First things first – let me just say thank you to the universe for the timing of this particular program. My husband was NOT happy to attend with me on Sunday. He had just flown in from a trip and has been battling a heaping dose of the grungy cold virus that’s going around. He loves me and knows I don’t like going by myself to events, so he came along, grumbling… until he heard the word “jazz”. The light returned to his eyes and he perked up even further upon hearing “improvisation, vibraphone and percussion”. Yay!

Gernot Wolfgang’s (yes Wolfgang and also an Austrian) “Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds – The D.A.R.K. Knights” is a delicious salad of jazz and lively, lyrical classicism and was written specifically for David Shostac (flute), Allan Vogel (oboe), Richard Todd (horn) and Kenneth Munday (bassoon), who all together have about three hundred and fifty seven years of musical experience (I kid, but they are heavyweights). He wrote this piece to their specific abilities and the solos of Shostac and Todd included improvisation. We were also treated to percussive improvisation, wonderful “shivery” violins, the brass bending notes, and a level of attentive alertness to one another that I have not heretofore seen in this orchestra. Don’t misunderstand me, they are always cohesive and attentive musicians, but the format of this particular composition seemed to illicit a very noticeable uptick in each individual musician’s attention to the others. It was quite enjoyable and different, and as Bill Murray said in Groundhog Day, “different is good”. I’d love to hear more of this kind of music at LACO.

Clarinet Concerto in A Major. I did not know that Mozart wrote a concerto for the clarinet! Well, not exactly the clarinet, but a fusion of the clarinet and a basset horn called (surprise surprise) a basset clarinet, a custom deal that has a range down to low C, instead of stopping at E as standard clarinets do. Joshua Ranz, who looked a bit like the instrument he played, (long, tall, thin, dressed in black) was wonderfully charming in his on stage persona and made the most of the quick passage work and contrasting slow tempos. His solo was magnificent. I believe that Mozart shows the capabilities of an instrument in what he writes for it better than almost anyone. And the clarinet is a delight, the life of the party, as the program notes state.

For me, the particular appeal of Mozart’s Concerto in D Minor, is that it‘s only one of two written in a minor key, and the most overtly dark, dramatic and impassioned. Dramatic Mozart – wonderful! Still elegant and crisp, but somewhat stormy between the orchestra and piano, lovingly played by Maestro Kahane, the multitasker. Poor, poor Jeffrey. If only he were talented… conducting the orchestra, while playing the piano in one of Mozart’s most esteemed concertos (Beethoven kept it in his repertoire). It was so great to see him communicating with the orchestra in this layered way, creating a musical dialogue in which he not only directs the orchestra as a whole entity, but interacts with them, speaking essentially the same language, appropriating and embellishing their themes, enhancing both them and enriching the solo piano personality.
So, will you allow me a short rant? Thanks. It drives me bananas when audience members leap up after the last piece and bolt for the door so as to be first in line to get out of the parking garage. How much time do you really think you’re saving? It seems so dismissive of the orchestra. And you MISS things. On Sunday, if you bolted, you missed Jeff Kahane come back and play an encore (a diverting version of “America the Beautiful”). The scamperers who hadn’t made it completely out the door when he came back on found themselves hurrying back down the aisle and flinging themselves into the first available empty seats. It just seems wrong to me. I have never waited more than ten minutes in that parking lot after the show. Give the orchestra their due. Stay and clap for them, wait to hear the encore (it’s such a treat). They just gave their all to us for almost two hours, give them another 20 minutes of your time, please. End of rant.

highlights:
S E S S I O N spiva

Produced in collaboration with Four Larks, SESSION featured the world premiere of The Body Overcome by Derrick Spiva Jr, hindustani vocalist Saili Oak, a US premiere by composer Juan Pablo Contreras and works by Conor Brown, Salina Fisher and Reena Esmail.

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