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.
Yuja Wang and Gustavo Dudamel kick off a festival celebration of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff this week, playing all of his works for keyboard and orchestra across two weekends. On Thursday (9) she’ll play the Piano Concerto No. 1; on Friday morning at 11, she’ll be playing the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; over the weekend (11,12) it’s the Piano Concerto No. 2; next week includes the knuckle-busting “Rach 3” (16,17); and they’ll end with the rarely programmed Piano Concerto No. 4 (18,19). It’s part of a February series of events celebrating the composer who spent his final years in Los Angeles, joining many other creative artists who became émigrés during the years of World War II. This series of concerts, as impressive as they are, will at least allow the soloist to catch her breath – just last month at Carnegie Hall, she performed all of the works in a single four-and-a-half-hour concert with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
This fall will mark the premiere of a new festival that will bring together musicians from all across California, with repertoire that’s been written in the past five years. The California Festival: A Celebration of New Music will launch in November, and was the brainchild of the music directors of three of the state’s ensembles: LA Phil’s Gustavo Dudamel, the San Diego Symphony’s Rafael Payare, and San Francisco Symphony’s Esa-Pekka Salonen. More than fifty organizations – orchestras, chamber music groups, choirs, jazz ensembles – will be taking part across the state. As their announcement declared: “Each participating organization will curate its own program or project under the festival umbrella, making this massive new survey as eclectic, exciting and kaleidoscopic as it is insightful and thought-provoking.”
The San Luis Obispo Symphony will play a concert on Saturday night (Feb 4) called Cello on Fire with guest cellistAmit Peled playing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1. For six years, Peled played a cello that had been played by the legendary Pablo Casals for most of his major recordings – a 1733 Goffriller cello that Casals’ widow loaned him. (An experience that led him to write a book for young students called A Cello Named Pablo.) The orchestra, led by conductor Andrew Sewell, will open the concert with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and the two works that close the program are by Ralph Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on Greensleeves) and one of his students, New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn. Earlier in the day there’s a free “No Ties Allowed” open dress rehearsal at 11am. The evening concert is at 7:30 at the Performing Arts Center’s Harold Miossi Hall.
LA Opera’s brand-new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opens on Saturday, the 4th of February, with six performances through the 26th. James Conlon will be conducting, with Craig Colclough as Figaro, Janai Brugger as Susanna, Lucas Meachem as the Count, and Ana Maria Martinez as the Countess. It’s directed by James Gray, and features period costumes designed by Christian Lacroix.
Tonight, (Monday 30) the Green Umbrella new music series at Walt Disney Concert Hall gives a hundred year-old silent film a contemporary score by Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth. The Ensemble Intercontemporain will be led by conductor Matthias Pintscher for Die Stadt ohne Juden, based on the novel by Hugo Bettauer. Neuwirth’s score for the 1924 Expressionist film has been called “both touching and harsh, warm-hearted and open, amusing and furious, involved and distanced, humorous and sad all at once.”
Pianist Hélène Grimaud is joined by the ensemble Wild Up for her concert Thursday (26) night at The Soraya. She’ll be playing music of Mozart and Ukrainian composer Valentyn Silvestrov for the performance, beginning with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor. Silvestrov’s The Messenger is directly inspired by the works of Mozart, using his melodic ideas and reshaping them into a work all its own. Two Dialogues with Postscript also has its roots in the classical past, to music by Franz Schubert and Richard Wagner. Christopher Rountree will be leading Wild Up in the concert, which is at 8pm in the Great Hall of The Soraya.
Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez gives a recital tonight (Monday the 23rd) at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, presented by LA Opera. He’ll sing French and Italian arias and Spanish songs, accompanied by collaborative pianist Vincenzo Scalera. It’s the first time the celebrated tenor has returned for an LA performance in over a decade.
The piano duo known as HOCKET presents a program called “Exploded Keyboards” Tuesday night (24) at 8 at Zipper Hall. Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff are core artists of Piano Spheres, and their program will include works for a pair of ‘prepared’ pianos – with coins, nuts & bolts, screws, and other objects placed among the strings, giving them a distinctive and unexpected sound. On the concert will be John Cage’s Three Dances, with pieces by Yoko Ono, Peter S. Shin, and the world premieres of two works by the pianists themselves: Thomas Kotcheff’s 5ERVO (featuring Icarus Duo) and Every Something by Sarah Gibson.
Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff, photo courtesy HOCKET
As part of LA Opera Off Grand, Lina González-Granados will be leading a concert performance of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia on Friday night (20) at Zipper Concert Hall. The cast is made up of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, including Sarah Saturnino in the title role. Britten wrote the work as a chamber opera, with an orchestra of just 13 players, a small cast, and two singers in the role of a Male and Female Chorus. It retells the ancient story of the assault of Lucretia by a Prince of Rome after she’s offered him a place to stay, which society at the time demanded. The repercussions of the attack would help bring their dynasty to an end.
Getting from here to there with the Santa Barbara Symphony – their upcoming program (21,22) is called “Planes, Trains & Violins”. Music Director Nir Kabarettiwill open the concert with a work written by famed film composer Elmer Bernstein, who lived for many years in Santa Barbara, in a world-premiere orchestration by his son Peter. It’s called Toccata for Toy Trains, and was the score for an animated film featuring stop-motion antique trains made by Charles and Ray Eames (known for their iconic chairs). A concerto for violin called El viaje de una vida, (The Journey of a Lifetime) by Miguel del Águila will be played with soloist Guillermo Figueroa, and the concert will end with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” that celebrates populations moving across the sea. The concerts will be Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 3 at the Granada Theatre (with a pre-concert talk at 2 that will include Nir Kabaretti, Peter Bernstein, and Guillermo Figueroa).
Photo by Giuseppe Ruco via Unsplash
The Pasadena Symphony brings Mozart, Mendelssohn and Anna Clyne to the Ambassador Auditorium on Saturday (21) in two performances led by guest conductor Joseph Young, featuring pianist Vijay Venkatesh. The Washington Post described him as having “transcendent technique, unbridled passion, and irresistible charisma.” The program will open with Clyne’s Sound and Fury, inspired by both Macbeth and Haydn’s Symphony No. 60 – followed by the Piano Concerto No. 20 of Mozart, and Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony. The concerts are at 2 and 8 on Saturday the 21st.
Photo by Timmy Liberis
The Takács Quartet will be joined by pianist Jeremy Denk when they play at BroadStage in Santa Monica this Friday evening (20). Along with quartets by Haydn (Opus 77 no. 2) and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, they’ll be playing Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat. The ensemble has paired with Denk, the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship winner, for a concert tour this season – and they’ve joined forces for performances around the country frequently in the past.
Courtesy Takács Quartet
Sheku Kanneh-Mason joins the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra this weekend (14, 15) in a program called Sheku Plays Haydn. He’ll be soloist for Joseph Haydn’s D Major Cello Concerto, with the ensemble guest conducted by Lina González-Granados (stepping in for Music Director Jaime Martín, who has tested positive for COVID-19). Also on the program is a symphony by the violinist and composer Chevalier St. George, Joseph Bologne, as well as a pair of works by Felix Mendelssohn: it will open with the Hebrides Overture, and end with his fourth symphony, known as the “Italian”. Sheku Kanneh-Mason was supposed to play with LACO back in 2018, but had to miss it – with a singularly good excuse: he was called upon to perform at the Royal Wedding that was scheduled for the same weekend. This weekend’s concerts are Saturday at 8 at Royce Hall, and Sunday at 7 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.
Photo by Ollie Ali
Michael Tilson Thomas takes the podium at Walt Disney Concert Hall as the LA Phil plays Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 this Friday through Sunday. Mahler has been a specialty of his from the early days of his career, and his first performance with the San Francisco Symphony was leading them in this work in 1974, when he was 29. Now he’s the Music Director Laureate of that ensemble, after leading them for 25 years. Mahler wrote his Ninth (his last completed symphony) after the death of his four-year-old daughter, and it premiered in the summer of 1912, after the composer’s own death. There are performances Friday and Saturday (13,14) at 8, and Sunday afternoon at 2.
Photo by Spencer Lowell
The Baroque era chamber orchestra called Kontrapunktus will be presenting five concerts from the 7th to the 15th with music by Bach and Handel. They’re calling the program “Soli Deo gloria,” (in praise of god alone) a phrase which they both used during the course of their compositional lives. Selections will include an overture, trio sonata, and concerto grosso by Handel, and concertos for harpsichord, cello, and violin by Bach. The nine-member group was founded in 2015 and is led by concertmaster Hannah White, who was a first-place winner in the Sphinx Competition. Violinist Aubree Oliverson will be soloing in the Bach Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041. Their performances will be in West Hollywood on Saturday the 7th, Orange on the afternoon of Sunday the 8th; and the following weekend in Long Beach (13) Laguna Beach (14) and Pasadena (15).
Members of Kontrapunktus
Pacific Opera Project presents the US premiere of an opera by Antonio Vivaldi this month, with eight performances of Ercole su’l Termodonte through the 21st. The story is about one of the labors of Hercules, as he must take a sword from Antiope, Queen of the Amazons. It was written 300 years ago, at a time when the Pope had forbidden women from taking part in operas – the roles originally written for castrati will be sung in this production by countertenors, sopranos, mezzos, and tenors. Logan Webber is singing Ercole, and Janet Todd is Ippolita. The score had been all but forgotten in libraries around Europe until recently rediscovered, three centuries later. The performances begin on Friday the 6th at the Highland Park Ebell Club, and are directed by POP Artistic Director Josh Shaw. Kyle Naig will be conducting from the harpsichord.
Janet Todd (Ippolita) and Logan Webber (Ercole) – Photo courtesy Pacific Opera Project
Violinist Lara St. John’s most recent album, she/her/hers is made up of 17 compositions for solo violin by a dozen composers – all of whom are women. Some, like Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman, Laurie Anderson, and Gabriela Lena Frank are widely known – but others haven’t yet broken through: “We don’t have anybody from the Victorian age, or the so-called golden age of European Art music, because it was simply not encouraged, in fact actively discouraged for a woman to have any kind of ideas for herself,” St. John says. “That means, necessarily, with a few obvious exceptions, that for composers by 52 percent of the population, it’s going to have to be this century. It’s too bad that that’s the way it worked out, but obviously now things are – baby steps, they’re changing a little bit.” Also on the collection are works by Serbian-born composers Milica Paranosic and Ana Sokolovic, and Canadian ‘grande dame’ Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt Gramatté. “Outside of Canada she’s utterly unknown. She was a really good both pianist and violinist. These caprices are so violinistic… all based on experiences that she had in her life.” Since she was the victim of abuse as a student at the Curtis Institute of Music in her teens, Lara St. John has been fighting to change the power dynamic that marginalizes and threatens women in conservatories and the classical music world. So, she was particularly pleased to include a work by Adah Kaplan called Whitewashed. “She was a 14-year-old girl when she wrote me on my website and said, “I’m a violinist, but I wrote a piece that’s too hard for me, will you play it?”
Photo of Lara St. John by J. Farley
The tradition of seeing in the New Year with music from Vienna (think Strauss waltzes and arias from operettas) comes to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Sunday afternoon at 3, with the Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert. Nir Kabaretti will be conducting The Strauss Symphony of America, and singers Juliet Petrus and Jorge Garza will be joined by dancers from San Diego Ballet to offer a warm welcome to 2023.
The Santa Barbara Symphony will be offering its New Year’s Eve with the Symphony program on Saturday night, guest conducted by Bob Bernhardt, with soprano Mela Dailey. It will feature Broadway favorites, as well as a tribute to the music from James Bond movies, and a Beatles medley. The program kicks off at 8:30 on New Year’s Eve at the Granada Theatre.
Photo by Myriam Zilles via Unsplash
The debut recording by the Harlem Chamber Players is music by Adolphus Hailstork. Co-founder of the ensemble, Liz Player says she’d been aware of the composer for many years, but it was only in the last five or so that she’d started listening to his works. “And I was really moved by how lyrical, how accessible, and how profound his music is.” She reached out to him in 2017, when the group was just beginning to commission works, and the resulting work that opens the recording is called “Nobody Know,” for string quartet and baritone. It was written to commemorate 1619, when the first Black enslaved people arrived in America, and is subtitled (A Song from the Other Cross). It’s from the viewpoint of one of the thieves crucified with Christ. The Harlem Chamber Players gave the premiere performance of both that and another piece (also on the new recording) the “Detroit” Piano Quartet in 2019, at the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture in Harlem. The third work is for oboe and string quartet called Songs of the Magi. They’ve since commissioned works by other composers, including Trevor Weston and Nkeiru Okoye. “We just want to continue on this path to explore other people’s works,” Liz Player says.
Members of Harlem Chamber Players, with baritone Kenneth Overton, composer Adolphus Hailstork, and librettist Herbert Woodward Martin on far right.
A handwritten piece of 15 bars of music by Mozart has fetched more than 150,000 dollars in an auction at Christie’s in London. It was the opening of the Andante movement of the Serenade in D Major for Orchestra, K. 185. He wrote the piece in the summer of 1773, when he was 17 years old. It’s believed to have been written to celebrate the graduation of Judas Thaddäus von Antretter, the son of a family he and his parents knew in Salzburg. Before the December 13 auction, it was anticipated the manuscript would go for between 100,000-145,000 dollars. In November of 2019, a manuscript of a pair of Minuets by Mozart (K.164, numbers 5 and 6) was sold at auction at Sotheby’s for roughly 385,000 dollars. He was 16 when he wrote those dances.
A quintet of cellos called SAKURA will be coming to The Edye at BroadStage on the morning of Sunday the 18th. The LA-based ensemble plays repertoire spanning eight centuries, arranging works as well as commissioning new ones for their particular instrumentation. They get their name from the Japanese word for “cherry tree” as a tribute to the cellist Ralph Kirschbaum, who mentored and taught them all, and whose name also translates to “cherry tree.” The Sunday morning program reaches back into the past as far as the Renaissance composers Orlando di Lasso and Carlo Gesualdo, through Chick Corea and John Williams.
Presenting AfroClassical Composers is a non-profit performing arts organization that’s having its first live in-person event since the pandemic this Saturday, the 17th at 4pm. On the program are piano works by Dorothy Rudd-Moore, George Walker, R Nathaniel Dett, and Maria Thompson Corley. Dr. Corley will be one of the performers, along with Executive Director Michael Ligon. He was inspired to start the organization a few years ago by the death of George Walker (who he had studied with), with the aim of spotlighting the breadth and beauty of music by composers of the African Diaspora, and exposing a wider audience to the many worthy works that haven’t regularly appeared on concert programs. The event will be at Founder’s Church in Los Angeles.
Michael Ligon – Presenting AfroClassical Composers
The familiar opera by Puccini becomes La Brew-hème in the hands and voices of Pacific Opera Project – they’ll bring the work also known as The Hipsters to Benny Boy Brewing in Lincoln Heights on Monday the 12th, as an outdoor ticketed performance. At Angel City Brewing on Tuesday and Wednesday, the performances are free, and indoor in multiple locations in the building. The music and libretto are as in Puccini’s original, but the English supertitles brings the Paris of the 1830s – with its starving artists and intellectuals living in garrets – to a contemporary Los Angeles loft during a particularly cold winter. The production is directed by POP Artistic Director Josh Shaw, and includes Janet Todd as Mimi and Arnold Livingston Geis as Rodolfo.
Pacific Opera Project
Traditional Latin American Christmas carols come together in the world premiere of a program called Canciones de Nochebuena. New arrangements by David García Saldaña share folksongs for the holiday from across the Spanish-speaking Western hemisphere, including Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and more. They’ll be performed at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles this Sunday morning the 11th, by the ensemble Laude and The Cathedral Choir, led by David Harris, with Michael Lehman on marimba and percussion. The performance will be preceded by Christoph Bull playing an organ prelude concert of works by Latino composers. Here’s a preview of one of the Nochebuena selections, “A la media noche”:
The Los Angeles Philharmonic dives into opera with two cycles of performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and directed by Peter Sellars. Videos created by artist Bill Viola will be accompanying the performances, which spreads the opera’s three acts across three days. The Tristan Project began in 2004, to reimagine Wagner’s sweeping love story as a multi-media rich concert performance, using all that technology could make possible. The two cycles are December 9-11 and 15-17, with a cast that includes Michael Weinius, Miina-Liisa Värelä, and Eric Owens.
Photo of Gustavo Dudamel by Ryan Hunter
On Sunday the 11th, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be presenting the world premiere of a work that has as its inspiration the tradition of Mexican masked wrestling. Lucha Libre! (Sinfonia Concertante for Chamber Orchestra) is by Juan Pablo Contreras, and is a “Sound Investment” commission by the ensemble, featuring six LACO soloists. Music Director Jaime Martín will conduct the concert at the Ambassador Auditorium, which will also feature violinist Gil Shaham playing the Dvorak Violin Concerto, plus more music from Eastern Europe by Ligeti, Bartok, and Kodaly.
Photo of Juan Pablo Contreras by Rodolfo de Paul
LA Master Chorale gets into high gear for its busiest season – their Festival of Carols performances are this Saturday afternoon and the following week; this Sunday evening, they present Lo, How a Rose – with works celebrating the symbol of tenderness and welcoming. Sunday the 18th will be their performance of Handel’s Messiah, and the following evening they’ll be joined by members of the public with the free outdoor Carols on the Plaza at The Music Center – before heading back into Walt Disney Concert Hall for the holiday tradition of the Messiah Sing-Along.
Photo of Artistic Director Grant Gershon by Jamie Pham
A celebration of the season in song – Shawn Kirchner’s The Light of Hope Returning is the centerpiece of the Pasadena Chorale’s concert on Tuesday night. It’s a “folk oratorio” that brings together poetry, seasonal carols, and songs that observe the “turning of the year”: observing the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year, Christmas, and New Year’s traditions. It’s the LA premiere of the work by the LA-based composer, and the Chorale will be joined by a treble choir of students from the Octavia Butler Middle School and the Pasadena Waldorf School, with instrumental accompaniment including piano, strings, flute, saxophone, and dulcimer. The concert will be at the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena at 7:30 on Tuesday.
Photo by Vincent Guth via Unsplash
A free performance of George Frideric Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus will be presented by the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale this Sunday, at the Adat Ari El Sanctuary in Valley Village. The oratorio tells the story of the leader of the Jewish rebellion against persecution by Greek Seleucid Empire. It was one of Handel’s very popular works, including the famous chorus “See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes”. The LA Zimriyah Chorale was founded in 1997 to sing works of Jewish music and the Jewish experience.
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine was able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of her recordings by re-releasing it, benefitting from both scholarship and an unexpected discovery. “This is the record that I would have released back in ’97, if only I could have,” she says. That album, Violin Composers by Black Composers Through the Centuries, now includes a concerto that was thought to have been lost forever. “When I was doing the research to discover what works by composers of African descent existed for violin and orchestra, I found some wonderful music from the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and one of the libraries I visited showed me a single page of a manuscript of a Florence Price violin concerto. We knew that she had written two concertos, but they were considered to be lost to the world forever… And so, it was an absolute thrill when just a few years ago, this treasure trove of her manuscripts was discovered in an old trunk in an abandoned farmhouse. You can’t make something like that up!” Price’s second concerto, from 1952, takes the place on the re-issue of a piece that, while delightful, shouldn’t have been included: the Chevalier de Meude-Monpas was referred to as “Le Noir,” and so historians believed him to be Black – but it turns out it was because he had served in a French army regiment which rode black horses. Since the original release of the album, Rachel Barton Pine and her foundation have been finding, publishing, and creating a database works by Black composers, to help expand the performance repertoire. “There’s definitely a sea-change happening in the world… Audiences going from ‘Well, if it’s not already considered to be some of the greatest music, it must not be,’ to realizing, ‘Wait a sec, some of this music by composers of color, by women composers, didn’t have an opportunity to be considered as among the great music.’ We’re all missing out if we don’t get to hear the great music, and if everybody’s voice isn’t part of the conversation, our art really suffers.”
Photo of Rachel Barton Pine by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Delirium Musicum presents its final LA concert of 2022 Tuesday evening at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. The ensemble will be playing works that range from the Baroque (Bach, Vivaldi and Geminiani) through Aaron Copland, Shostakovich, and contemporary composer Michi Wiancko. After this concert, they’ll be heading on the road to concerts in Oklahoma and Texas. In February 2023, they’ll be presenting Treelogy: A Musical Portrait of California’s Redwood, Sequoia and Joshua Trees at The Soraya.
There’s “Ravishing Ravel” (and Roussel!) as players from the LA Phil present a performance of chamber music Tuesday night, curated by violinist Bing Wang and harpist Emmanuel Ceysson. The program will include two works by Ravel, starting with his Introduction and Allegro, a “mini-concerto” for chamber ensemble and harp, and will conclude with his piano trio. In between, there’s a Serenade by Albert Roussel.
Westside Ballet brings The Nutcracker to Santa Monica’s BroadStage this weekend, with 8 performances through December 4th. There are more than 85 dancers in the production, which is in its 49th year, the longest running Nutcracker in Southern California. It brings together professional, pre-professional, and student dancers to tell the classic E.T.A. Hoffmann story to Tchaikovsky’s always-popular score. There are several other productions of the holiday favorite coming up – American Contemporary Ballet’s “immersive experience” runs from the 25th of November through Christmas Eve; both Inland Pacific Ballet and Los Angeles Ballet will be presenting their runs starting on the 3rd of December. From the 9th to the 18th, American Ballet Theatre’s production is at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. Long Beach Ballet’s performances are from December 16-23.
Photo of Westside Ballet’s production from 2021 by Todd Lechtick
Soprano Angel Blue stars in LA Opera’s production of Puccini’s Tosca, which opens Saturday night and has six performances through December 10th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Tenors Michael Fabiano and Gregory Kunde will be singing Cavaradossi, with bass-baritone Ryan McKinny as Scarpia. Angel Joy Blue is an LA native, and former student of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. In 2019, she became the first Black woman to sing Violetta in a fully staged La Traviata at Teatro alla Scala, and opened the Metropolitan Opera’s season as Bess in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
The Santa Barbara Symphony has a world premiere in their concerts this weekend, a piece that gives the program its name: Wisdom of the Water, Earth, Sky by Cody Westheimer. It’s described as “a poignant and intimate examination of the Chumash culture and animist origin stories.” The work will be punctuated with Chumash parables read in their original language and English by Marianne Parra and Ernestine Ygnacio-DeSoto. Since Westheimer’s music first was played by the Symphony (when he was 17) he’s become a successful composer for film and TV, including many nature documentaries. The rest of the concert program includes Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto with soloist Alessio Bax, Valse Triste by Sibelius, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor.
Photo by Jake Grella via Unsplash
Music from the world of videogames takes center stage at The Soraya this Sunday night, as Dr. Noreen Green leads the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony in music by Israeli-American composer Inon Zur. The program will include the world premiere of Suite from Syberia: The World Before, with pianist Emily Bear as the soloist. One of the central characters in that game makes a living playing the piano as Fascism threatens 1937 Europe, and Emily Bear provides her performances in the game. There will be selections from many of Zur’s videogame scores, including Dragon Age, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, and Starfield. The composer himself will join the orchestra, playing the Fallout Medley Suite on piano. Also taking part are singer Jillian Aversa, members of the choir Tonality, and KUSC’s own Jennifer Miller Hammel providing narration.
The Pacific Symphony and the women of the Pacific Chorale perform Holst’s The Planets this Thursday through Saturday at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. The performance will be conducted by Karen Kamensek, and feature appropriately extraterrestrial visuals by Adrian Wyard on a big screen. Works before the intermission are Pivot by Anna Clyne and Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, with violin soloist Stefan Jackiw.
Photo of Saturn by NASA, via Unsplash
The Los Angeles Master Chorale has received a grant of more than 2 and a half million dollars from the Perenchio Foundation, which will provide operating support over many years. “The Chorale and most arts organizations are still working toward post-pandemic recovery while advancing future plans,” says President and CEO Jean Davidson, “and this gift ensures the Master Chorale will have the capacity to share the joy and power of choral singing with the widest possible audience, today and into the future.” It’s the largest gift in the 58 years of the Chorale’s history. “We know that our local arts organizations enrich our lives, drive our economy, and create new opportunities for our communities,” says Perenchio Foundation Executive Director Stephania Ramirez. “We are honored to partner with these vital organizations to help them build their strength and sustainability for the long term.”
A Veterans Day benefit concert will feature the pianist Joachim Horsley and the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, whose specialty is fusing the rhythms of the Afro-Caribbean to Classical masterworks by the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. The event will be hosted by actor Jon Huertas (This is Us) and will support BaseCamp for Veterans. Free tickets are available for Veterans – the performance is at the NeueHouse Hollywood this Friday evening.
Fans of grand Italian opera take note: the Verdi Chorus is presenting A Verdi Puccini Fest this weekend, with two performances of choruses, arias, and small ensembles from ten operas by the pair of composers. Along with the Chorus will be soprano Jamie Chamberlin Granner, tenor Nathan Granner, and baritone Ben Lowe. The performances at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica will be led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum.
LA Opera Resident Conductor Lina González-Granados will be on the podium leading the Pasadena Symphony in two concerts this coming Saturday. They’ll open with Valerie Coleman’s Seven O’Clock Shout, part of the symphony’s program that celebrates works by contemporary composers – with a piece celebrating the frontline workers during the pandemic. That will be followed by the Sibelius Violin Concerto, with soloist Alexandra Conunova, and they’ll finish with Tchaikovsky’s iconic Fifth Symphony. The concerts are at 2 and 8pm at the Ambassador Auditorium.
As part of the “Rock My Soul” festival that’s being curated by soprano Julia Bullock, this weekend the LA Phil will be playing music by a pair of composers who were pioneers as Black women in the overwhelmingly white and male world of Classical Music. Florence Price and Margaret Bonds were also close friends – and the same concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933 in which Price’s first symphony was debuted (marking the first time a major orchestra in the US played a work by a Black woman composer) also featured Bonds as a piano soloist with the orchestra for another piece. That pair of important milestones set the stage for the rest of their musical lives. The concerts on Saturday and Sunday, conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya, will include songs, works for solo piano, as well as new arrangements.
Photo of Julia Bullock by Allison Michael Orenstein
The young instrumentalists of the American Youth Symphony will be playing John Williams’ iconic score for a special live-to-picture performance of the 1978 blockbuster film Superman this weekend. Music Director Carlos Izcaray will be leading the orchestra at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Saturday afternoon at 4. As the tagline promised, “You’ll believe a man can fly.”
Festival Mozaic presents a recital by pianist Stewart Goodyear this Sunday afternoon, at Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center Pavilion in San Luis Obispo. Alongside Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and a French Suite by Bach, he’ll have an Adagio by Joseph Bologne, and will open the concert with one of his own compositions. Goodyear was commissioned by Canadian philanthropists to write a work celebrating that country, where he was born. He turned to a French-Canadian folktale about eight lumberjacks who make a deal with the devil in order to be given a flying canoe that can take them home to their families and friends. It’s called Acabris! Acabras! Acabram! – the magical incantation that sets them on their way.
Photo of Stewart Goodyear by Anita Zvonar
Basiani, the state ensemble of Georgian Folk Song comes to California with performances in Berkeley (Thursday) and Santa Monica (Friday). The male choir sings in traditional three-voiced polyphony with a repertoire of folks songs, chants, hymns and ballads. The ensemble was founded in 2000, and performs in traditional tunics and boots – and includes the technique of krimanchuli, or Georgian yodeling. Their appearances are through BroadStage (although the performance will be at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica) and Cal Performances at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley.
Courtesy of Ensemble Basiani
LACO’s chamber series opens with an early celebration of the centennial of György Ligeti in a program called “Echoes of Austria” this Sunday evening. The wind players will be featured, playing his Six Bagatelles arranged for wind quintet, along with Samuel Barber’s Summer Music. Rounding out the program are two works for piano and strings: Schubert’s piano quartet Adagio and Rondo in F Major, and the F minor Piano Quintet of Johannes Brahms. Fabio Bidini will be the pianist for those works. The performance is at Zipper Hall at 7pm on Sunday.
The Israel Philharmonic and its dynamic young music director Lahav Shani will be playing the “Titan” symphony of Mahler when they make their debut at The Soraya on Saturday. It’s the Mahler’s first symphony, and the first of his music to be heard in the Great Hall. Shani became the orchestra’s leader in 2020, following Zubin Mehta. Also on the program will be the first symphony of Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim.
Photo of Lahav Shani by Shai Skiff
The 1931 version of Frankenstein might just be the quintessential monster movie: a creature made from dead bodies is reanimated by a scientist, and proves that trying to “play God” leads to tragedy. It’s a classic that everyone who’s seen it remembers. But do they remember it correctly? One thing that’s missing is an original musical score. In the early talkie days, that both wasn’t a priority, and wasn’t always logistically possible. For 70 or so years, there wasn’t one – and then in the early 2000’s, composer Michael Shapiro was asked to write a score that could be played, real-time, to accompany the film. He wrote a 15-piece chamber arrangement, taking on the job as he would any other film score (although he wasn’t able to discuss with director James Whale where the music should go – he “spotted” the film himself.) Since then, he’s expanded the score to full orchestra, wind band, and an operatic version for five singers and small orchestra, that takes its libretto from the Requiem mass. The LA Opera Orchestra will be giving a performance accompanying a screening of the classic film (with the composer conducting) at the Theatre at Ace Hotel this Friday and Saturday, getting in the mood for Halloween!
Hilary Hahn says she planned her most recent album, Eclipse, around the Violin Concerto of Alberto Ginastera, a piece that grabbed her instantly. “I don’t even remember when it was. It’s just one minute it was not in my life and the next minute it was. It’s just a fantastic tour-de-force through all kinds of emotions and techniques, and it just is delicious and frightening and so rewarding as a player.” She paired it with pieces that are more frequently played, the Dvorak Concerto, and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. Because of the pandemic, she had to learn the Ginastera almost entirely on her own, which was a very different way of working – and after her first rehearsals with the orchestra, she made some major adjustments that generally would have been made over time. “That was the difference between working on it on my own, and working on it in those few days leading up to the recording. The piece came out to me, like it just jumped out with all the textures, and it gave me so much to work with.” She says that freshness is on Eclipse. “I feel like that sizzle is in the recording. Because when everything showed up together, the mics were on… And it became super fun to connect what I was playing with the orchestra, and trade these gestures and these sounds, and all of that back and forth.” She says the experience has been enlightening – to extend the metaphor of the album’s title. “It’s fine to have gone through an evolution, it’s fine to have been challenged, it’s fine to have had some darkness and some doubt and some challenges and come out of it, and learn something about what you love. And learn something about yourself, and learn something about how you want to be in the world.”
Photo of Hilary Hahn by OJ Slaughter
LA Opera presents the West Coast premiere of Omar – the opera by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, opening this weekend and running through the 13th. It’s based on the life of Omar Ibn Said, who wrote (in Arabic) an 1831 memoir of his experiences as an American slave. He was working as a scholar when he was abducted from Western Africa in 1807 and taken to South Carolina. He wrote the book while he was enslaved. The title role is sung by tenor James McCorkle, with Norman Garrett as Omar’s brother, and Jacqueline Echols as Julie. Composers Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels introduce some West African musical traditions into the score; Giddens also wrote the libretto for the work, which was a co-commission with several organizations including San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and others. The performances are at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, violinist Geoff Nuttall has died at the age of 56, of pancreatic cancer. The group has been String Quartet in residence at Stanford University for many years, teaching and performing there (and also at the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston, SC) and Nuttall’s charismatic introductions to pieces have been a staple of their many performances. As his colleagues posted on the quartet’s website: “Geoff was an inspired artist whose loyalty to his chosen passions and people was legendary… Geoff had an energetic and spiritual connection to music that rubbed off on anyone lucky enough to witness him play.”
Photo of Geoff Nuttall by Marco Borggreve
Grand Ave Arts: All Access is back after a two-year Covid-19 hiatus… This Saturday from 11 to 4, more than 10 arts and cultural institutions are going to be participating, making themselves available for the curious and interested – groups like the LA Phil, LA Opera, LA Master Chorale, Colburn School, the Music Center, and The Broad will be on hand, with workshops, information, and other activities. The events are free and include outdoor pop-up performances by Colburn students, recitals at 12:30 and 1:30 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by LA Opera with well-known arias and a preview of Omar; LA Phil presenting YOLA Faculty Brass Quintet and Music 101 with our own Alan Chapman; and much more!
The Pasadena Symphony’s 95th season opens with two Saturday performances… Vinay Parameswaran, recently Associate Conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra will be on the podium, the first of six Artistic Partner guest conductors for the season, during the search for the next Music Director. Guest soloist is Terrence Wilson, who’ll play the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2. The program begins with a work called Primal Message by composer and violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, (part of the Symphony’s annual Composers Showcase) and also includes Rossini’s overture to La Scala di Seta, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39. There are 2pm and 8pm performances at the Ambassador Auditorium.
Photo of Vinay Parameswaran by Roger Mastroianni
Piano Spheres presents a recital by Daniel Newman-Lessler called “Transparent Animals” on Tuesday night at the Colburn School’s Thayer Hall. There are 13 works by contemporary composers, including Pamela Z, Julius Eastman, Frederic Rzewski and more. The lineup, for “acoustic and digital pianos, voice, fixed media, and live processing,” includes the premiere of Dan Trueman’s piece Wending Embers, commissioned by Piano Spheres. Newman-Lessler is one of their Emerging Artists, being mentored by Vicki Ray.
Photo of Daniel Newman-Lessler by Lerina Winter
Capturing the experience of Los Angeles in music: six composers and librettists have teamed for a work called Interstitial: A Book of (Musical) Stories, that will have its premiere Tuesday evening at USC’s Newman Recital Hall. Each section explores a different way of being “between identities” – a fluidity of genders, races, socio-economic status. The ensemble Brightwork new music will be joined by singers from HEX for the performance. The composers for the project are Nicolas Lell Benavides, Carolyn Chen, Saunder Choi, Veronika Krausas, Molly Pease and Fahad Siadat; the librettists are Molly Bendall, Rickerby Hinds, Sarah LaBrie, Warren Liu, Renée Reynolds, and Brian Sonia-Wallace. The concert is free, but reservations are required.
LACO opens its season this weekend, pairing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with a new work by composer Shelley Washingtoncalled Both, “an exploration of life beyond the binary.” It’s a piece that was commissioned as part of New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices initiative. The first movement of the half-hour long piece was inspired by the altered consciousness of travel which she experienced flying many times between New York and LA while working with LACO, Wild Up, and Long Beach Opera for projects last year. Several ensembles will be providing singers for the Beethoven, including Los Angeles Master Chorale, Gay Men’s Chorus LA, Trans Corus LAVox Femina and more. The concert Saturday at 8 is at Royce Hall, and Sunday at 7 at Alex Theatre in Glendale.
Photo of Shelley Washington by Peter Yankowsky
The 70th anniversary season of the Santa Barbara Symphony launches with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana this weekend. Music and Artistic Director Nir Kabaretti says during this season they’ll be shining a spotlight on the community, and collaborating with other arts organizations, and these concerts will involve many of them. Joining the orchestra and a trio of vocal soloists will be more than 150 performers: dancers from State Street Ballet, and singers from the SB Choral Society, Quire of Voyces, and the Children’s Chorus from Music Academy Sing! The program will begin with Fauré’s Pavane, with dancers performing a new ballet, and then Saint-Saëns’ “Bacchanale” from Samson and Delilah.
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.
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.
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.
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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