Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

While I was Out

April 11, 2011


The bad news about being ou of town this weekend was missing Saturday Night's finale to the Los Angeles Philaharmonic's "Aspects of Adès" festival which included the composer conducting his own Polaris with video from Tal Rosner as well as Messiaen's Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà. I'll be kicking myself for missing this one for awhile, but luckily my friend Lou emailed me this brief account.

Ades' Polaris was absolutely fantastic. I was pleased to see Frank Gehry there. This was Adès' commission to open the new New World Symphony Concert Hall in Miami last year, which Gehry and Yasuhisa Toyota designed. The visuals were much less distracting than in Adès In Seven Days which was performed last weekend. Rosner spoke at the pre-concert lecture this weekend about the visuals, which made it more comprehensible. The music sounded and felt so much like waves on the ocean, and the visual reflected that so nicely.

The Messiaen was transcendent. We've been so fortunate to hear the Turangalila-symphonie in October, and now this. Adès did a terrific job of conducting, considering it must have been a handful to steer the 120 plus musicians on stage toward a single unified sound. The percussion was squeezed into the portion of the auditorium usually reserved for bench seating between the stage and organ, and to their side were the low brass. The brass sounded immense and got a big workout. They've never sounded better and got to play entire movements of the work without any other accompaniment from the orchestra. The penultimate movement was quite the roof raiser, followed by the last movement which transported you to heaven. What a treat.



The reason the brass never sounded better is you got a chance to hear them without the rest of the orchestra on a couple of the movements. Disney Hall is odd that way - there is a hierarchy to what projects to the audience. When everyone is playing, you hear the strings. When the strings aren't playing, you're more apt to hear the winds. After that come the brass, who are often working their tails off for naught. The only time you get to hear the actual timbre of the winds or brass is when the orchestration thins out. The radio broadcasts reflect this "balance" as well.

This isn't so much the case on stage, as the brass and winds are often told to back off by conductors - from the podium, they are present, but something happens once the sound leaves the stage.
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