Last year, at the world premiere of John Adams’ passion-oratorio “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” I wrote an extensive review. At the time, I said I was “less interested” in seeing how Peter Sellars would stage the work in the future, than I was simply excited to hear the music again. Turns out, I should have been more excited to see Sellars’ staging. It was vivid, yet minimal. It was transparent. And it helped connect the libretto together.
At the premiere a year ago, I wrote the audience retention rate at Walt Disney Concert Hall was about 70%. A year later, the work is a bit shorter (Adams cut some scenes), and Adams bumbed up some of the tempos. At the Barbican Centre Saturday night, the audience retention rate was close to 100%. (One couple near where I was sitting got up at a particularly conspicuous time and clattered out of the hall, never to return.)
Yesterday was a moment several months in the making for the 10 traveling musicians from YOLA (Youth Orchestra LA). It’s why they wrote two essays, gave an interview, and played an audition just for the opportunity to come on this trip to London. Yesterday was the rehearsal and performance of the Discover Dudamel orchestra at the Barbican Centre, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel himself.
Dudamel bounded on stage, a bundle of energy even though he had just come from an interview that went late and had barely had time to grab a snack for lunch. He surveyed the large group of mostly high-school age kids, paused to count the number players in the flute section, “How many?” He asked. “Six flutes? I love this: Venezuelan-style,” referring to the giant orchestras of several hundred he has conducted countless times with El Sistema.
“Okay, let’s play,” Dudamel said quickly, and raised his arms for the downbeat of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture. But there was an impish look in his eye. He turned to the concertmaster and asked, “Romeo and Juliet?” She nodded. “Prokofiev, right?” Dudamel said. “No, Berlioz?” Giggling from the orchestra. “Oh…I remember,” Dudamel said, grinning. “Tchaikovsky.”
Much has already been written about the LA Phil’s new 2013-14 season, just announced yesterday at Walt Disney Concert Hall. (In my estimation, the most insightful summations come from Mr. CK Dexter Haven at All is Yar and Timothy Mangan at Classical Life.)
As orchestras around the country hemorrhage audiences, money, and relevance, a few–like the LA Phil, St. Louis, and San Francisco Symphony–are thriving. Why? It has to do with the idea that an orchestra cannot survive simply as a museum for great music of the past. It has to be a living, breathing organism that connects audiences to the music of now.
That has been the philosophy and tradition of the LA Phil since the Ernest Fleischmann days. It has been advanced by Esa-Pekka Salonen, institutionalized by Deborah Borda, and continued by Gustavo Dudamel.
So when the LA Phil announced its new season yesterday, I was curious to run the numbers. And while I’m no math whiz, my calculations, I think, show how the LA Phil is living up to its commitment to today’s music in some very exciting ways.
13 commissions, 11 world premieres, 4 U.S. premieres, 3 West Coast premieres. This is a record amount of new music for the orchestra.
In 2013-14, the LA Phil will play music by six Baroque composers; three Classical-era composers; 15 Romantics; and 41 20th-21st century composers.
That’s 9% Baroque, 5% Classical, 23% Romantic, and 63% Modern
Of the 65 composers on their 2013-14 season, 26 are alive. That’s an astonishing 40%.
129 total works on the 2013-14 season: 24 Baroque, 7 Classical, 49 Romantic, and 49 from the 20th-21st Century.
That’s 18% Baroque, 5% Classical, 38% Romantic, and 38% Modern
Remove the Tchaikovsky-Fest works and those stats change to 35 Romantic works comprising 27% of the repertoire.
Of the seven Classical-era works, five are by Mozart and one is by Haydn.
Of the Romantics: no Bizet, Borodin, Bruch, Elgar, Faure, Franck, Grieg, Lalo, Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky, Rossini, Saint-Saëns, Smetana, Verdi, or Weber.
The LA Phil will be 95 years old, Walt Disney Concert Hall will be 10, and it will be Gustavo Dudamel’s 5th season as music director.
This weekend, the LA Philharmonic performs Igor Stravinsky’s seminal masterpiece, The Rite of Spring, with music director Gustavo Dudamel. The concerts mark the opening of the 2012-13 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall. I spoke with Dudamel as well as several members of the LA Phil about what it’s like to perform The Rite. Here are a few of my favorite moments from those conversations.
Like the best summer tomatoes, Thursday night’s LA Philharmonic concert at the Hollywood Bowl was one to savor. Of the six performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel at the Bowl this year, this was certainly the musician’s concert of the bunch. No superstar soloists, like Yo-Yo Ma or Plácido Domingo, and a 12-tone piano concerto to boot.
Still, 6,523 brave souls schlepped out to the Bowl on a steamy night (well, steamy by Southern California standards) to hear what they could hear.
The concert was part of Dudamel’s ongoing Americas and Americans festival. Inaugurated in his first season as music director, Americas and Americans focuses on the relationships among composers of the North, Central, and South American continent. I say “continent” singular, because that’s how Dudamel defines this landmass that’s separated only by a man-made trench. “We are one America,” he told me back in that first season. And he’s out to prove that through music. He rarely refers to composers by their nationalities, preferring instead to call them all “American.” Continue reading →
Tens of thousands of classical music fans have been streaming to the Hollywood Bowl this week as LA Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel has set up shop there for his annual summer residency. And the crowds are only expected to get larger in the week ahead, as Dudamel conducts a concert performance of Verdi’s opera Rigolettoon Sunday evening; he continues his exploration of North and South American music with twoconcerts during the week; and after that, collaborates for the very first time with tenor Plácido Domingo.
Dudamel kicked off his Bowl appearances this past Tuesday with a performance featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I caught up with Dudamel the next day, in his studio at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
BL: On my way out [of the Hollywood Bowl] last night, I snapped this photo.Continue reading →
LA Phil’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Walt Disney Concert Hall led by Gustavo Dudamel, in collaboration with Frank Gehry, Rodarte and Christoper Alden. Photo by Mathew Imaging.
Even before the overture started at last night’s LA Philharmonic performance of Mozart’sDon Giovanni, it was clear this wasn’t going to be Gustavo Dudamel’s Don Giovanni. The 31-year-old music director seemed quite pleased to be taking a back seat to Walt Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry, who created the sets for the production, and the fashion-house team known as Rodarte, who designed the costumes. Continue reading →