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.

A re-imagining of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons pairs tap dance and solo violin in “Grand Avenue” – part of MUSE/IQUE’s year-long L.A. Composed project, celebrating the neighborhoods and streets of the city. Tap dancer/choregrapher Savion Glover (Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk) teams with violinist Charles Yang (Time for Three) for the performances, at The Huntington on Thursday, and The Skirball on Sunday the 9th.

Photo of Savion Glover by Young Legend

The Los Angeles Master Chorale opens its 2022-23 season with Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (The Creation) – an oratorio that tells the story of the creation of the universe using texts from both the Bible and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Grant Gershon will lead 80 singers, orchestra, and soloists Anna Schubert, Arnold Livingston Geis, and Justin Hopkins in the performance. Gershon describes the work as “one of the most joyous and life-affirming works ever written.”

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson is joined by the players of the Apollon Musagète Quartet in La Jolla on Saturday night for the Revelle Chamber Music Series, and then for the season launch of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts Chamber Music Series on Sunday afternoon. They’ll play works by Bach and Shostakovich on both programs: selections from The Art of the Fugue, and the Piano Quintet in G minor. At The Baker-Baum Concert Hall, the AMQ will play Schubert’s B-flat Major String Quartet, and at the Segerstrom, they’ll play Penderecki’s quartet known as “Leaves from an Unwritten Diary.”

Photo of Garrick Ohlsson by Dario Acosta; Photo of Apollon Musagète by Marco Borggreve

A double-concerto by Bach is at the center of this Friday’s “Sensational Strings” program by the Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra. Soloists James Birch and Rachael Kim will play the Concerto for Two Violins in D minor (BWV 1043) on a program that also includes Camille Saint-Saens’ Sarabande and the Josef Suk Serenade for Strings. Music and Artistic Director Carlo Ponti will lead the young players as they kick off their eighth season at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.

It’s Adams, Mozart, and Orbón, as Gustavo Dudamel leads the LA Phil in a concert that’s part of the Pan American Music Initiative. Spanish-born Cuban composer Julián Orbón’s Tres versions sinfónicas from the mid-1950s draws inspiration from such disparate elements as a stately Renaissance-era dance, French Gregorian chant and the Congolese drumming tradition. There are two works by Mozart, including his Concerto for Flute and Harp, with soloists Denis Bouriakov and Emmanuel Ceysson, and the Serenade No. 6 with a quartet of soloists from the orchestra. And John Adams’ I Still Dance, written for Michael Tilson Thomas’s final season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony in 2019. The concerts are Friday and Saturday evening at 8, and Sunday Oct 2 at 2pm.

Photo of Gabriela Martinez by Jacob Belcher

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez returns to BroadStage with a program of works by Beethoven, Reinaldo Hahn, and Heitor Villa-Lobos – as well as a quartet of contemporary composers: Sarah Kirkland Snider, Missy Mazzoli, Caroline Shaw, and Viet Cuong. The performance is on their mainstage, Saturday evening at 7:30.

Rafael Payare opens the San Diego Symphony season with the monumental Verdi Requiem this weekend. A pair of performances (Saturday at 6:30, Sunday at 5) at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park will feature soloists Leah Crocetto, Jennifer Johnson Cano, Limmie Pulliam, Aleksey Bogdanov, and singers of the San Diego Master Chorale.

Ruth Reinhardt leads the Colburn Orchestra in its season-opening concert Saturday evening – a program that opens with Brahms’ “Tragic” Overture and ends with Bela Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. And between the two, a piece by Alfred Desenclos called Incantation, Thrène et Danse, with a pyrotechnic trumpet part that will be played by soloist Joey Tkach.

The American Youth Symphony begins its season Saturday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall with a program that includes Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Onward by Brian Raphael Nabors, and the Violin Concerto of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. (The soloist is John Fawcett, who won the Symphony’s 2021-22 concerto competition.) The performance will be conducted by Music Director Carlos Izcaray. Tickets for the concert are available on a pay-what-you-can basis, to allow anyone to attend.

Photo of Carlos Izcaray courtesy American Youth Symphony

Pacific Symphony will be launching its season this Thursday through Saturday with a concert program called “Beethoven & Bolero”. Carl St. Clair will lead the orchestra in the Overture to The Flying Dutchman by Wagner and Viet Cuong’s Re(new)al in the first half, with Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto and Ravel’s Bolero making up the second half. The orchestra is joined by Sandbox Percussion for the Cuong, and the soloists for the Beethoven are concertmaster Dennis Kim, principal cellist Warren Hagerty, and pianist Orli Shaham. This is Carl St. Clair’s 33rd season as Music Director of the ensemble – the concerts will be at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa at 8pm.

Photo of Carl St. Clair courtesy Pacific Symphony

LA Opera’s season opening production of Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti is being conducted by Lina González-Granados, the first in her role as Resident Conductor for the company. There are six performances of the co-production with the Metropolitan Opera from the 17th to October 9th, starring Amanda Woodbury (17-24) and then Liv Redpath (28-9) in the title role. Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz is singing Edgardo. This version updates Lucia to present-day America, but is sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Lina González-Granados

Classical guitarists including Ana Vidovic, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Pepe Romero and more will be coming to The California International Guitar Festival this weekend, at the Performing Arts Center on Cal Poly’s campus in San Luis Obispo. There are performances, masterclasses, as well as a vendor fair during the festival, which runs through Sunday. It’s back after a five-year hiatus, and will reflect both where classical guitar has been, as well as where it’s going, with the flamenco sounds of the Adam Del Monte Trio, and JIJI, who also includes performances on electric guitar.

Photo by Tormius via Unsplash

This weekend, soprano Renée Fleming hosts an IMAX Live special event film, co-produced by Stage Access, called “Cities that Sing: Paris” – it’s part travelogue and part concert, celebrating what she calls the “Opera Capital of the World.” For those familiar with opera, there are arias, songs, and duets from some of the great French composers: Bizet, Massenet, Gounod, Offenbach, Delibes and more, performed on the stage of the Théâtre du Châtelet. For those new to opera, there are plenty of ways in – through its spectacle, history, and fashion. “I think there’s a fascination now with these shows that are set all over the world – most of them highlight food – and so we were thinking of that as a model, but highlighting music instead,” Fleming says. “We’re also sharing the culture of the city in general, and some of the history of these iconic works. It’s really a look at Paris and a look at French Opera that people won’t have seen before.” She’s joined by tenor Piotr Beczała, and up-and coming singers baritone Alexandre Duhamel and soprano Axelle Fanyo.  The goal of the project is to expose a wider audience to opera in an accessible way: “I think it’s awesome that we’re taken the grandest historic art form, and putting it on the grandest screen – with surround sound, 12 speakers. And the beauty of this, of course, is that people can stay in their communities, and it can be seen around the world.” The presentation, on Sunday at noon Pacific time, will begin with a live Q-and-A with Fleming, hosted by Kelsey Grammer. You can find out more information and theater locations here.

Lang Lang’s latest recording is of memorable tunes from Disney films, and he’ll bring that repertoire to the Hollywood Bowl Thursday night, with the LA Phil. They’ll play repertoire that stretches from 1937’s “Snow White” to “Coco,” “Frozen” and “Encanto.” There are special guests, including solo singers and a choir – Jahja Ling will conduct. And on Sunday the 18th, he’ll be playing the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 with Carl St. Clair and the Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. That program will also include the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition.

 

Photo by Simon Webb

Delirium Musicum begins its season with a double-header that blends new and old: there are two concerts on Saturday (at 3 and 5) at the Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Artistic Director Etienne Gara and the members of the chamber orchestra will be playing works by American minimalist composer Julius Eastman and Antonio Vivaldi – plus pieces that create a conversation across the centuries: Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art a la Haydn, and contemporary composer Paul Wiancko’s further variations on Geminiani/Corelli’s “La Folia”. They’ll end with a 1988 symphonic poem called Orawa by Polish film composer Wojciech Kilar (The Pianist). The concerts are presented by the Da Camera Society.

Delirium Musicum

The LA Phil is joined by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Thursday night for All Rise by Wynton Marsalis at the Hollywood Bowl. Conductor James Gaffigan will be leading the performance, which also includes vocal soloists, the Selah Gospel Choir, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, to follow up the oratorio that Marsalis wrote called Blood on the Fields, which won the Pulitzer Prize in the late 1990s. All Rise blends many different traditions and sonic worlds, becoming a blues suite that turns “destruction to creativity” and makes “joy out of tragedy.”

Photo of James Gaffigan by Vera Hartmann

Pacific Opera Project is starting its season with The Elixir of Love – a production they first staged in 2017 – bringing the story into the 1950s. The music and sung Italian libretto remain as they were in the days of Gaetano Donizetti, but the English surtitles, costumes, and production design are pulled from the era of juke boxes and sock hops. There will be four performances at the El Portal Theatre, Saturday night at 7 and Sunday afternoon at 3 both this weekend and next. The season will be continuing in January with a rare Vivaldi work called Ercole su’l Termodonte, about one of the labors of Hercules; in March, there’s a retelling of Mozart’s Magic Flute, with a video game sensibility; and in May, they’ll wrap up with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance.

Photo courtesy Pacific Opera Project

This week, horn player Sarah Willis releases the second of a multi-release recording project called Mozart y Mambo: Cuban Dances. It got its start several years ago, when she went to Havana following her love of salsa dancing. While there, she got to know members of the Havana Lyceum Orchestra. She was invited to a concert and was immediately impressed. “I was blown away by how good they were, by their love of the music, but also how they made music. You know, it sounds like three same things, but I go to a lot of concerts. I hear a lot of Mozart. I play a lot of Mozart. Suddenly I was hearing things I’d never heard before.” Willis, who is in the horn section of the Berlin Philharmonic, doesn’t consider herself a solo player by nature, but after giving a masterclass and working with the players, decided to record the Mozart Horn concertos with them. But she wanted to find a way to highlight their Cuban spirit and musical traditions. The first album, from 2020, had a mix of traditional Mozart as well as Cuban-inspired arrangements of his music. For the second album, she wanted to commission a new concerto to pair with another two by Mozart. “I was looking for one composer to write me a concerto, and I did a competition, and we now have six composers, six young Cuban composers, each one has written a movement – a dance. They’re original dances, but using traditional Cuban rhythms, and from six different areas in Cuba. Every piece has a different groove, a different clave, and you can’t play it unless you learn how to dance it.” Willis says that her players see the natural connection between their music and the composer separated by the Atlantic Ocean and hundreds of years. “The Cubans say Mozart would have been a good Cuban… The Changüi, the Afro-Cuban, the Son, the Danzon and the Bolero, Mozart has all that in his music, but in a classical way. He improvises in his music, he has dance rhythm, he switches tempos suddenly. He would have loved Havana!”

Six ensembles that make up Chamber Music LA will be presenting their second “Music Box” program – this one live and in person (last year’s had to be virtual). Musicians from Camerata Pacifica, Colburn School, Jacaranda Music, Pittance Chamber Music, Salastina, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be presenting the musical sampling plate at the Colburn School’s Zipper Hall on Sunday afternoon. The repertoire spans from the Baroque to today… Telemann to Caroline Shaw, and includes various chamber music configurations, from solo flute, piano to duos, trios, and quartets.

Seven opera companies around the country – including 2 in California – will be receiving a total of a hundred thousand dollars from Opera America for new works by women composers. Opera San Jose and Long Beach Opera join a pair of Brooklyn based organizations (The American Opera Project and Beth Morrison Projects); Finger Lakes Opera in Rochester, NY; Alabama’s Opera Birmingham; and the Spoleto Festival USA in receiving the awards. Composer Rene Orth will be providing both the music and libretto for a new work for Opera San Jose, and Shelley Washington will be writing Death, both of us dead for Long Beach Opera – based on the true story of a woman who spent decades obsessed with the soprano Birgit Nilsson. The other composers whose works will be funded in part by these grants are Stephanie Chou, Paola Prestini, B.E. Boykin, Carla Lucero, and Layale Chaker.

Shelley Washington (photo by Peter Yankowsky) and Rene Orth (photo by Andrew Bogard)

A string quartet from the Pacific Symphony will be taking the show on the road for some free outdoor performances this weekend in Orange County. They’ll be arriving in, and then playing in their “Symphony on the Go” stage on wheels. The show on Friday evening will be at the Florence Sylvester Senior Center in Laguna Hills; Saturday evening they’ll be playing in Dana Crest Park in the City of Dana Point; and Sunday morning they’ll be at the Oso Grande Elementary School in the community of Ladera Ranch.

Pacific Symphony’s “Symphony on the Go” Mobile Stage

The Academy-Award-winning film Amadeus is Live in concert Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl…  The Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Sarah Hicks will be providing the soundtrack to the film, along with pianist Joanne Pearce Martin and singers from the Pacific Chorale. Miloš Forman directed the story of the rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri, based on the stage play by Peter Schaffer. But that rivalry was only professional, and not as fatal as the film would suggest. It remains a great vehicle for some of Mozart’s best-loved works, though, and this is an opportunity to hear them performed live while watching the film.

If you’re a fan of singing choral music, through the end of the month you can audition to be in the Pasadena Chorale. The audition process is open to all, and has two parts: at their website, you can fill out an application and find out how to upload a recording of yourself singing alone. For those who are selected from that initial group, the second step, by invitation, is to sing in a quartet after attending a Chorale rehearsal. It was designed to make the process easier for people who would rather not sing alone in front of other people. The Pasadena Chorale was founded by Jeffrey Bernstein in 2009 – in addition to giving regular concerts, they also have an innovative program for young composers called “Listening to the Future,” which gives high school students an opportunity to have their works performed in concert.

Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor lived only 37 years, from 1875 to 1912, but achieved a great deal of success and popularity in his lifetime. Composer and conductor Dr. Zanaida Stewart Robles will be showcasing his sacred choral works in a concert on Friday evening (a program which will include some of her sacred choral works as well) and leading a bonus performance of one of Coleridge-Taylor’s best-known works on Sunday morning, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. Both performances will take place at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, where Robles is Music Director. (Sunday’s is free, and will be part of a Music Sunday! service). This is an early celebration of what would have been the composer’s 147th birthday. Robles has been interested in Coleridge-Taylor for years, whose music was the subject of her doctoral dissertation. She’ll be bringing an ensemble to Carnegie Hall next spring to present Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast there for the first time since 1915.

Photo of Dr. Zanaida Stewart Robles by Lauren Desberg

The music of Mason Bates returns to the San Diego Symphony on Friday, with a reprise of the commissioned work they played to open the Rady Shell in its inaugural concert, Soundcheck in C Major – and the concert will end with Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra. It’s a multimedia experience that combines live performance with a film – allowing the audience to follow an animated character through, and even into the instruments of the orchestra. Also on the program, which will be conducted by Jason Seber: the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, and Valerie Coleman’s work, Umoja: An Anthm of Unity. The concert at the Rady Shell gets underway at 7:30.

A trio made up of young sought-after soloists plays tonight at The Ford – The Junction Trio, made up of violinist Stefan Jackiw, cellist Jay Campbell, and pianist Conrad Tao are part of a program called NowRising, “highlighting the next generation of classical and symphonic musicians who are shaping and reinventing the future of their craft.” They’ll be playing works by John Zorn, Charles Ives, and Maurice Ravel on the program, which gets started at 8pm. Conrad Tao, in addition to being a pianist (and also having studied the violin) is a composer – and Jay Campbell is a member of the JACK Quartet.

Photo by Shervin Lainez

More than a hundred young musicians make up the Encuentros Orchestra – players from around the world, who have been brought together by the Dudamel Foundation and the LA Phil for two weeks of rehearsals, masterclasses, and now, performances. They’re being led by Gustavo Dudamel, working with a faculty of top-flight musicians, and joined by members of YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles). On Tuesday night, they’re playing at the Hollywood Bowl, with special guest esperanza spalding. Among the other professional musicians working with the young players, has been Sarah Willis, who plays the horn with the Berlin Philharmonic. She’s been helping with Dudamel’s El Sistema-inspired music education programs for a long time. “This is an amazing project – people say ‘Isn’t it great that you’re doing all this stuff?’ But I see it the other way around. What I learn from them, it’s incredible. You remember why you became a musician in the first place. I’m just happy to be here and do my part to get the horn section better. It’s a true pleasure.” She’s spent the past week and a half rehearsing with them, but they’ll be performing on their own. “We can’t really change the way someone plays in this short period of time,” she says, “But my goal is to send them away from a project like this with as many tricks of the trade as I can give them – and also for them to be loving and being proud of what they do more than they did before they came.” The Encuentros Orchestra will be playing Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, Wayne Shorter’s Gaia (with a jazz quartet that includes esperanza spalding on bass and vocals), as well as a Festive Overture written specially for the ensemble by Giancarlo Castro D’Addona.

Photo by Samantha Lopez

The theme for this year’s SummerFest, presented by the La Jolla Music Society, is “Under the Influence” – specifically when composers were inspired by muses, or other composers. Pianist Inon Barnatan is the Music Director of the festival, and has planned an opening night performance this Friday called “Side by Side.” That concert begins with several Romantic-era sets of variations before there are two unusual quartets: one for four violins by Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz, and the other, by Carl Czerny (based on popular tunes) for four pianos, called Quatuor concertant No. 1. The opening weekend continues with “Point Counterpoint,” tracing contrapuntal writing from the Baroque through Haydn, Mozart, and Elgar to Steve Reich, with a world premiere multimedia performance of his New York Counterpoint for clarinets. On Sunday afternoon there’s “Beyond Bach” tracing a musical path from the Baroque to Maurice Ravel. SummerFest runs through August 26, with an impressive roster of musical performers, lectures, open rehearsals, as well as ‘Prelude concerts’ in addition to the mainstage events.

Photo of Simone Porter by Elisha Knight

This week at the Hollywood Bowl, the LA Philharmonic presents a pair of “Beethoven’s Fifths” – as well as Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and a world premiere concerto. Gustavo Dudamel leads the orchestra and piano soloist Seong-Jin Cho in the fifth piano concerto (“The Emperor”) as well as the iconic fifth symphony. That’s Tuesday night, with a gate time of 6, and the performance starting at 8. Seong-Jin Cho won first prize in the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw in 2015, and has since been signed to an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Thursday night’s performance will open with Odisea: Concerto for Venezuelan Cuatro and Orchestra by Gonzalo Grau. The cuatro is a guitar-like instrument from Latin America, which will be played in this premiere by Jorge Glem. For Carmina Burana, the orchestra will be augmented by a trio of soloists, as well as singers from the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Los Angeles Children’s Chorus.

Photo of Seong-Jin Cho by Christoph Köstlin for Deutsche Grammophon

The Big Sing gives the public a chance to join members of the LA Master Chorale in a free, fun outdoor concert performance… This Saturday evening at Grand Park, singers will be led by Grant Gershon, Jenny Wong, Alexander Blake (founder and director of Tonality) along with members of the Chorale. The repertoire will include standards and favorites, including The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from my Friends,” Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” “Cielito Lindo, “ “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and from the animated classic Aladdin, “A Whole New World.” There will be food trucks on site, and reservations aren’t required to participate.

 

Courtesy LA Master Chorale

Festival Mozaic launches this Saturday, with 24 events through San Luis Obispo county over the following week. A few of the classical events are already sold out, including the opening “Baroque in the Vines” concert at the Serra Chapel, but there’s a family daytime concert next Monday of Carnival of the Animals with live dance and narration, and a chamber performance at Cuesta College in the evening. The festival will run through Saturday the 30th, culminating with Scott Yoo leading the Festival Orchestra in a program that includes Hélène Grimaud playing the Schumann Piano Concerto.

Photo of Scott Yoo by Kate Lemmon

Friday night at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the San Diego Symphony will play a concert they’re calling Beethoven by the Bay. Principal Guest Conductor for the Symphony, Edo de Waart will be on the podium, leading them in two works by Beethoven – the Coriolan Overture will open the performance, and the ever-popular Seventh Symphony will serve as the finale. In between, San Diego Symphony Principal Cello, Yao Zhao will be soloist in a performance of a work not frequently heard in concert: the Cello Concerto No. 1 in G minor by Dmitri Kabalevsky.

Photo of Edo de Waart by Jesse Willems

Opera and film combine this weekend in Long Beach, with the first LBO Film Festival.  There have been several recent productions by Long Beach Opera that incorporate film and video elements into live performance – Artistic Director James Darrah has spoken of a “cinema-theater hybrid,” which blurs the lines between film and opera, and this weekend’s presentations do just that. Mixed among, and with, the filmed operas will be live performances. The festival begins on Saturday at Noon, and runs almost until midnight – on Sunday there are two sessions running from 2 until 5. The films reach as far back as 1969’s Eika Katappa, and include several premieres. Live performers include Ron Athey, Julianna Barwick, Dorian Wood, Anna Schubert and Xiu Xiu. The festival is curated by James Darrah and Bradford Nordeen.

Photo by Denise Jans via Unsplash

The New Hollywood String Quartet and the Da Camera Society are presenting the Summer of Beethoven Chamber Music Festival this week, exploring chamber music from all periods of his life as a composer. There are four concerts and many guest artists, including violinists Anne Akiko Meyers and LA Phil concertmaster Martin Chalifour, LA Phil principal clarinet Boris Allakhverdyan, pianists Fabio Bidini and Rohan De Silva, LA Phil principal cellist Robert deMaine, and more. The festival concerts will be taking place at the Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion at Mount Saint Mary’s University, and include his Violin Sonatas No. 5 (“Spring”) and 9 (“Kreutzer”) as well as String Quartets from his early, middle, and late periods; a Cello Sonata, Clarinet Trio, two Piano Trios, a String Quintet, and his Septet in E-flat Major. The concerts are Thursday and Friday at 8 in the evening, and Saturday and Sunday at 4 in the afternoon.

Photo of New Hollywood String Quartet by Sam Muller

Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil will be accompanying the 2021 Steven Spielberg version of West Side Story Live at the Hollywood Bowl this week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Dudamel conducted the performances for score of the film – and one of the signature pieces of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela was the raucous “Mambo” from Bernstein’s West Side Story Symphonic Dances. For the Hollywood Bowl performance, the film will appear on the giant screens as musicians of the LA Phil play. The adaptation, 60 years after the 1961 film, was nominated for 7 Academy Awards. Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress for her performance as Anita.

Turning loss into art… Pianist and composer Adam Tendler found himself with an inheritance after the death of his father – he described it as a ‘wad of cash’ – and decided to use the money to commission new works by 16 composers and sound artists. He’ll perform the program, called Inheritances, at 2220 Arts + Archives at 7pm on Sunday the 10th. The composers, who include Laurie Anderson, Missy Mazzoli, Timo Andres, Ted Hearne, Pamela Z. and more, were asked to create works that were based on the idea of lineage, loss, and place. It’s a co-presentation of Wild Up and Liquid Music.

Photo of Adam Tendler by Ben Tran

Michael Feinstein will be putting his knowledge of the Gershwins to good use this weekend, as he puts down the baton and instead sings with the Pasadena Pops. The whole program is devoted to the songs of George Gershwin – which have played a pivotal role in Feinstein’s career. As a young man he was hired by Ira Gershwin, (George’s brother and most frequent lyricist) to be an archivist, helping to bring their stories and music to a new generation. Larry Blank will be conducting the performance at the LA County Arboretum, with the concert at 7:30, and gates opening early for picnicking.

Michael Feinstein, courtesy Pasadena Pops

The LA Phil’s New Music Group brings contemporary programming to The Ford, with a “Green Umbrella” program Wednesday night. It’s curated by John Adams, and includes works by composers including Vivian Fung, Gabriella Smith, and Kaija Saariaho. The program will begin with a piece by Gérard Grisey called Stèle for two bass drums, and there’s a work by Juan Felipe Waller called Teguala for “amplified tiles and electronic playback.” They’ll be taking advantage of the amphitheater’s unique acoustics for the concert, which will be led by Paolo Bortolameolli.

Photo of Vivian Fung by Genevieve Caron

From an early work he wrote while still a student to a piece written almost 50 years later in memory of Jean Sibelius, a new CD of music by William Grant Still has a dozen or so works that have never been recorded before. The album, part of the American Classics series on Naxos, has Avlana Eisenberg conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and her mother, violinist Zina Schiff is soloist on many of the tracks. Many years ago, Schiff was researching repertoire for an all-American recording and fell in love with several pieces by Still. And it turned out that there were many pieces that had never been recorded in their orchestral versions.

“The American Suite was actually his opus one for orchestra,” Eisenberg says. “So that was his very first piece, written for pretty small forces, but it displays even at a very young age (I believe he was 23 years old) his emotional range. I think of as a microcosm, these three short movements that already give us a sense what he can do with orchestral color, and his use of melody.” His Violin Suite from 1943 is better known in its piano accompanied version, as is Pastorela (1946). Celeste Headlee, Still’s granddaughter, says he treated the orchestra like his instrument. “Most composers write for piano first, and they expand it. He never did that… He wanted to capture the beauty, and the glow and the bloom of every individual instrument.” She’s glad that he’s been getting programmed more frequently, as more musicians and audiences are discovering his works. “It’s an odd position that I’m in, because I realize I’m biased… He was my favorite person in the world, and his music very much sounds like him. And so, to my mind, his is the best music in the whole world, right? But also as a music student, I kept coming up against the fact that this was extremely well-written and well-crafted music.” She says that there are many more pieces (in cabinets at her mother’s house) waiting to be heard.

Conductor Avlana Eisenberg says working with her mother on this project has been especially rewarding: “Given that she provided my introduction to William Grant Still and his music, I feel like I developed an appreciation of this music through her. And then to get to not only discover the orchestrations of these pieces that I had fallen in love with in their violin/piano version, but also bring additional works to the table to round out these selections was such a gift.”

And our most recent “Open Ears” video gives much more information about William Grant Still’s life. (You can subscribe at our YouTube channel)

Pianist Jeremy Denk gives a special recital tonight (Thursday the 30th) as part of Music Academy of the West, where he’s been a faculty artist since 2015. It’ll be a performance of the complete first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. It’s the collection of 48 preludes and fugues (one in each of the major and minor keys). They’re frequently used to help teach counterpoint and harmony, but are not frequently performed in their entirety – before the pandemic began, Jeremy Denk was touring playing them as a complete set from memory. In the next week or so, he’ll be giving two solo piano masterclasses, as well as performing in their Picnic Concert Series with a concert on Friday July 8. This is the 75th anniversary season for the summer festival, which runs through the first week of August in Santa Barbara.

Photo by Phil Channing

Violinist Sandy Cameron is this week’s guest for the Salastina Happy Hour – that will include an interview, audience Q&A, and a live performance. Danny Elfman wrote his violin concerto called Eleven Eleven for her, which she premiered in 2017, and recorded in 2018; she brings theatricality to her performances, having been part of the Cirque de Soleil orchestra for the show IRIS, and been featured in stage productions of Tan Dun’s Martial Arts Trilogy and Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton. She’s also been a soloist in the “Bach by Beltrami” project with composer Marco Beltrami, reimagining works of Bach through a 21st Century lens.  The Salastina Happy Hour is free, via Zoom, 6-7pm on Tuesday the 28th.

Photo of Sandy Cameron by Megan Wintory

Street Symphony – the organization that brings musical performances to Skid Row – has a special concert this weekend of J.S. Bach’s Cantata 82, Ich habe genug (I Have Enough). Scott Graff is the vocal soloist, and the movements will be separated with stories by Linda Leigh, who tells of her experience becoming homeless, as well as “motherhood, forgiveness, and loss.” Vijay Gupta founded Street Symphony more than ten years ago, after moving to LA to join the LA Philharmonic as a violinist at the age of 19. Making a wrong turn while driving with his father, Gupta found himself in the heart of Skid Row, surrounded by tents and unhoused people. It opened his eyes to the need for the arts to leave the concert hall, and he began bringing performances to appreciative audiences in shelters, hospitals and prisons. In 2018, he was named a MacArthur fellow, because of his “dedication to bringing beauty, respite, and purpose to those all too often ignored by society while demonstrating the capacity of music to validate our shared humanity.”  The performance is Saturday night at 8, at Inner-City Arts in Downtown LA.

Looking at Beethoven and Ravel through a modern lens… In her upcoming recital at The Wallis called “Reimagine: Beethoven and Ravel,” pianist Inna Faliks commissioned nine contemporary composers to write responses to their works. Paola Prestini, Timo Andres, and Richard Danielpour are among the composers who were asked to comment on Beethoven’s op. 126 Bagatelles and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. The recital will be the first live performance of the set that the Ukranian-American pianist recorded last year. The Bagatelles were the last works that Beethoven wrote for piano, and the three movements of Gaspard de la Nuit are among the most difficult solo works in the repertory. The program will include the pieces that inspired the new works, with the Beethoven in the first half, and the complete Ravel ending the second half. Inna Faliks is head of Piano Studies at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, and six of the commissioned composers are on UCLA’s faculty. The concert is Wednesday night at 7:30.

Inna Faliks

When the opera The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2020, it was called “a courageous operatic work, marked by powerful vocal writing and sensitive orchestration, that skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful.” The work premiered at Long Beach Opera, and it’s returning there this weekend, in a new production that puts the orchestra on stage with the singers. It’s based on the real events of five teenagers who were wrongly accused in the 1989 attack on the “Central Park jogger.” The opera shines a light on the racial injustice that caused the five to be incarcerated for years before they were ultimately exonerated. The performances on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon will be directed by J.Ed Araiza, and conducted by Anthony Parnther, with several of the original cast members. They’ll be onstage at Jordan Auditorium at Jordan High School in northern Long Beach, fittingly, because when the five were arrested, they were between the ages of 14 and 16. After the production they’ll be recording it for release this fall. Here’s a trailer they made for the original production in 2019:

An unorthodox celebration of an unorthodox composer… Wild Up has been a champion of the works of Julius Eastman, and are in the process of a multi-album anthology of his music. On Sunday, they’ll be having an all-day concert of Buddha, a piece that is notated on one sheet of manuscript paper, with notes inside the outline of an egg. It’s to celebrate the release of the second volume of their Eastman recordings, called Joy Boy. As they describe it, “Eastman was young, gay, and Black, when it was even more difficult to be young, gay, and Black in America.” The performance will start at dawn (5:43 AM) and run to dusk (8:08 PM) at 2220 Arts + Archives. Audience members will be interspersed among the players, who will be performing in shifts as the minimalist piece continues throughout the day.

Photo of Julius Eastman by Donald Burkhardt

This Sunday’s celebration of Juneteenth – commemorating the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas – will include a major Hollywood Bowl concert that will be simulcast on CNN. It’s called “Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom,” and the musical acts span a wide range of genres: R&B, hip-hop, country, pop, gospel and jazz. Earth, Wind & Fire, Questlove and The Roots, Killer Mike, Billy Porter, and Jhené Aiko will be among the performers. And representing the world of classical music, the Re-Collective Orchestra will be playing. It’s an ensemble made up entirely of Black musicians, and this event will mark the first time that the Hollywood Bowl has presented such an orchestra in its 101-year history. Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor at the Hollywood Bowl will conduct them, along with Derrick Hodge. The start time at the Bowl is 4:30 in the afternoon, and the broadcast on CNN is scheduled to begin at 5.

Photo of Re-Collective Orchestra by Shon Gibbs Imagery

This is a special year for Music Academy of the West – they’re celebrating their 75th anniversary season, and their Summer Festival begins this week, running through August 6th in Santa Barbara. Joining the 140 fellows will be 60 faculty and teaching artists, and many special guest performers and composers. There are concerts of orchestral and chamber music, plus masterclasses for many instruments, including both solo and collaborative piano; the first staged opera since 2019 (Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin) and the season’s 75th Anniversary Community Concert will be on June 25th at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Among the artists included this season are pianist Jeremy Denk, violinist Augustin Hadelich, the Takacs Quartet, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and Sō Percussion, as well as composers Jessie Montgomery, Nico Muhly, and more. In addition to all the performances, there’s also an opportunity for fellows with an entrepreneurial bent to take part in the “Fast Pitch Competition” in July – where they can propose innovative ideas to improve the classical music experience for players or audience members.

Larry Rachleff leading the Academy Festival Orchestra – photo by Phil Canning

 

 

 

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