Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

French Lessons

December 12, 2011


The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra celebrated the influence artists have on one another in their performances this weekend. Appropriately enough, the shows coincided with one of their own collaborations, the 20th anniversary of Kent Twitchell’s giant Harbor Freeway Overture mural that motorists heading north out of downtown on the 110 freeway have grown accustomed to. The eight-story tall painting commemorates LACO and its members including three players still in the orchestra to this day - Julie Gigante, Allan Vogel and Roland Kato. Like the mural itself, LACO has become an integral part of living in Los Angeles with great performances like the one which I saw Sunday at the groups’ Westside home, UCLA's Royce Hall.

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane led the orchestra through works inspired by the French Baroque and in particular the music of François Couperin. The evening started with Ravel’s impressionistic recollection of Couperin’s music with Le tombeau de Couperin. The players produced the kind of lush romantic sound that is usually associated with a much larger ensemble. The other composer on the bill most directly inspired by Couperin was Thomas Adès whose Three Studies from Couperin took a slightly different approach. Adès starts with Couperin’s music itself and uses several of his themes originally written for Harpsichord as starting points for his own contemporary music. Whereas Ravel uses Couperin more as an idea, Adès takes a re-constructivist approach with a music that is surprisingly modern and clean in its overall tone despite the clearly Baroque patterns that travel right along with it demanding to be attended to. It's just a snippet of what makes Adès such an urgent composer and it was the highlight of the night.

The evening also took up Respighi’s Gil uccelli, a piece with several brief movements, each related to a specific French Baroque (or earlier) composer and a bird. Again Kahane managed a light, fleet sound from the orchestra. If there was a weak point to the evening, it was Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, a single movement piece for orchestra and solo cello. The underdeveloped, almost concerto didn’t quite fit the program’s overall theme. It also didn’t seem to win over too many in the audience. Ralph Kirshbaum was the soloist and he seemed to struggle on Sunday with stretches of wrong notes and a sometimes abrasive tone. He played an encore from the Bach Cello Suites that was far more assured and typical for a performer with his reputation. His appearance served a s a prelude for one of the more exciting events of the Spring here in L.A., the inaugural Piatigorsky International Cello Festival that Kirshbaum will head up in March with appearances from many of the world's greatest cellists for a series of concerts, master classes and other events or 9 days that will involve collaboration from LACO, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Colburn School and the USC Thornton School of Music. Check out the full schedule.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter