Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal



LACO newbie

older, not necessarily wiser

February 08, 2014

Warning: this Newbie blog could seem more refined, more elegant, and/or wiser than those in the past*. This is because I came into LACO’s Jan 25th performance of Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn at Alex Theater in Glendale with a different and potentially advanced appreciation of classical music. You see, I turned 30 four days earlier and presumed that I would hear these classical pieces with an air of sophistication I lacked in my 20s. I was ready for LACO to “wow” me with music that I was sure would go straight over the heads of the 29 and under crowd.

The evening’s performance started off with a piece from Mozart, whom, I have to admit, I don’t usually care for (I once famously compared him to the Black Eyed Peas: http://www.laco.org/blog/685/). If that wasn’t enough, the title of the piece was called “Ballet Music from Idomeneo”. ...Yikes… I was hoping there weren’t any bullies around to see me listening to sissy ballet music. (I’m a tough man in my 30s after all. Can’t ruin my street cred.) BUT, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I quite enjoyed this piece. It helped that guest conductor Matthew Halls brought tangible energy to it; enthusiastically leading the orchestra through the music. The piece featured confident, regal violin bursts that I found very appealing. Frankly, I don’t know how a ballerina would be to dance to the first movement, seeing as the music seemed erratic to me. I imagine a lot of jumping and sweating would be involved. However, as the piece continued Mozart did slip in some slower, traditional seeming ballet-y moments, but they didn’t last long. He often went back to the triumphant sounding violins that I personally loved.

Next up was Haydn’s “Sinfonia Concertante”. I have to admit, I wasn’t very into this piece. It featured four soloists: violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon. Don’t get me wrong, they all performed very well, but “Sinfonia” featured too many cutesy repetitive bits that annoyed my soul. It felt like an overly long best man/maid of honor wedding speech – it starts from a nice place, but then it enters into an uncomfortable territory at around minute two. You start to feel some excitement around minute four because you think it’s getting to a merciful end, but then the speech suddenly reignites and keeps on going for what feels like an eternity.

Next up was the only modern piece of the night: “Musica Celestis,” by Aaron Jay Kernis. “Celetis” is the best piece of contemporary music I have heard thus far at LACO. It brought on a sense of wonder and awe you might feel while looking up at the stars on a clear night away from the city. Or, one of the very rare times where you wake up early in the morning on a beautiful day and everything is still and peaceful. While “Celestis” did feel quite modern it never became too edgy and unnecessarily noisy like some contemporary pieces tend to, in my opinion. It had a warmth and elegance that felt great to hear. Guest Conductor Hall was also wearing a very Star Trek-esque tunic that fit well with the music.

The night ended with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, which was, as the title suggests, the first symphony he wrote. I thought the piece was fairly pleasant, but also very busy and meticulous. It made me picture an obsessive-compulsive person happily cleaning their house. In my opinion, Symphony No. 1 is not as good as some of Beethoven’s later work, like No. 6 (http://www.laco.org/blog/693/) but every great artist has to start somewhere. The idea of Beethoven’s first work made me contemplate his original fans – the ones who got on board the Beethoven bandwagon at Symphony No. 1. I wondered if during the height of Beethoven’s popularity those early fans felt contempt towards the newer fans. Perhaps original fans thought that Beethoven’s early stuff was much better than the stuff he composed after he went deaf and sold out. They probably rolled their eyes when they overheard people raving about Beethoven’s Fifth during brunch in downtown Vienna.

Overall, I enjoyed the evening of music from LACO and look forward to attending more concerts now that I’m 30 and more cultured.**

*Editor’s note: This newbie blog does not seem more elegant, refined or wise.

  • Editor’s note: Def not more cultured.

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