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Spring classical music preview: John Cage, John Adams anniversaries

March 2, 2012 |  9:42 am

John Cage, left, and John Adams
Big John Cage and John Adams anniversaries -- festivals for the former, major premieres in San Francisco and Los Angeles by the latter -- will make this a spring of Johns. Meanwhile the big opera news this spring is not with the major companies but outliers -- especially Gustavo Dudamel conducting "Don Giovanni" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the premiere of Olga Neuwirth's Moby-Dick-based "The Outcast" in Mannheim, Germany.

Here is what is coming up in classical music this spring.

John Cage concerts

This year the world is busy celebrating the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, Sept. 5, 1912. There is more action on the East Coast than the West, and bigger events in Europe than here this spring, but Southwest Chamber Music is in the midst of a two-year Cage festival. March also brings several concerts of the composer's works to Pasadena and downtown L.A. The Los Angeles Philharmonic gets in the act with Cage’s Concerto for Prepared Piano with Gloria Cheng as soloist and John Adams conducting. The San Francisco Symphony has excerpts from Cage’s “Song Books” as part of Michael Tilson Thomas’ American Mavericks festival. The big stuff this spring, though will be in Berlin where the Berlin Festival will devote a week in March to Cage concerts and international Cage symposium.

Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 5 p.m. March 4, as well as other locations, dates and times. $10-$38. www.swmusic.org.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. April 10. $43-$63. www.laphil.org

Davies Sympyhony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. 8 p.m. March 10 and 14. $35-$145. www.sfsymphony.org.

Berlin Festival, Berlin, Germany, various times, locations and prices, March 17-22. www.berlinerfestpiele.de

John Adams(es)

This is an anniversary year for John Adams as well, with his 65th birthday having been in January and two major new works by the composer forthcoming this spring. The San Francisco Symphony premieres “Absolute Jest” for string quartet and orchestra and the L.A. Phil mounts “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” a follow-up to Adam’s opera/oratorio “El Niño” with Gustavo Dudamel conducting. Adams also will be a presence on the Disney podium: In addition to the Cage concerto, he will lead the West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' Ninth Symphony on a program with Adams' own Violin Concerto. Meanwhile the Ojai Festival kicks off at the Libbey Bowl with the other John Adams, John Luther Adams, and his "Inuksuit" for 48 percussion and piccolo players.

Davies Sympyhony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. 8 p.m., March 15 and 17. $35-$145. www.sfsymphony.org.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. April 5-7 (Adams-Glass), $53-$120, and  8 p.m. May 31 and June 1, 2 p.m. June 2 and 3 (Adams' "Gospel"), $53-$183.  www.laphil.org.

Libbey  Bowl, 205 S. Signal St., Ojai, 5 p.m., June 7, free. www.ojaifestival.org

"St. John"

Another John at Disney, this courtesy of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the period instrument ensemble Musica Angelica. For Palm Sunday weekend, March 31 and April 1, Grant Gershon will conduct Bach’s “Passion According to St. John,” the composer’s most startlingly dramatic score. Soloists have yet to be announced.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. March 31 and 7 p.m. April 1. $29 - $129. www.lamc.org 

"Don Giovanni"

The opera event of the season won’t be presented by an opera company or in an opera house, but by Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Phil (yes them again) at Disney Hall. But there is no getting around the interest in the orchestra’s staging of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” which opens May 18 and features set designs by the hall’s famed architect, Frank Gehry, and costumes by the feisty Rodarte sisters. The provocative Christopher Alden directs. Oh, yes, the Don is hot too. The highlight of the Metropolitan Opera's bland new production of “Don Giovanni” earlier in the season was Mariusz Kwiecien, who will sing the role in L.A.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. May 18, 24 and 26, 2 p.m. May 20. limited ticket availability. www.laphil.org

"The Outcast"

It was a Moby winter, what with Rinde Eckert’s potent and original “And God Created Great Whales” at REDCAT in January and Jake Heggie’s far more conventional “Moby-Dick” at San Diego Opera in February. In May it will be the turn of an edgy and exciting Austrian composer, Olga Neuwirth, who has a new, feminist Moby-Dick opera opening on May 25 in Mannheim, Germany. Called “The Outcast,” it has a libretto by the noir, Beat American writer Barry Gifford. There are curious L.A. connections. Gifford happens to have written the screenplay for David Lynch’s film “Lost Highway,” and that was the basis of Neuwirth’s quirkily and disturbingly effective last opera. Angelenos have another reason to visit Mannheim in May. The company is currently mounting Achim Freyer’s production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle that was created for L.A. Opera. The Germans are up to “Die Walküre,” which will be running in repertory with “The Outcast.” The full Mannheim Freyer “Ring” is scheduled for 2013.

National Theater, Goetheplatz 1, Mannheim, Germany. May 25 and various dates in June and July. nationaltheater-mannheim.de

ALSO:

Spring arts preview: Visual art

Spring arts preview: Theater

Spring arts preview: Dance

Spring arts preview: Jazz

-- Mark Swed

Photos: John Cage, left; credit: Bachrach/Getty Images. John Adams; credit: Margaretta Mitchell

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