Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Baby, Come Home

October 05, 2008

Back in the saddle. Salonen and the LA Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2008
My very busy weekend (which I’ll be writing more on later) was capped by an annual ritual that is both thrilling and disappointing – my return to the Walt Disney Concert Hall on the opening weekend of the LA Philharmonic fall season. After months in the hinterlands of the Hollywood Bowl, our local world-renowned orchestra is back where they belong. It’s not unlike a birthday in some way. I get very excited about this show; so much so that it always ends up being somewhat less than I imagine due to my over reaching expectations. It was additionally a bittersweet experience in that this is music director Esa-Pekka Salonen’s last with the organization. Large format journals were displayed on kiosks around the hall for people to leave comments to Salonen as he departs. I elected not to write anything since I’ve already done so here many times before. I will miss Mr. Salonen’s contribution to the LA Philharmonic and the City of Los Angeles more than I can say. He has put this city on the musical map and, with the help of a group of excellent musicians, has made the LA Philharmonic one of the best orchestras in the world. I know things will go on, but they won’t be the same. I for one am crestfallen by the loss though I sincerely wish Mr. Salonen all the best. And hey, it this move results in the first Salonen opera, I’m all for it.

In the meantime though, we have a season of highly interesting programs featuring Salonen’s own beloved Stravinsky, and many other twentieth century composers. Before those though, this weekend was the most meat-and-potatoes program imaginable- Debussy’s La Mer followed by Ravel’s ballet music for Mother Goose and Bolero. As I just mentioned, it was not the most mind-blowing program delivered from the WDCH stage, but it was very good. The Mother Goose music contained many of the elements I love in Salonen’s conducting – a crisp, clean approach and amazing control. I did find the Bolero a bit clunky, but honestly I’m kind of over that whole piece anyway. The Debussy is a favorite of Salonen’s and I admire it, but it always makes me think of how much more I appreciate Britten’s take on the sea. Still, I was back in Disney Hall and that is a reward all in itself.

I should also note that there are some personnel changes worth mentioning. Much to my chagrin, Associate Concertmaster Bing Wang is on sabbatical this year. One of my favorite firsts, it will be sad that she won't be around for some of these shows, but I hope it's a great year for her. Also, there are some exciting new regular additions to the band including Assistant French Horn Ethan Bearman, bass trombonist John Lofton and Principal Timpanist Joseph Perira. You can check out the LA Philharmonic website for more info about them and all the other musicians. Welcome aboard guys, we’re glad you’re here.


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