Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

the untrained ear

an eclectic electric evening

September 25, 2011

This weekend marked the start of LACO’s new season, and that’s not the only change in these parts! This very blog has changed. Hmmm, perhaps ‘evolved’ is the better word. This very blog has evolved. For the last three seasons, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on my LACO concert-going experiences under the header of “LACO Newbie” – as I’m someone who enjoys classical music but doesn’t know a lick about anything in the classical music world. But now that I’m returning for a fourth season (thank you, LACO, for inviting me back!), I think it’s time to move on from the term “Newbie.” It’s not really new anymore, now that I’ve been doing it for 4 seasons. Don’t get me wrong – during the past three years, while I’ve enjoyed many wonderful LACO evenings (and sat through a few evenings I didn’t enjoy as much), my knowledge of classical music hasn’t grown at all. I’m not sure I could pick a bassoon out of a line-up. So what does this all mean? It means my contributions to the LACO blog have been rebranded. Say goodbye to the LACO Newbie… and hello to The Untrained Ear!

Saturday evening’s concert at the Alex Theater was quite eclectic, and that made for a really special evening. The program included pieces that were, oh, I don’t know, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years old alongside brand-spankin’-new pieces that had never been heard on the West Coast before. First up was the Overture to “The Magic Flute.” I saw a production of “The Magic Flute” about 15 years ago, so I was thinking that I might recognize the Overture, but nope! It was lovely, though, and I liked the idea of kicking off a new concert – and a whole new season – with an overture. How fitting!

The two West Coast premieres followed. Next up was Sidereus, by Osvaldo Golijov. I had read on the LACO website that this piece was inspired in Galileo’s observations about the moon, and it was my favorite piece of the evening. It was celestial and mysterious, with the different sections of the Orchestra sometimes seeming to contradict each other. I like my orchestral music moody, and this piece was wonderfully moody!

Then came Ritornello, another West Coast premiere, which featured a rare instrument in the classical music world: an electric guitar. This was the piece that I was most excited for and the one that ended up making me scratch my head the most. There were parts that were melodic, and parts that were… um… less so (The Untrained Ear struggles, at times, at describing music), and while Wiek Hijmans, the electric guitarist, was fascinating to watch, when it was over, I didn’t know what to think. I still don’t know what to think. I appreciated seeing something new and exciting and different, but I can’t say I loved it.

After the intermission came Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto, during which Jeffrey Kahane led the Orchestra while playing piano. I can’t fathom how difficult it must be to keep aware of what everyone else on stage is doing while simultaneously playing the piano, but Kahane makes it look easy, and the piece demonstrated the precision and cohesion that I’ve come to love about attending LACO concerts. But I thought the concerto was a bit of a snooze. Not my cup of tea. I was quite obviously in the minority on this one, as the outburst of applause following the completion of the piece proved, and I’m so glad that everyone else in the Alex enjoyed it more than I did, because the tremendous response led to Kahane and the Orchestra playing an encore, which was the second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, and that was the other highlight of the evening for me. I can’t speak as to why I liked the Ravel more than the Beethoven (I have an untrained ear, after all), but I liked how the Ravel had a slow build that seemed to add in different sections of the orchestra one bit at a time. It was beautiful, sweeping, and romantic. Sidereus took me on an unexpected trip to outer space, and the Ravel brought me back to Earth. Despite having an untrained ear, there’s one thing I know: I can always count on LACO to take me on a journey.

1 comment

I liked Siderius much more than I expected to... The Beethoven Concerto was, as usual, impeccable with Jeffrey at the piano... But the unexpected Ravel encore was exquisite.

  • —Ray Duncan, September 25, 2011 09:50 pm

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