Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

LACO newbie

velvet and jupiter

April 18, 2010

I’m going to start this blog by introducing everyone to my buddy, Writer’s Block. Maybe some of you are already familiar with Writer’s Block – and maybe some of you are already good friends and hang out all the time. I wouldn’t say Writer’s Block is a good friend; he only visits when you have a lot to do, and it’s very difficult to get rid of him. Lucky for me, Writer’s Block paid me a visit this evening, and presented me with a very interesting riddle: How am I, for the umpteenth time, going to describe the marvelous evening I had at tonight’s LACO concert? I really enjoyed all the pieces (which were by Mozart and Stravinsky); and I loved the drama and energy and tension and effervescence that filled the Alex Theater as a result. Fortunately, when Writer’s Block visits me, he often brings along a friend, Digression. And that’s why I’m going to start by talking about wardrobe – specifically, guest pianist Jeremy Denk’s t-shirt and black velvet jacket. It’s not a look (to use “Project Runway” vocabulary) I’ve seen before at a LACO concert, and I loved it – unique, updated, and indicative of his personal style.

I think those same adjectives can be used to describe Mr. Denk’s performance this evening, as can the adjectives effortless, graceful, and nuanced. I attended the concert with my uncle, who reminded me that piano is a percussion instrument, and it’s real easy to use those keys to make only big sounds. Mr. Denk, however, coaxed the most subtle and intricate passages out of them. He was a joy to watch, even when he wasn’t playing – before his part began on the third piece of the evening, the Mozart Concert Rondo in D Major, he was playing along with the orchestra. Well, not actually playing, because he didn’t make a sound, but moving his hands as if he were playing the same things as everyone else. Now, regular readers will know that on a good day I still can’t tell the difference between, say, a clarinet and an oboe. Meanwhile, Mr. Denk is so comfortable and familiar with the music of the evening that he not only knows his part, but all the rest of them as well. Quite impressive!

Well, look at that! Thanks to Digression, Writer’s Block is hovering near my front door, and I think what will send him out of my home for good is to just reiterate the basics: LACO concerts are wonderful. You should come. They aren’t boring, or stuffy, or inaccessible. You don’t need to a degree in music or history (or music history) to appreciate a stage full of artists at the top of their game, playing masterful pieces with the utmost of clarity and precision. I feel richer after attending a LACO concert, despite the fact that I’ve never heard most of the music they play ever before, and there’s a good chance I may never hear it again. You’ll feel the same way, too.

I’m happy to share that between the last concert and this one, I’ve been invited back to blog for LACO for a third season. I’m honored, and I’m flattered, and despite having done this for almost two years, I’m still truly surprised on a regular basis that there are people out there who take the time to read what I have to say. I look forward to another season of concerts, and I hope you’ll be there right alongside me. I only have one question: How long does one stay a Newbie? I should probably have run this by the staff at LACO before I put it out there, but maybe next season will be a good time for a name change for my blog. What do you think? Any suggestions?

1 comment

Thank you Susan Ranney for decades of beautiful music- we will miss you dearly!

  • —Eileen Duncan, April 18, 2010 10:03 pm

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