). Composer Phil Kline wrote a piece of music that he split into four layers – and participants walk together playing one of four separate recordings, either on a boombox, or with an app on their phone and speaker. The effect is a “shimmering soundscape” that moves with the people as they stroll along a set route. This year there are more than 35 locations around the country (and world) taking part in the celebration.

Image courtesy Unsilent Night

Pianist Stephen Hough has also been a composer for many years – but until now, he’s never written a string quartet. In Costa Mesa tonight, the Takacs Quartet will be giving the world premiere of his first, called “Les Six Rencontres,” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It was commissioned by local patrons Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, and is inspired by the members of “The Six,” the group of French composers from the early part of the 20th Century that included Poulenc and Milhaud. The Takacs Quartet was planning to make a recording that included a work by Maurice Ravel from the very beginning of the 1900s, and Henri Dutilleux, from 1970, and wanted a work that might bridge that divide. In six movements, Hough imagines encountering the members of The Six.

Photo by Jiyang Chen

Philharmonia Chorale will be returning to live performance this Thursday through Sunday, celebrating the season with J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. It’s the first time they’ve had a concert in 2 years, and 15 years since the ensemble last performed the work. Music Director Richard Egarr will be leading them for the first time since taking on that role. They’ll be accompanied by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, with soloists Lydia Teuscher, Avery Amereau, Gwilym Bown, and Ashley Riches. There are four performances, first at Herbst Theatre, then the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, and two performances at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Photo courtesy PBO

The annual Grawemeyer Award for Composition has been awarded to Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, for her opera based on Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando. The title character begins as a man in Tudor England, and becomes a woman during the course of a life that spans centuries. The story’s gender-fluidity was decades ahead of its time, and Neuwirth has extended it into the present day. It was the first opera by a woman to be presented by the Vienna State Opera, and along with that fact and the honor of the award, there’s a prize of $100,000. Previous winners of the Grawemeyer include Esa-Pekka Salonen and John Adams, and Kaija Saariaho. Neuwirth is only the fourth woman to win since the prize was established in 1985.

This Saturday morning on the broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera, it’s Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice, which had its world premiere at LA Opera shortly before the pandemic began, in early 2020. It’s based on the play by Sarah Ruhl, which in turn is based on the mythological story of Orpheus, but told from Eurydice’s point of view. Aucoin says he has a fairly dark take on Orpheus. “I think there’s something slightly untrustworthy about how much Orpheus loves to grieve. There’s this sense, even in the original myth, that he sort of would prefer to be grieving the death of Eurydice than actually being with her.” In the opera, the character of Orpheus is split in two – when he’s a ‘regular guy,’ it’s a baritone – and when he’s using his godlike musical talents, he’s joined by a countertenor, to provide a “halo of sound.” Aucoin is no stranger to cross-discipline collaborations – he’s the co-founder of the American Modern Opera Company, AMOC, which brings together musicians, dancers and singers to make new works in experimental ways. And he says although it’s a great honor to have his work on the stage of the Met, he used to work there on the music staff as a pianist and coach, and says he’ll always be most excited about sitting in a room with a blank piece of paper, which is where he says the action really happens. 

This year’s Grammy nominations include the LA Philharmonic, and San Francisco Symphony, and Chanticleer and the LA-based chorus Tonality. A recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, the so-called “Symphony of a Thousand” got two nods, with Gustavo Dudamel leading not only members of the LA Phil, but also the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, LA Master Chorale, National Children’s Chorus, as well as the Pacific Chorale. That’s up for both Best Choral Performance, as well as Best Engineered Album, Classical. (The latter is the category in which Chanticleer Sings Christmas was nominated.) The San Francisco Symphony has two recordings nominated: for Best Orchestral Performance, Throughline, a piece that composer and SFS Collaborative Partner Nico Muhly wrote for the ensemble and conducted, that could be performed and recorded by small groupings of players. The second, for Best Classical Compendium, has Michael Tilson Thomas leading his former ensemble in works of Alban Berg, including the Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham. Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the LA Phil and singer Nora Fischer in music by the late Louis Andriessen called The Only One, which is nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. And the Los Angeles ensemble called Tonality is up for Best Arrangement, Instrument and Vocals, for their recording of the Civil Rights era classic “A Change is Gonna Come,” arranged by Tehillah Alphonso.

There’s a US premiere next week (Friday the 26th and Sunday the 28th) at the LA Phil, led by the woman who conducted its world premiere. Australian Simone Young will be on the podium for Uncertain Planning, a piece that fellow Australian Connor D’Netto composed in 2020, when uncertainty loomed large. The guest soloist for the program is Nicola Benedetti, playing the Violin Concerto of Erich Wolfgang Korngold – who came to Hollywood and wrote memorable scores for films, after early success in opera. Simone Young is known for conducting operas as well as concert symphonic works. The program will end with Brahms’ dramatic Symphony no. 4.


Photo by Andy Gotts

Three operas, one setting that’s changing over time… The collaboration between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte resulted in some of his best known and loved works, and San Francisco Opera begins the second phase of their trilogy this weekend, with Così fan tutte. The Marriage of Figaro was set at a manor house in America during Colonial times, and that same building is in this opera, set during the 1930s, after it’s become a country club. The final installment, next summer’s Don Giovanni, will take the same structure into the distant future. Directed by Michael Cavanaugh, this middle chapter (which actually was written last) concerns love and tests of fidelity among two pairs of young lovers. There will be five performances between Sunday the 21st and December 3rd, including the opportunity to watch remotely.


Photo by Cory Weaver

The LA Master Chorale will be filling Walt Disney Concert Hall with some of Rachmaninoff’s most beautiful music for voices this weekend as they open their subscription season with his All-Night Vigil. Grant Gershon will conduct 80 singers in the piece, which is inspired by, and expands upon the Russian Orthodox choral tradition. It was written in the tumultuous time between the start of World War I and the Russian Revolution, and includes many authentic chants, as well as those that Rachmaninoff crafted, and was among the composer’s favorite of his works. The concerts are Saturday afternoon at 2 and Sunday evening at 7.   


Photo by Tao Ruspoli / LA Master Chorale

Oakland Symphony launches its subscription season this Friday night with a concert at the Paramount Theatre called “The Music Returns.” It will be guest conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and although the programming for the season has been shuffled a little bit, it still has the vision of the late Michael Morgan at its core, who sought to include more women composers, and composers of color in their concerts. Friday’s performance will begin with a piece from 1943 by William Grant Still called In Memoriam, the Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy. Lara Downes will be the soloist for Florence Price’s Piano Concerto, and then the program ends with Beethoven’s epic “Eroica” Symphony. Guest conductors for the remainder of the season include Dr. Leslie B. Dunner, Dr. Lynne Morrow, Kalena Bovell, Eric Tuan, Nicholas McGegan, and Leonard Slatkin.


Photo by Kristin Hoebermann

A new book by kids, for kids, about one of America’s important composers: Who Is Florence Price? began as a class project at the Special Music School at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Price succeeded despite considerable odds, as a Black woman trying to write symphonic classical music in the first half of 20th Century America. 45 middle school students rose to the occasion when English teacher Shannon Potts discovered that there were no materials about Florence Price’s life and career written for a lower school reading level. They had just finished their original version shortly before the pandemic’s arrival, and since then, it’s been revised, given a foreword by composer Jessie Montgomery, and published this week by Schirmer Books. Montgomery says: “This book represents a snapshot into the beautiful minds of children when they are given a chance to fully investigate their history and interests.”

It’s an art installation without a visible footprint – a commission from LA Phil’s Humanities Program. Just outside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, at the corner of 1st Street and Grand Avenue, an Augmented Reality sculpture and sound exhibit called “Every Voice” is going to be (virtually) in place between this Friday and June of next year. In order to experience it, you’ll need a downloadable app for your phone. Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers were inspired by another statue, called “The Harp,” by African-American artist Augusta Savage, which was displayed as part of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and sadly destroyed when the fair came to an end, because there were no funds available to store or preserve it. The new work explores loss and remembrance, “it is a welcome back to audiences, an incantation of lost voices, and a reminder to bring them with us.”

Photo Courtesy LA Phil

 

Messalina was the historical wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius – and she was known for being both powerful and promiscuous in that society. Those intrigues behind the scenes inspired composer Carlo Pallavicino to base an opera on her life in 1769. It’s the latest in the series of Baroque era operatic rediscoveries presented by the company Ars Minerva, and its founder and Artistic Director Céline Ricci. When they stage it this weekend at the ODC Theater, it’ll be the work’s North American premiere. This is the second work by Pallavicino that Ars Minerva has rescued from obscurity – in 2016 they presented his The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles. They describe Messalina as “a sex farce with teeth.” There are performances Friday and Saturday night at 7:30, and Sunday afternoon at 2:30.


Photo by Valentina Sadiul

 

 

 

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