Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

fishing in the 3rd stream

ceLebrACiOn is a "smashing" success

October 06, 2008

Richard S. Ginell, in his review in Monday’s Los Angeles Times, called it “a beaut” that “upstages Mozart,” and he remarked that “It would make a smashing vehicle for Gustavo Dudamel when he arrives in town”; LACO’s newbie blogger, David Garcia, described it with the words “evocative” and “magnificent”; and thousands of LACO patrons voted for it with their feet when they leaped up in spontaneous, thundering applause.

I’m speaking, of course, of Richard Todd’s “ceLebrACiOn,” a Latin- and jazz-inflected concert piece of remarkable charm and accessibility that was commissioned for LACO and premièred this weekend in performances at Glendale’s Alex Theater and UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Now, I’m right in the middle of posting a three-part blog about Igor Stravinsky; putting the finishing touches on a three-part interview with marimba virtuoso Makoto Nakura, LACO’s guest artist for its December 13th and 14th concerts; and preparing for a 36-day trip to Southeast Asia. But there is no way I would miss an opportunity to add my congratulations to Rick for this thrilling new piece, which begins with a theatrical rush of strings and ends with a flourish of Rick’s French horn amid rhythmic waves of Afro-Cuban percussive excitement. Those who missed the Concert Preludes (the hour before the concert) may not know that, although the orchestral parts were mostly written, Rick’s solo horn part was almost entirely improvised (and I’ll bet Oscar Hidalgo’s bass solo was, as well). Someone asked if Rick was going to “play it the same” on Sunday evening as he had on Saturday evening. His response, essentially, was that he “couldn’t play it the same if I wanted to; I have no idea what I did!”

Rick is a spokesperson and consultant for Hans Hoyer Horns, and he also shared with the Concert Preludes audience that, not only is his horn brand new (he’s had it only one month), but it is also modified according to his own specifications; it is, in effect, the “Richard Todd horn.” Its sound is utterly magnificent, especially on the Mozart Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 495. I’ve had a vinyl EuroDisc of Peter Damm’s four Mozart horn concerti for probably 30 years, and I never expected in my lifetime to hear Damm’s velvety sound approximated. Rick approximated it. Whereas blatty French horn attacks drive me up the wall, Rick’s were subtle and soft as a baby’s breath. His phrasing, breath control, and above all, his burnished, round sound were nonpareil. This is an appropriate time to mention his cadenzas on the Mozart, as well: I believe they were Rick’s own, and if they were not improvised on the spot, I’ll be surprised. They made such musical sense, and they were so lovely and lyrical; they give me goose bumps, just thinking about them…

In my prior interview with Rick here in The Stream, I stressed that, not only is Rick Todd one of the premier classical horn soloists playing today, he is also one of a handful of artists on this devilishly-difficult instrument ever to have distinguished themselves as jazz improvisers of note. Rick’s performance this weekend can only enhance his stature as a jazz master. Furthermore, his composition of this delightful, celebratory concert piece, which Ginell called “Todd’s Cuban Overture, with a dash of cinema built in,” adds a new dimension to his musical artistry, one that should presage a whole new chapter in his musical career. I can hardly wait to hear what comes next…!

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