Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Far and Away

May 16, 2016

Matthew Aucoin
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra wrapped up its orchestral season this weekend with a notable concert that set the stage for a very big season to come. Next fall will mark the start of Music Director Jeffrey Kahane’s 20th and final season with the orchestra and by the sounds of things this weekend, he’s leaving the ensemble in very fine form with promising times ahead. One of those legacies is LACO’s Sound Investment program where patrons contribute directly for newly commissioned works from young composers selected by Kahane. The program’s recipients are a who’s who of young American composers, and the latest work in the series received its premiere this weekend. The composer is Matthew Aucoin whose name is associated with just about every major American classical music organization these days. He’s received commissions from the Lyric Opera of Chicago and The Metropolitan Opera, and he was recently appointed artist-in-residence with the Los Angeles Opera as well as one of the Dudamel conducting fellows with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (He'll conduct Glass' Akhnaten for LAO in the fall.) Somewhere in there, he found time to compose a fifteen-minute or so, single movement work for LACO, Evidence, that received its world premiere on Saturday under his own direction. The three-sectioned “journey” has interesting moments and promised much greater things. Aucoin clearly has a grasp of operatic scale and the language of the 20th Century musical landscape. This comparatively small chamber work busted at the seems with gestures better suited for a larger scale but any work that leaves you wanting more is a worthwhile one, and the crowd seemed excited with what they’d heard.

But Aucoin wasn’t the only notable guest this weekend, and the highlight of the night belonged to pianist Marc-André Hamelin who performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 with Kahane and the orchestra. This is an early staple of Mozart’s keyboard works, but Hamelin never does anything in the most conventional way, and this LACO performance was no exception. Hamelin’s cadenzas built subtly and what started out as a little jaunt soon became a roving, wandering beauty. He veered off and away in a grand manner that didn’t come off as jarring or inappropriate but made it clear that this was a beautiful and thoughtful adventure. After the meditative glories of the second movement subsided the third arrived almost as an alarm reminding the audience that we were, in fact, not entirely removed from where we started. It was daring, beautiful playing. Hamelin followed it up with jazz-influenced Gershwin that made sure the point wasn’t lost. It was a bold and surprising performance from one the piano greats of our times. The night ended with Kahane giving a polished rendition of Schumann’s Symphony No. 2. It was a lovely way to end an evening and a penultimate season.


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