Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra blog

the untrained ear

July 17, 2014

keeping a promise i made to myself at laco's silent film

It’s been over a month since LACO’s annual Silent Film Gala, and I’m still flooded with wonderful memories from an incredibly entertaining evening. You can read my blog post on the event, with lots of details, here. I loved watching Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” on the big screen, and the final scene, featuring Charlie and his co-star walking down a deserted road towards a row of mountains, inspired me. By the time I left Royce Hall that evening, I had given myself a new goal:

a silent tribute to los angeles
June 10, 2014

I’m still smiling from my excellent weekend – one that was capped by a sensational Sunday night performance by LACO. The occasion was the annual Silent Film Gala, where classic films are screened at Royce Hall, with LACO performing the scores live. This year’s festivities, which featured two Charlie Chaplin films (“Modern Times” and “Kid Auto Races in Venice”), were especially noteworthy, as they marked a number of milestones, including the 25th anniversary of the first Silent Film Gala, and the 125th anniversary of Chaplin’s birth. I suspected I might leave Royce Hall feeling jubilant, but I didn’t anticipate leaving with a desire to explore the city around me. But that’s what LACO concerts will do to a person: they’ll change you, and in ways you don’t expect.

a whole lotta pianos
May 23, 2014

Man, if you love pianos, than the Alex Theatre was the place to be this past Saturday. LACO’s program for the Bach & Mozart: Double Concertos concert featured not one pianist, not two pianists, and not three pianists. It had four pianists! They ranged in age from 12 to significantly older than 12, and they were backed by the orchestra in a glorious array on concertos from the masters of classical music. Plus, there was a program switcharoo that really kept me on my toes!

anticipating the anticipation
April 28, 2014

LACO’s annual Sound Investment premiere concert is quickly becoming one of my favorites of the year. This year, the official name of the concert was “Chopin: Piano Concerto,” but I didn’t show up for Chopin, I showed up for Sound Investment premiere. I’m glad I heard the Chopin, and I’ll get to that piece a little later, but I’ll start with the Sound Investment premiere. Did I mention it was a premiere?

fiddlefest: history in the making
April 01, 2014

When I hear the word ‘fiddlefest,’ my mind paints a very specific picture: bales of hay, people wearing overalls and biting pieces of straw, lots of “yee-haws” filing the air, and a crowd of folks dancing and having a great time. But thanks to LACO’s astounding Stradivarius FiddleFest concert, that image will forever be replaced with the memories from last Friday night. I’ve enjoyed my share of LACO concerts over the years, but I’ve never left a venue feeling so in awe, so invigorated, and so giddy.

what do you get a 329-year-old music icon?
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.

beethoven's eroica, inside and out
February 23, 2014

I look forward to LACO’s annual “Discover” concert more than any other concert on their schedule. It’s a concert cut out for an orchestral music novice like me, because in addition to hearing a staggering performance of a classic, I’m also exposed to a tremendous amount of great information, and that’s due to the unique structure of the concert. Unlike the rest of LACO’s concerts, the “Discover” concert focuses on a singular piece of music, but before you hear it played, LACO music director Jeffrey Kahane serves as what’s called a “musical tour guide,” and presents what I can best describe as a cross between a lecture and a musical presentation. He dives into the history of the piece, the composer’s life and point-of-view when it was written, and draws comparisons and contrasts to the music that proceeded it and the music that came after. This year, that treatment was given to Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, known as the “Eroica,” and, like the “Discover” concerts in previous years, this was a compelling and thoroughly entertaining evening.

the musical surprise I was never expecting
January 28, 2014

I’ve been coming to LACO concerts for years (I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for them since 2008... time has just flown by!). So you’d think one of these days I’d learn my lesson and not indulge any preconceived notions of what I’ll like or not like, because every single time I do that, I’m wrong. The LACO concert last weekend (Mozart, Beethoven & Haydn) was a perfect example. I arrived to Royce Hall early, and was able to spend a few minutes perusing the wonderful program notes before the concert. I read about Musica Celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis, a piece I was particularly interested in because 1) he’s a current, very-much-alive composer and 2) I’ve never heard of him or his music. And as soon as I read the first six words about this piece of music, I had my mind made up. And I was dead wrong.

what on earth is a cimbalom?
November 18, 2013

Sometimes when I attend LACO concerts, I’m excited for very specific reasons. Perhaps there’s an unfamiliar composer or a premiere that I’m looking forward to hearing, or maybe there’s a piece I’m actually familiar with that I get to hear performed live for the first time. This past weekend, at the Beethoven: Pastoral concert at the Alex Theater, my expectations were slightly lower: I just wanted to stay awake. My day had started very early that morning, and I hadn’t slept well the night before, so if I could keep my eyes open throughout the entire concert, the evening would be a success. And don’t go pretending you’ve never walked into an event thinking the same thing! I’m happy to report that not only did my eyes stay wide open, but I had a great time, too.

the encore that made me wince
October 20, 2013

Did you make it LACO’s Haydn: Cello Concerto over the weekend? It was definitely a crowd-pleaser – in fact, there were two encores! Before the intermission, guest cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras (more on him below) performed part of Bach’s Cello Suite #1, and at the end of the show, guest mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin (more on her later, too!), accompanied by Joshua Ranz on clarinet and the rest of the Orchestra, performed Mozart aria, “Parto, parto” from an opera called La clamenza di Tito. Before I go further, let me elaborate on this post’s title: Yes, the second encore made me wince, but not because of the performance. It was stellar. I winced later, when I got home, when I read of its connection to a now-illegal musical practice that makes me shiver every time I think about it.

it's that time of year again . . . the new LACO season has begun!
September 22, 2013

It’s that time of year again: It’s cooling off, leaves are turning vibrant shades of red, orange and brown, and people are pulling their heavier sweaters out from the back of their closets. OK, you got me. None of those things actually happen in Los Angeles, land of never-ending heat and a year-round green (and brown) landscape. But it’s nice to mark the start of fall with some sort an annual tradition, and lucky for me, LACO has filled that void with the start of their new season. I went to their season premiere concert on Saturday at the Ambassador Auditorium, and I get the pleasure of telling you all about it!

crossing 'commission a piece of music' off my bucket list
April 22, 2013

Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh, guess what? I commissioned a piece of music! And you can too! If you’re new around these parts, allow me to introduce you to LACO’s Sound Investment program. It’s a simple, brilliant idea. Pony up some cash, and in exchange, a talented composer writes a piece of music. Anyone can do it. All you do is go to the Sound Investment page – all the information is there. Although the Sound Investment program has been around for over a decade, this was my first time participating as a member. I signed up as a “first-timer,” or Sound Sample member, made a $150 contribution to the fund and a few nights ago, I got to hear my piece of music being performed for the very first time. A wold premiere! The piece I helped commission is called Music in Circles III, written by Andrew Norman, who was there in person to introduce his work. And he had some interesting things to say!

uh oh . . . is that a harpsichord?
March 24, 2013

There are some things you’ll just never hear me say. “I wish this piece had more harpsichord” is one of them. “Nothing cheers me up than a jaunty little harpsichord ditty” is another. If you’re waiting for me to express my love for a harpsichord, you better bring a book, because it’s going to be a loooong wait. I just don’t care for the harpsichord. It’s not my cup of tea. I have respect for it, and the musicians that play it, and its place within the orchestral music world, but if I were never to hear a harpsichord again, I’d be fine. So I was a little crestfallen when I entered the Alex on Saturday night for LACO’s Mostly Baroque concert and saw, in the corner of the stage, a turquoise harpsichord. Great. I settled into my seat for what I thought would be an awful, boring concert. And, once again, I was wrong! LACO kept me on my toes, and had a couple surprises up their sleeve.

an evening of discovery
February 25, 2013

Oh boy, do I love LACO’s annual Discover concert. This is the fourth year in a row they’ve done it (if I’m counting correctly on my fingers), and it’s both the highlight of the season, and a highlight of my year. If you haven’t been to a Discover concert before, make a note on your calendar and attend next year (LACO hasn’t announced next year’s season yet, but they will in a few months). The premise is simple: they take a singular piece of music, and before they perform it, Jeffrey Kahane presents a fascinating introduction. The Orchestra is onstage to provide musical accompaniment as needed, but it’s mostly Kahane, eloquently talking and weaving stories about the composer, the place and time in history when the piece was composed, and all the sign posts to look (and listen) for when the piece is performed. Not only do you walk away at the end of the night having heard an exemplary musical performance, but you’ve learned something, too – and I don’t know about you, but I love learning! This year, the Discover concert focused on Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.

the mysteries of mozart
January 28, 2013

Do you read the Program Notes when you go to concerts? You really should. They provide a wealth of information, and more often than not they help me get a feel for what I’m about to listen to (or what I just heard, depending on when I read them). LACO’s Program Notes are written by Christine Gengaro, and the ones she wrote for the Mozart’s Requiem concert last weekend were particularly riveting. There’s definitely a fantastic story to tell when it comes to Mozart’s Requiem, with more mystery, intrigue and unanswered questions that I ever could have imagined.

a jaw-dropping rhapsody in blue
December 11, 2012

I don’t remember the first time I heard Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. There’s a good chance it was in commercials for United Airlines, since they’ve used it in their campaigns for a majority of my lifetime, and if it wasn’t there, it was probably in some other popular culture setting. Rhapsody in Blue is one of those iconic pieces of music that pops up everywhere – on TV, in movies, piped into stores at the mall. By the time I was in high school in the mid ’90s, I knew “Rhapsody in Blue,” and I liked it. Remember those CD clubs that were advertised in the Sunday paper? Where you get 8 CD’s for a penny (plus shipping and handling), if you commit to buying a bunch more at regular club prices? I picked a George Gershwin album as one of my 8 starter CDs when I enrolled, just to have a recording of Rhapsody in Blue. I still listen to that recording – it’s a solo piano version with Gershwin playing it himself, and I long ago uploaded it up my iPod. But you know what? I might be done with it. And that’s because LACO’s performance of it last weekend is something I don’t want to ever forget.


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