Friday, February 29, 2008

Los Angeles: Final Thoughts

As I prepare to once again cross the country in three days, I thought about my experiences in this strange place once known as Hollywoodland.

The LA Chamber Orchestra is a wonderful organization most people have never heard of. I certainly did not know of it before I applied to the Fellowship Program. I was not prepared for what awaited me in the form of chamber music.

The staff of LACO works hard to live by their motto "make music personal." The staff is referred to on publications by their first names and everyone can pick up the phone to answer a ticketing question. They move with so much passion, which is mirrored by the dedicated Board who works with them and talented players who are onstage. I really cannot say enough about the LACO musicians. No matter what genre, be it Bach, Shostakovich or a new film score by Howard Shore, they can make some amazing music.

I was amazed at LACO's ability to thrive in the culturally packed metropolitan area of Los Angeles county. They were not the leading arts organization in town, the orchestra was able to develop a dedicated audience on both sides of town, who are willing to brave the horrible traffic to attend concerts.

I am going to miss working with the amazing staff, and enjoying 80 degree February days.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Los Angeles Philharmonic

During my last week at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, I was extremely fortunate to witness two very different events at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The first was part of their educational series, a program titled "The Composer is Dead." As I was walking down to the hall, I saw the entire street in front block off and dozen of buses parked side by side. It was as if a pod of bright yellow salmon were preparing to force their way uptown through the LA Financial district.

The actual program was intriguing. Theatre in the round (due to the stage) meet Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra as the Investigator moved through the different sections of the orchestra, explaining how they work and demonstrating them to the nearly 2,000 children in attendance. While very adorable, the work did propagate several stereotypes. The violas were pictured as being slow and a bit dim, trumpets as always loud and boisterous and the percussion as being Latino (rhythm addicts).

I was also invited to the 0809 Season announcement. Local and national press where there to witness the video montage celebrating Esa-Pekka Salonen in his last year at the help of the LA Phil before Gustavo takes over. The event was extremely professional, with great care given to explaining the thought behind the programming of each series.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Audience of the future

Today I saw great hope in the future of classical music. Children from elementary schools in the Los Angeles area were invited to the Colburn School to listen to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra bid the city farewell. Monday they will depart on their first European tour in thirty years, and have invited these kids to accompany them (virtually) as they tour through five countries.

The hour long program consisted of Mozart overtures and Stravinsky's Pulcinella, big repertoire for any audience, let alone young children. Yet the entire hall was filled to the brim. 400+ young bodies squirmed in seats at the pauses, clapped during movements and even gasped during the loud sections. Under "conventional" audience etiquette, this behavior would have elicited boos and stares from people who want to focus on the music. I viewed their reactions as a sign of life, that music is moving people, big or small.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Horrible Secret No. 1

For a musician, I am going to say 5 little words that may sound surprising:

I do not prefer Mozart.

It is not for lack of respect. Wolfgang Amadeus was a master in his own time. Composer of 41 symphonies, 27 piano concertos and world famous operas Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte and The Magic Flute, he was the rock star of 18th century Vienna. There was no need to have an American Idol competition... WAM was the original Austrian Idol.

My lack of preference for Mozart comes not from a deep, innate hatred of his orchestration style or the libretto of his operas. Rather, it is just a lack of knowledge about his catalog. Having grown up in a non-musical household, I was not exposed to the beauty of Mozart. Add to the my studies as a vocalist focus mainly on German and American art song, I just never had anyone to introduce me to the music. I am still tripping my way through his works, with Kochel as my sole guide. For me personally, my musical taste is straddles Mozart, beginning with Bach and picking up again with Brahms. I still have yet to pick up a solid affinity for the linkage between Baroque and Romanticism.

This was all until earlier this week when I sat in on the first rehearsal with LACO and Jeff. He opened the dark and brooding Concerto No. 20. I had heard this piece before, but only in the radio, in an extremely passive mood of listening. But now I heard every distinct note, and a melody that played right to my heart. Jeff worked magic at the keyboard, moving up and down in a dance very similar to how I imagine it was premiered in 1785.

Sunday's concert left me and an entire audience full of people, in awe of Jeff's talents. But that is little surprise to those who have seen him perform before and know his gifts. For me, I took away a greater appreciation for Mozart... and a set of recordings recommended by Jeff.