Music review: Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Downtown New York came to downtown Los Angeles as three composers from the new music collective Bang on a Can took over a Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall Tuesday night.
Moreover, there is good reason to put Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang under the same umbrella, as it were. All three are boomers in their early 50s who grew up in the eclectic age of the phonograph, and their music heard here was solidly rooted in the minimalist aesthetic. Indeed, throughout the evening, one was struck more by their similarities than their differences.
The most stimulating piece, hands down, was Wolfe’s merrily grooving vehicle for four trap drum sets, “Dark Full Ride.” Veterans of rock and jazz concerts know that the self-indulgent drum solo is usually the time to hit the beer lines, but Wolfe avoids all hints of boredom by exploiting countless sonic possibilities from the hi-hat cymbal set and keeping the pulse going relentlessly, thrillingly. The four drummers, captained by the remarkable Joseph Pereira, drove it hard and well.
A New Music Group string orchestra led by Jeffrey Milarsky essayed Gordon’s “Weather One” -– an always-engaging series of neo-baroque patterns and cascades with an oddly-swinging gait -– and Lang’s “Pierced” (a West Coast premiere), where angular gestures from the solo cello, piano and percussion slammed against the rustling, tremulous strings. Wolfe’s “Early That Summer” for string quartet kept introducing different ideas to repeat, one after another, before some unity was established near the end. Minimalism, however transformed in any number of accents, was always the dominant language.
–- Richard S. Ginell
Photo: Vocalist Theo Bleckmann and cellist Gloria Lum perform "Heroin" Tuesday night. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times