March 23, 2014
This weekend LACO celebrated Bach’s birthday and in a major social faux-pas, I plumb forgot to bring a present. Whoops! Johann Sebastian Bach was born this month in 1685, and I’m not exactly sure what you get for a man firmly rooted in his fourth century of being a major player in the international music scene. Perhaps something that he wasn’t able to enjoy during his lifetime? After all, Bach died in 1750, before many commonplace things we use daily even existed, including the first published dictionary (1755), carbonated beverages (1767), the flush toilet (1775), and the hot air balloon (1783). Hell, Bach never got to see the horrors of the guillotine (1789) – but that’d make for a pretty lousy birthday present.
It turns out a present wasn’t necessary. In fact, I was actually the recipient of a present from the talented musicians of LACO: the gift of music, lovingly given to me and the hundreds of others gathered at the Alex Theatre on Saturday night. And how did I respond to this beautiful and gracious gift? By promptly falling asleep. I’m making light of it now, but I really am embarrassed, primarily because I’m given this space on the blog to write about my LACO concert-going experiences, and I literally slept through the entire first two pieces. I considering faking my way through this post, but honesty in the best policy. So here’s the truth: The concert came at the end of a long day that began at the gym and included a drive from the valley to Orange County and back again. I love LACO concerts, but I was pooped. And whatdoyouknow? A dark room and beautiful music can be a winning combo to induce a spontaneous nap.
I’m bummed I missed out on the Mendelssohn, and especially the West Coast premiere of Prince of Clouds (because I love hearing new music), but I was fully awake when the man of the hour, Bach himself, was honored with a performance of his Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. This performance featured two guest musicians, Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh, playing the featured violin parts, and while the rest of the evening was conducted by James Feddeck, making his Los Angeles debut, this concerto was led by Koh and Laredo. I loved the way the piece wove those two violin parts in and around the rest of the orchestra, including the other violins on stage. Ms. Koh was especially enjoyable to watch, as her performance style was incredibly physical. She lurched and swooped and twisted and leaned, all while never missing a note on her violin – and, might I add, all this while wearing a strapless gown! Her playing was magnificent (as was Mr. Laredo’s), and probably even proved some laws of physics, too, but you’d have to ask a scientist about that!
After intermission, the orchestra played Schubert’s 3rd Symphony. This was my favorite piece of the evening (of the pieces I was awake to hear) – in particular, the first and fourth movements. I’m not sure how I could best explain it, but they both sounded, by design, like they were continually on the cusp of completely falling apart. There was so much movement, such complex layering of sounds and melodies, and so many notes to play… and yet the LACO musicians pulled it off with ease. Their precision, under Mr. Feddeck’s leadership, was impeccable.
Next year, Bach will be turning the big 3-3-0. Perhaps LACO will pick another of Bach piece and honor his birthday during their March 2015 concert. If so, I’ll be there. And I’ve give myself a special gift before the concert begins: the gift of caffeine!