Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

The Old Rugged Cross

April 07, 2008

Grant Gershon leads the LAMC
Photo : mine 2008

Lest I forget, I must say something about Sunday night’s Los Angeles Master Chorale performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall. I had a big weekend with many shows including Dudamel’s outing with the LA Phil, Piotr Anderszewski’s debonair Beethoven Piano Concerto with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in the OC, and even the Metropolitan Opera’s HD broadcast of hopefully soon-to-be-retired root rot that is the Zeffirelli La Bohéme in Burbank. None of this, though, compared to the quality and sheer joy of the LAMC’s performance on Sunday.

It was woefully under attended, and, admittedly, the program was not filled with the kind of staples the choral crowd seems to thrive on, but it was a winner. I've come to believe that as great as the LAMC's performances are in conjunction with the LA Philharmonic, to really appreciate their many strengths, they are best savored without accompaniment. The first half of the evening was just such an experience structured around Henryk Górecki’s Five Marian Songs - beautiful Eastern European works from the mid-eighties that are filled with as much suffering and perseverance as they are joy and reverence. Gorecki's choral music may have, in the words of Gershon, "launched a thousand pledge drives" but this is exactly the kind of contemporary choral music the LAMC thrives on, and it was superb. After a pair of Schumann works thrown in for good measure, the program concluded with Haydn’s Theresienmesse as part of the LAMC's Haydn mass cycle. It was a good pairing and charming in its own admittedly 18th-century way. The soloists included Risa Larson, Leslie Inman, Jon Lee Keenan, and Steve Pence, and the group was accompanied by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. And, while the Mass was nobody's idea of a period performance, it was quite well done.

The other issue of note that evening was the announcement of the LAMC 08/09 season, which apparently will feature a badly needed new logo design, featured here in my not so great photo since it isn't up on-line yet. (Now, if they can just get rid of Victoria Looseleaf's inane program notes, they'd be in business in the PR department.)

The new season is a typical blend of the adventurous and thoughtful programming Gerson and the group have made their name on, including several world premieres, 20th century works, and the requisite holiday fare. Of particular interest are a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah featuring Eric Owens and the West Coast premiere of Sierra's Missa Latina with Heidi Grant Murphy and Nathaniel Webster. All this and Pärt, Messiaen, and Lou Harrison. What's not to love?

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