5 fun facts you didn’t know: Stefan Jackiw & Peter Oundjian

school/music balance

“The 21-year-old American violinist’s weeping tone and spot-on intonation made you wonder whether this was what it was like to hear a Perlman or a Stern in his early years. Jackiw’s playing was by turns passionate, precise, and unflagging.” Washington Post

Clearly Stefan dedicates a lot of time and effort to achieve his quality sound. But when you’re in college practicing six hours a day, and playing over 30 concerts a year, sometimes you miss an assignment or two… or in Stefan’s case, an entire midterm. As countless university music students will tell you, some professors are not as accommodating when it comes to their students’ performance career. But despite getting a zero on a psychology midterm, Stefan graduated from Harvard with a Bachelor of Arts degree and an Artist Diploma from the New England Conservatory in 2007. While touring, he would bring his books with him and fax and email assignments on the road – talk about multitasking to the max!

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health insurance for your fingers?

When Stefan is not practicing his violin, he can be seen running through the streets of New York City. No, he is not late to his next world tour. Actually, Stefan’s favorite pastime is running, but sometimes it’s more than just a sweat he’s breaking. In 2013, Stefan fell while running and severely injured his arm and neck. Recounting it as one of his scariest moments, Stefan was forced to stop playing violin for six months and cancel his Australian tour and it wasn’t clear whether he would play again. But being the optimist he is (When asked if the glass is half empty of half full, he replies “overflowing.”) Stefan reflects that “all of a sudden I saw the bigger picture of where the violin is in relation to music, art even the world. I am not saying I discovered all of that just in two months but it gave me a little bit of perspective.” Given how devastating hand injuries can be for violinists, maybe a $3,500 monthly premium for insurance doesn’t seem so crazy after all.

from violinist chair to conductor’s podium

Before becoming an accomplished conductor, Peter Oundjian was a performing violinist who studied under Ivan Galamian, Itzhak Perlman and Dorothy DeLay. Like Stefan, Oundjian suffered injuries. But unlike him, Oundjian had to end his violin career permanently when he developed musician’s dystonia. If you’re a string player, the words “musician’s dystonia” probably sends shivers down your spine. The condition causes involuntary movements in the hands, and makes it difficult for string players to play with precision. Usually this means the end of musician’s career, but for Oundjian, it meant leaving the violinist chair for the conductor’s podium. With encouragement from his teacher Hubert Von Karajan, Oundjian created a career in conducting. Perhaps conducting was his true calling all along!

miracle worker

Although you won’t see Oundjian walking on water anytime soon, he performed a miraculous feat when he resurrected the declining Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Prior to Oundjian’s arrival, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was swimming in an $11 million debt. While many people thought the Toronto Symphony Orchestra would be become extinct, it turns out they were dead wrong. Since Oundjian took over as music director and conductor, the TSO is seeing record-breaking attendances and filling their concert halls with paying customers. This amazing comeback piqued the interest of film director Barbara Willis Sweete, and served as the inspiration for the Documentary 5 Days of December.

tickling your funny bone

Peter Oundjian isn’t Ellen Degeneres, but he is by far one of the funniest conductors you’ll ever meet. In fact, comedy runs in the family (his cousin is the British comedian Eric Idle of Monty Python fame). It’s not surprising, then, that Oundjian performed a Toronto Symphony Orchestra Program collaborating with the comedy ground Second City Chicago. You can watch the teaser here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFjkS08df5g. While Oundjian won’t be pulling out stuffed unicorns or wearing a gorilla suit when he’s conducting the LA Chamber Orchestra this season on December 12/13, after watching this performance, you can’t help but smile. Buy your tickets today!

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five (baroque) conversations about mahan esfahani

first things first
In 2008, for the first time in BBC history, a harpsichordist was named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. That harpsichordist is Mahan Esfahani, who appears with LACO for one night only on November 12 at Zipper Concert Hall. In 2011, Mahan made history again as the first-ever harpsichordist chosen to give a solo harpsichord recital in the history of the BBC Proms.

In 2014, Mahan broke new ground as the first harpsichordist to be nominated for both the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year and Gramophone Artist of the Year. To add to his long list of musical accomplishments, Mahan received the BBC Music Magazine ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award in 2015, and was nominated for Best Baroque Instrument, Best Instrumental, and Artist of the Year for the Gramophone Awards. Just recently, his album Rameau: Pièces de clavecin was nominated for Limelight’s Recording of the Year. Not bad, not bad at all.

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how to annoy your father…
Mahan, who studied piano with his father growing up in Washington DC, reports, “I thought, ‘How can I annoy Dad? I’ll play the harpsichord.’ So you know, it was a bit of teenage rebellion..But the harpsichord I just always had a love for.”

Mahan Esfahani makes his case for his chosen instrument in this NPR interview with Robert Siegel. As Peter Lynan writes in the International Record Review, “[his playing] holds the attention with ease and is a pleasure to hear…the harpsichord may never quite be mainstream material, but you sense that, if it were ever to get there, Esfahani might just be the man to make it happen.”

Decide for yourself at Baroque Conversations on November 12.

go cardinal!
“…a brilliant player…dashingly eloquent, dizzyingly skilled, Esfahani makes the harpsichord seem an instrument reborn.”(The Times, London)

And in the world of academia, he is no slouch either. He pursued a double degree in musicology and history at Stanford, where he was mentored by George Houle before studying intensively with Peter Watchorn in Boston and the celebrated Zuzana Růžičková in Prague. Mahan was also the Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford from 2008 to 2010. Just this year, Mahan— became professor of harpsichord at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

an oboist (allan vogel) and a harpsichordist (mahan esfahani) walk into a bar…
… and talk about goose feathers. Yes, goose feathers. Turns out that goose feathers are essential to both instruments. For oboes, goose feathers are used to distribute the moisture inside the instrument, and for harpsichords, the plectra (the hook that plucks the strings) is actually made from the quill of the feather. If you have more questions about goose feathers, the oboe or the harpsichord, come hear LACO principal oboe Allan Vogel perform Bach’s Sonata in G minor for Oboe and Harpsichord with Mahan Esfahani on November 12. Both Vogel and Esfahani will take questions after the performance. FYI, Esfahani, reputedly quite the raconteur, will also share his thoughts about the music to introduce the works on the program in LACO’s popular Baroque Conversations format. And, btw, all ticket holders are invited to a free wine reception before the concert. What’s not to like?

cello or harpsichord? here’s one good reason to choose the latter.
Cellists spend a fortune on flying their instruments to gigs. Will Mahan Esfahani buy a plane ticket for a harpsichord when he travels to Los Angeles? Luckily, no. He’ll get to choose the harpsichord he wishes to play from the collection housed in the basement studio of Curtis Berak in the warehouse district. You can read the back story of this premier supplier of harpsichords up and down the California coast here. And to hear Berak’s explanation of the saying often painted on Flemish harpsichords, “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” (“Thus passes the glory of the world”), watch this video. Hint, it’s a double entendre which refers both to the harpsichord’s inability to sustain a note and the ephemeral brevity of life.

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an eclectic pairing

So this past Sunday at Royce was date night for me and the hubs. I thought he would really enjoy the eclectic pairing of a Marimba with a Chamber Orchestra and I do love me some Mozart. Also on tap was the West Coast premiere of Timo Andres’ ‘Word of Mouth’ and the ever popular Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G major.

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The program opened with the West Coast premiere of Mr. Andres’ Word of Mouth. Before the orchestra began, Mr. Kahane gave us a small tutorial on some of the different kinds of sounds we would be hearing and even played us an excerpt of the Sacred Harp singing from which Mr. Andres drew inspiration. I really enjoyed this. Then began the piece. It is distinctly American: vibrant, energetic and innovative and exceedingly well played by this fine orchestra. I must admit that as a novice, I did not recognize the Sacred Harp influence, nor did I resonate with the comparison to Shaker furniture that I’ve read in other program notes. What I heard was reminiscent of mid-century movie music. I heard Copeland’s ‘Rodeo’, Alfred Newman’s ‘Street Scene’ and Bernstein’s ‘On the Town’. It was very visually evocative music. I saw bustling cityscapes and sweeping American vistas and small town life. There was a particularly notable and wonderful violin crescendo in the section called “Fata Morgana” (I believe). A very enjoyable beginning to the evening, indeed.

Then Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major! I am biased. I think Mozart was a genius, a rock star. He lures you in with his wonderfully lyric facility and you follow along blissfully as he exercises his creative virtuosity, spinning out more and more complex variations on the theme until you’re suddenly hit with just how deep in to the music he has taken you. It’s a bit like traveling fast in an exotic sports car with an expert behind the wheel: exhilarating, exciting and a bit overwhelming. The driver, in this case, was the much hailed (and rightly so) Richard Goode. He’s a great driver too. He handled every curve in the road, every hill and valley with depth and expressiveness. He literally played the hell out of this concerto (sorry but he did!). He exorcised every drop of powerful emotion out of this piece and delivered it straight to the audience, which was visibly energized by the piece and the player. Much applause. As an encore, Mr. Goode played a calming balm to soothe us; Bach’s Sarabande No. 1. Lovely.

Marimbas. Concertos. I didn’t really think of these two things organically going together, but together they did go, and it was a pleasure to watch and hear. Emmanuel Sejourne’s Concerto for Marimbas and Strings was a groovy fusion of sounds and to hear the marimbas successfully treated as a piano speaks to the skill of the marimbist, Wade Culbreath. Again I was reminded (in the first movement) of mid-century movie music, French movie music this time. This influence was confirmed when I read that Mr. Sejourne has scored many films. The second movement’s more dance-like rhythms provided a pleasing contrast. The audience, again, loved this concerto and rose to their collective feet at its denouement.

Can I just say that Jeffrey Kahane’s low-key swagger is really growing on me? The final piece of the evening was Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G major and after a night of supporting (perfectly) soloist virtuosity, Mr. Kahane apparently decided it was time to let his orchestra show us what it’s all about. He really wound them up and let them run. His conducting was particularly expressive, with some wonderful examples coming in the Largo and then, in the Finale, he literally stepped off the podium and just turned them loose. He looked out at the audience, a “deal with that” expression on his face. It was definitely a “drop the mike” moment. You couldn’t argue with him either. They are an amazing, tight, talented and badass group of musicians. ‘Nuff said.

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eight things you never knew about the marimba

There’s many reasons to be excited for this weekend’s Mozart to Marimba concert, so get your tickets! Guest artist Richard Goode will be tackling Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 18, alongside the LACO orchestra. Jeffrey Kahane will be conducting the west coast premiere of Word of Mouth by Timo Andres, as well as Haydn’s Symphony No. 88. But the reason that I’m counting the days until the concert is the Concerto for Marimba and Strings, featuring LACO principal percussionist Wade Culbreath. My first major introduction to the instrument was at a LACO concert in 2008, featuring Makoto Nakura on marimba, and it was a thrilling, jaw-dropping experience, and I’m sure this weekend’s concert will be equally exhilarating – at minimum! I’ve been brushing up on my marimba knowledge, and with my list of Eight Things You Never Knew About The Marimba, you can too!

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1) A marimba player is called a… um… marimba player, but a more fun word that’s also used is marimbist.

2) Marimba is a compound word, that combines two words from the Bantu languages in Africa: ‘ma’, meaning ‘many’, and ‘rimba’, meaning ‘single bar xylophone’.

3) Xylophones and similar instruments (like the marimba) date back to the 13th century in Africa. There’s an African origin story concerning its creation. According to a Zulu myth, a goddess named Marimba was cursed by another goddess, who told Marimba that her husband would die within a few months of their wedding day. Marimba’s first two husbands indeed perished, as foretold – one trampled by an elephant, the second killed by a lion. When Marimba’s son captured a stranger from another tribe and brought him to their village, Marimba took his bow and arrow, and used the arrow to affix a dried gourd to the bow, creating the first marimba. The villagers never heard anything like it, and Marimba’s songs grew more beautiful as she suffered continued heartbreak – including the death of her third and final husband.

4) While modern marimbas can be traced back to Central America, and, before that, Africa, similar instruments were being played in southeast Asia. In fact, the oldest-known musical instrument has been called a “stone marimba” and was discovered in Vietnam in 1949. It is estimated to be 5,000 years old!

5) While popular in folk music for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1940s that marimbas regularly became part of classical orchestras. The Clair Omar Musser marimba ensemble was an early example of marimbas in the concert hall, and they received a lot of attention after performing at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. New compositions also helped popularize the orchestral marimba. Early works include a concertino by American composer Paul Creston in 1940 and a  concerto by the French composer Darius Milhaud in 1947. And here’s a fun fact about this fun fact: Milhaud was a very popular and in-demand teacher, and his student roster included jazz great Dave Brubeck and songwriting/performing legend Burt Bacharach.

6) The marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

7) Marimba has made a mark in mainstream music as well. The Rolling Stones songs “Under My Thumb” and “Out of Time” feature the marimba, as does “Island Girl” by Elton John and “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. Björk has collaborated with famed percussionist Evelyn Glennie multiple times, and the marimba can be heard on a few of her songs, including “My Spine,” from her album Telegram.

8) Marimbist Nancy Zeltsman, chair of the Percussion Department at the Boston Conservatory, explains on her website how easy it is to transport a marimba, which can often weigh well over 100 pounds: “[You can use] a van or station wagon–or even my Toyota Prius! A marimba breaks down into smaller parts quite impressively. The ‘white notes’ and ‘black notes’ of the keyboard are each strung up like huge necklaces which can just lift off and roll up. Each of the long braces across the instrument fold in half. The banks of resonators fold in half. The end pieces come off and go in separate cases. Eight or nine cases total.”

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marimba’s time to shine

LACO’s next concert features some very new and interesting works alongside two Classical favorites. This program is an excellent example of the way Jeffrey Kahane keeps LACO on top of current trends but still manages to satisfy those members of our audience who can’t live without the classics. One of the new pieces, Word of Mouth, is actually receiving its west coast premiere at our concert. The pieces by Haydn and Mozart might very well be familiar to you, so I thought I’d focus on the new pieces and their unique stories.

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Timo Andres composed Word of Mouth after being inspired by an American musical tradition called the Sacred Harp. In this tradition—which began within the Protestant religion, but now encompasses secular ideas as well—singers face inward and sing for each other. There is no conductor and no formal audience. Singing is a community experience. This music is often written with notes that have noteheads of varying shape. This type of notation is called shape note and it became associated with the Sacred Hard repertoire in the nineteenth century.

The program notes go into more detail about how Andres incorporates actual Sacred Harp tunes and other musical references, and I hope you will read all about that. But I know, even as a program annotator, that a unique piece like Word of Mouth will only truly come to life on stage. It’s definitely an experience that should not be missed. Andres has been bringing his one-of-a-kind style to LACO for a few years now. In 2012, LACO presented a work by Mozart, which was in Andres’ words a “re-composition.” The work in question is Mozart’s Coronation Concerto, K. 537, a piece that Mozart left incomplete. Andres’ new left-hand part for the piano gave us all a new perspective on this work, and on Mozart’s quintessentially Classical style. One reviewer called the result, “kinky, quirky and cute.” On that same night in 2012, Andres presented the world premiere for our “Sound Investment” commission, a scintillating work called Old Keys, composed for piano and orchestra. Andres is an innovator, and his ideas are fascinating meditations on the kinds of things he’s heard and experienced. All of his influences seem to be near the surface, ready to burst forth in something that is wholly new and truly interesting. Word of Mouth is sure to be no different, and I for one am excited to see it live.

The other modern piece on the program is a marimba concerto by French composer and percussionist, Emmanuel Séjourné. Like Timo Andres, Séjourné brings a unique collection of influences to the table. Some of these musical ingredients will certainly be noticeable when LACO’s own Wade Culbreath plays the solo part of this work. The second movement in particular seems to be based on Flamenco music, and overall Séjourné has written a marimba part that is almost guitar-like in its construction. In discussing the piece Culbreath has described the piece as both “extremely emotive” and “very groove-oriented.” Séjourné’s two-movement concerto for marimba and strings will be juxtaposed with Mozart’s eighteenth Piano Concerto. To see two such works, both under the same genre umbrella of “concerto,” side-by-side, is to understand the breadth and depth of the Western musical tradition. And it is wonderful to see that LACO is able to do both equally well.

If your experience of percussion instruments is limited, let me tell you a little about the marimba. It is an instrument that has roots in both Africa and Central America. It is actually the national instrument of Guatemala. The marimba is similar in design to the xylophone, although its bars are a bit larger and of a slightly different shape. Like the xylophone, the marimba’s wooden bars are constructed using the configuration of a piano keyboard. Underneath each bar, there is a tuned resonator, which looks like a metal tube (in earlier centuries, these resonators were made out of hollowed out gourds). The resonators amplify the sound of the bars when they are struck. The mallets used to play the marimba are usually softer than those used to play the xylophone because hard sticks or mallets might damage the wood of the marimba. The bars can be constructed with rosewood (first choice), mahogany, or bubinga. The most desirable type of rosewood for marimbas only grows in southern Guatemala and parts of Belize.

The marimba has a deep, warm sound that doesn’t have the same kind of attack that one might associate with the xylophone. This warmth is its strength, but it also means that when writing for the marimba, a composer must be aware that its sound can be easily covered up. Making it the solo instrument in a concerto is actually a brilliant use of the marimba, allowing it to shine when necessary, but also bring warmth and connection to the entire ensemble. Indeed the sound of the marimba is often described as “mellow.” I’m sure, though, in the hands of Wade Culbreath, with the support of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, we can add the adjectives, “fascinating” and “dazzling.”

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young & gifted times three

Hi, I’m Kathleen, a regular person like yourself.

So, I make my way from the steamy Valley over to Royce Hall on Sunday with my smart and musically literate friend, A, to watch and listen to LACO’s season opener. I find the program interesting. First up is the world premiere of Derrick Spiva’s Prisms, Cycles, Leaps. Next is Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and we tie it all up with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, played by another talented young whippersnapper, Michael Barenboim, the concertmaster and son of Daniel Barenboim, co-founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

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I am intrigued. I’m not certain how this will fit together coherently, but A tells me that this is similar to what LACO did last year in their season opener. And what do I know about any of this anyway, so I’ll bite. I’m just happy to be here.

First things first: THIS ORCHESTRA IS A GEM, A DELIGHT. Does Los Angeles know how lucky it is to have such a masterful group of musicians, right here? They were in total control of their material and it was challenging stuff. Their sound is heavenly. A special shout out to the violins for last night. They were brilliant!

Now, about this young maverick, Derrick Spiva; I feel very grateful to have been present for his piece. It was a revelation. His composition is clean, clear, creative and fearless. His understanding of the classical structure and clear love of sound allowed him to fuse influences of West African drumming, shifting tempos and polyrhythmic patterns with the sounds of classical instruments into something new, pan-cultural and invigorating. And he utilized the orchestra in a way I had not seen before (no spoilers here), which made it a stimulating visual as well as auditory experience. The audience was at full attention for the entire piece and the applause at the end (and this is where that violin section really stepped up) was a totally organic response to what we’d just experienced. This guy is the real deal. Does LA have a flag? Because I want to grab it and plant it on this kid and claim him exclusively for the City of Angels before anyone else grabs him. Kudos to the orchestra as well, it was complicated material and they played it seamlessly.

Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. It was romantic, evocative, deep and beautifully played. Of the piece and the performance of it, I have no criticism. It was exquisite. Of its selection to follow Spiva’s piece, I am critical. For me, this is a desperately sad piece, the orchestral equivalent of a bipolar episode repeated again and again. I don’t know what Schubert was trying to communicate exactly, but it seemed to me to illuminate an inner conflict, a constant struggle between the light and dark within him and an inability to remain in that light. While it was being played, a pall seemed to fall over the audience, which had been so energized by the previous piece. All the enthusiasm that had been generated was diffused and while I don’t object to experiencing different emotional states in response to music, I think in this case, it was a tricky choice to make, bringing us down to a lower level of energy just before the third selection, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, which is a somewhat lengthy, lyrically beautiful and conventional mainstay of the violin’s repertoire.

Michael Barenboim is agile and deft and masterful. His style is clean and precise and the Concerto was an auditory feast for the audience. The Orchestra was a wonderful welcoming nest for his virtuosity. Personally, he seems internalized, if that’s the right word; focused on the playing of the instrument and not necessarily the sharing of the experience with the audience. I felt that separation. The parts that I enjoyed the most were when he played his own cadenza unaccompanied by the Orchestra because it was at those moments that I felt I was witnessing something intimate. I could envision him alone in a rehearsal studio at night, playing for himself, wringing out every kind of sound that beautiful little box can make. He is a wonderful musician and I look forward to a growing warmth in his performance persona.

One last thing, can I say again how MAGNIFICENT is this Orchestra? This was but the season opener and I felt like I was witnessing a playoff team with home field advantage already! I felt sorry for the people who literally leapt out of their seats and bolted for the exits as soon as the applause began (so as to beat the traffic trying to leave the parking lots) because they missed Mr. Barenboim returning to the stage to play another brilliant cadenza. Hah on them.

I so look forward to next month.

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schubert’s gift for melody

As a singer, I have always loved Schubert’s melodies. When I was a student, I chose German art songs as a focus, and I dedicated one of my recitals entirely to the music of this composer. In his short life, just shy of 32 years, Schubert composed more than six hundred songs and proved himself a skillful musical interpreter of poetry. He wrote many solo piano pieces and scores of chamber works including his famous “Trout” quintet and numerous string quartets and piano trios. He was not quite as prolific in larger genres, although he did expend some energy trying to expand his horizons. One would imagine that given his talent in writing dramatic material for the voice that he would have been a star in the world of opera. That, unfortunately, did not happen, but that’s a topic for another blog.

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For the orchestra, Schubert composed eight overtures and eight symphonies, although that last number comes with an asterisk. Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 is known as the “Unfinished” Symphony, and it comes with a fascinating story. Now one might be forgiven for thinking that this symphony was written at the very end of Schubert’s life, and remains tragically unfinished because of his untimely death. But that is not what happened. In fact, Schubert had six years to complete what he started, but instead moved on to other things. He never went back to it, even though he had plenty of time to do so.

Schubert began writing Symphony No. 8 in the winter of 1822. In the manuscript, there were two complete movements and sketches for a third. Why did he not finish the piece? Well, theories abound. One theory holds that Schubert’s physical health was to blame. Another theory blames depression (perhaps exacerbated by physical illness). Yet another theory suggests that Schubert was just feeling insecure about his symphony-writing abilities. His contemporary, Ludwig van Beethoven was already casting a large shadow in the musical world. Whatever the reason, Schubert’s two movements and the sketches were put away, destined to stay hidden until 1860 (more than three decades after Schubert’s death), when those pieces were found in the study of Schubert’s friend, Anselm Hüttenbrenner. Five years later, the work (with a third movement from one of Schubert’s other pieces tacked on to the end) was finally premiered. At some point, folks stopped adding a third movement on to the end, figuring out that the two movements worked well alone.

What does shine through, especially in the first movement is Schubert’s gift for melody. The second tune presented in the symphony is actually one of his better known instrumental melodies. Like his Lieder, the symphony explores light and dark, and innovative ways to switch between the two. In the second movement, Schubert uses the timbre of the clarinet to show off a lovely solo melodic line. For a symphony, which does not seem to be referencing any dramatic narrative or non-musical topic, there is plenty of drama and emotion. Symphony No. 8 definitely shows off the gifts that I admire most in Schubert’s work.m

The Schubert piece is one of three that LACO will present in its 2015-2016 opening concert. The concert itself will open with a brand new work. Derrick Spiva’s Prisms, Cycles, Leaps will receive its world premiere. Meshing western and non-western musical influences, Prisms, Cycles, Leaps is may very well be unlike anything you’re used to hearing. Spiva is LACO’s composer in residence for this season, and we will look forward to hearing more examples of his unique creative style.

The finale of the evening will be Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D from 1806. The turn of the century, and the years immediately following were among the most challenging for Beethoven. The main cause of the trouble was Beethoven’s worsening deafness, but he would eventually figure out how to live and carve out a career in composition despite this issue. In the midst of this and other things, Beethoven composed this concerto for violinist and conductor, Franz Clement. It’s not a ground-breaking piece in terms of its form; it stays within the boundaries that one would expect from any late Classical or early Romantic concerto. However, Beethoven rarely wrote anything ordinary. What jumps out at me is the tendency toward emotional surprises, the stormy mood swings that seem to pervade some of Beethoven’s music after 1800. Both Schubert and Beethoven, who died a year apart, were quite skilled at changing emotions on a dime.

Our soloist for the Beethoven is the extraordinary Michael Barenboim. He is a skilled interpreter of modern music, but even at the age of thirty he has mastered many of the established gems of the repertoire. He’s played all over the world, and he brings his unique talent to our stage. With Schubert, Beethoven, Spivak, Barenboim, our own Jeffrey Kahane, and the musicians of LACO, it’s going to be an amazing evening and a great way to open the season.

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prisms, cycles, leaps

I was 12 years old and had just watched the film Apollo 13. I was convinced that I wanted to become an astronaut. The film had affected me so strongly. However, as a child I had asthma, and soon realized that it would be very difficult for me to pass the rigorous physical training that becoming an astronaut requires. But I wondered to myself, how was it that watching a film had inspired me to embark on the difficult path of becoming an astronaut? How had this idea been planted so deeply in my mind? For me, it was the music, the film’s soundtrack, that had given the film so much emotional power. When I realized this, that music had the power to change people’s actions and perceptions of the world, I decided I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to create music.

The piece that Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be performing, Prisms, Cycles, Leaps, is the result of many years of experimentation, training, and research, and is the first in a series of works of a similar theme. While a student at UCLA and California Institute of the Arts, I’ve had the privilege and joy of studying music from many different cultures, including West African music and dance, but also Hindustani classical music, as well as music of the Balkans. All of these musical traditions have had a strong influence on the piece. How could I bring these different musical traditions into the same space, together with a Western classical orchestra? The main point of difficulty was notation. Many elements of these musical traditions are learned through oral methods rather than from reading notes on a page. Some of the most interesting rhythms to me are ones that can be felt in more than one meter. If you can imagine, it felt to me as though these rhythms were alive, and I had to wrestle them in order to put them on the page! I began to understand why many of these rhythms come from an oral tradition, as some feel very different from how they appear on paper. It took many attempts and experiments, (along with help from some sight-reading musician friends), to figure out how to most effectively notate these rhythmic ideas. In the end, it was quite a wild ride—which I hope you will enjoy!

introducing sara

Hello there!

My name is Sara Ford and I am the new Development and Donor Relations Assistant at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. I am so excited to work for this amazing organization! Music and service for non-profits have always been my two passions. I can’t wait to pursue them both simultaneously and work towards providing music to the LA community! Here’s a little about me:

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  1. Hometown: Manhattan Beach, CA (LA native!)
  2. Parents: Mark (Aerospace Engineer) & Penny (Upper Management)
  3. First musical memory: Britney Spears concert for my 8th birthday; also seeing the ballet Cinderella at the Ahmanson
  4. Education: Master of Music from Indiana University (2015) and Bachelor of Music from University of Southern California (2013) FIGHT ON!!!
  5. Instrument: French Horn
  6. Most memorable performance: Performing Konzertstück for Four Horns with the Ossian Quartet at IU with an orchestra; playing Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony in Disney Hall
  7. Motto: Sky above me, Earth below me, Fire within me.
  8. Favorite composer: Mahler
  9. Favorite animal: French Bulldog
  10. Favorite food: Any and all Mexican food
  11. Favorite pastimes: soaking up the sun at the beach, finding the best burrito in Southern California, jamming with friends, volunteering, any sport/workout, watching USC football

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welcome, Nicole!

Every summer, LACO welcomes a new high school intern from the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to “assuring our country’s future by investing in our youth today.” I am happy to introduce you to this summer’s intern, Nicole Morales, who works with LACO through mid-July:

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When you’re born and raised in K-Town (Korea Town) you get used to always being surrounded by music, whether it’s Spanish rock, K-Pop or J. Cole’s freshest album, your feet are always subconsciously walking to a familiar beat. Music is such an important part of not just my life but others across the globe as well; it’s a universal language in which we can communicate as we please, it’s what brings us all together. Ever since I can remember I have always been fascinated with music, so fascinated that at the age of seven I begged my father to buy me a guitar for my birthday instead of the latest Barbie and her accessories. I used to put on shows for my stuffed animals and rock out to Elvis or the Beatles as a kid and to me those memories are the ones I am most fond of because I was doing something I loved and I got to share it with others, even though they were just stuffed animals.

As a rising senior from School of the Visual Arts and Humanities at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, this fall I will be applying to colleges and hope to pursue a career in kinesiology and hopefully in the future work with professional sports teams. Though I do not plan to make a career out of music I am deeply honored to be able to experience my ‘first real world’ job with such a respected and overall amazing organization and group of people. Though I’ve only been here for less than a week, working with them has been a complete delight and I’ve learned many things that will help continue to grow as a person. I’ve been a part of many teams in my short 17 years of life, yet this team of hardworking people never ceases to amaze me with their work. My days left with LACO are numbered but the experiences and skills that I am gaining are ones that will last a lifetime, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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