Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal



LACO newbie

my first LACO concert

October 09, 2012

Hello, I’m Jorge Del Pinal the new “newbie blogger”.

I’m certainly a “newbie” to classical music as most of my familiarity with classical music comes from movie soundtracks and the video game Grand Theft Auto III which has a classical station which lets you listen to Mozart as you flee from the police in stolen vehicles. Anyways, I’m excited to hear classical music at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra this season as it was meant to be experienced (crime/violence free).

The first piece of music was Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, which I quite liked. The mood of the song seemed to change up often: whimsical one moment, grandiose the next, then introspective, then suddenly turn foreboding, then back to whimsical, etc. Apparently Ravel was inspired to write the piece after a train ride. This must have been the craziest train ride ever. I imagine Ravel looking out of his train window to see a really cute piglet rolling around in the mud. Soon after he sees New York City’s skyscrapers for the first time in his life, making him think about human ingenuity and what the future may hold for us as a civilization. When he looks up from his thoughts Ravel suddenly becomes aware of an evil looking child staring at him eyes glistening, possibly with murderous intent. Only Ravel winks at him and they share a laugh. When Ravel reaches his destination he says goodbye to the misguided youth and thinks to himself, “you know these past few hours on the train would make a great concerto”.

The next piece of music was The Great Swiftness by LACO’s new composer-in-residence Andrew Norman. I loved the concept of the song which answered the question: what would a big orange Alexander Calder sculpture in Grand Rapids, Michigan (_La Grande Vitesse_) sound like if it were music? Mr. Norman proved to be a solid architectural musical translator so I hope his next song will be about an unusual L.A. fixture such as Pershing Square. What would a big pink ball in a giant purple tower sound like? You tell me Mr. Norman.

The third piece was called True South by James Matheson. It was apparently based on a Warner Herzog film about people who live in Antarctica (_Encounters at the End of the World_). I haven’t seen the film but the music struck me as foreboding and kind of crazy which seems appropriate enough for a Werner Herzog film. Most unexpectedly, True South employed steel drums, an instrument I almost exclusively associate with the Caribbean. The piece (minus the steel drums part) reminded me of John Carpenter’s The Thing which also takes place in Antarctica and is foreboding but in more of an “alien that’s trying to kill us” way.

Finally the concert closed with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major. Just before the song began a mysterious man wearing what I believe to be a tunic (soloist Augustin Hadelich) came out holding a violin. To me, the uncultured rube, this new guy was a puzzling enigma. For the first few minutes he seemed to just be standing on stage, very much into the music but not playing anything. My classical music ignorance had me worried for the orchestra. Is it nerves? Does this guy know this one? But of course Hadelich’s solo finally came and he was fantastic . . . for approximately 40 minutes straight! I could not believe the sounds he was making with a piece of carved wood and strings. His fingers were lighting fast and incredibly nimble (I almost never use the word nimble and I thank Hadelich for the opportunity to use it). After Hadelich finished, bowed and left the stage he was applauded enough that he came back out to perform a little encore. He played Bach’s Sonata No. 3 by himself, which was quite a treat. All in all, the performance was a great start to the season and I can’t wait to continue my education in classical music!

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