Category: Cerritos

Music review: Guitar-playing Assad Brothers at Cerritos Center

February 16, 2012 | 11:00 am

Assad Brothers copy

Brazil’s Assad brothers -– Sérgio and Odair -– have been known for extraordinarily freewheeling programs, as Sérgio has been willing and able to transcribe and arrange just about anything for two guitars. But, at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday night, they played what Sérgio said was their first all-Brazilian program –- thus going against type and reverting to their roots all at once. In any case, it made for a lovely evening, full of luscious melodic foliage from their homeland.

Much of what the Assads played was not too familiar to a North American audience, but virtually all of it could be immediately assimilated -– from the sentimental waltz “Eponina” and driving “Batuque” of Ernesto Nazareth to the rolling samba rhythms in the interior of Joao Pernambuco’s “Interrogando.”  On recordings, given their tightly knit blend, it’s difficult to discern who is playing what, but observed live, Odair is clearly more mellow and fluid while Sérgio has a steelier, more staccato edge.

One item that was familiar -– indeed over-familiar -– was Luiz Bonfá’s “Manhä de Carnaval,” here subjected to an elaborate arrangement by Sérgio where the tune was at times almost completely hidden underneath a jungle of counterpoint. But Sérgio needn’t apologize; his treatment made Bonfá’s standard seem fresh and challenging.

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Music review: Haimovitz and O'Riley in 'Shuffle. Play. Listen'

January 19, 2012 |  2:40 pm

Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley have invented a format aimed directly at anyone who has fiddled with an iPod. They call it “Shuffle. Play. Listen.” -– and the idea behind it is to blast away at any and all categories.  

Last fall, the pair released a  two-CD album of that name. On one disc excerpts from Bernard Herrmann’s score for “Vertigo” weave in between classical pieces. O'Riley’s ongoing series of classical arrangements of rock and jazz/rock material fill the other. To a lot of folks’ surprise, the concept worked. With everything distilled to the timbres of a cello and a piano, idioms do tend to melt away. 

So now inevitably there is a “Shuffle. Play. Listen.” tour, which came to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday night with Haimovitz and O'Riley tinkering some more with a format that can probably withstand endless tweaking.  

As an iPod user would, they deleted selections from the album and inserted new ones –- like a hot-off-the-press, richly melodic "Fantasy on a Bach Air" for solo cello by John Corigliano. Mimicking iTunes’ practice of treating classical works as “songs,” Webern’s Little Pieces for Cello and Piano, Opus 11, Janácek’s “Fairy Tale” and excerpts from Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne” were broken up into their component parts and scattered throughout the program.

O’Riley’s treatment of tunes by Arcade Fire, Radiohead and the Cocteau Twins were remarkably faithful to the structures -– if not the idioms –- of the original recordings, and he pressed hard on the pedal to simulate murky studio ambience. While some arrangements blurred innocuously from one to the next, the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “The Dance of Maya” stood out -– revealed as angular, dissonant, boogie-ing, downright avant-garde. Haimovitz used amplification on and off; his already luscious tone blew up to elephantine proportions when the juice was on.

High-tech footnote: O'Riley read his music from a tablet computer, making Haimovitz’s shuffles through score paper look rather 20th century.


Influences: Pianist (and NPR host) Christopher O'Riley

More classical music reviews from the Los Angeles Times

 -– Richard S. Ginell

Photo: Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O'Riley. Credit: Sarah Scott

Influences: Pianist (and NPR host) Christopher O'Riley

January 11, 2012 | 12:30 pm

Christopher O'Riley
It was probably only a matter of time before Christopher O’Riley, a classical pianist who has performed the work of Radiohead and Elliott Smith, met up with Matt Haimovitz, a cellist with a taste for Hendrix. The two, who have recently released the genre-bending duo album “Shuffle.Play.Listen,” perform at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 18.

O’Riley, host of National Public Radio’s show “From the Top,” spoke to us about his influences. “It’s most important to play what you believe in, what you feel most keenly,” he says. “There is, in immersing oneself in the work at hand, the feeling that what I’m playing or listening to right now is the most beautiful, astonishing music ever. That tends to be exclusory, so if I’m playing Shostakovich's 'Preludes & Fugues,' there is no other music, and when I’m playing music I’ve been listening to for a quarter century, as I have the music of Jon Hassell, Cocteau Twins, John McLaughlin, I am immersed and engulfed in the love of the music.” 

Gunther Schuller: Gunther was president of the New England Conservatory of Music, where I did my training. Readers of his gargantuan autobiography will be astonished at his hunger for musical knowledge and his passion for innumerable musical genres, covering the globe and everything from the pre-Baroque to contemporary jazz. Gunther lives by the Duke Ellington adage, “There are only two kinds of music: good music and the other kind,” putting one’s powers of perception and discernment paramount in the judgment of worth in all musics. 

My colleagues: I was taught by my chamber music coach at NEC, the conductor-cellist Benjamin Zander, that the piano, in its capacity as a percussion instrument, had the capacity to elevate or execrate the performance of whatever instrument was being accompanied; a singing instrument, like a cello, requires a compatible, nurturing musical fabric on which to soar, and the piano can poke percussive holes in such a magic carpet. 

Movies: I also have a lifelong attraction to film, Alfred Hitchcock having been my favorite director since childhood. Of course, music in films really makes a difference with me, and I may still have a deep-seated dream to do film music myself, following in the footsteps of my idols in the field, Bernard Herrmann and Danny Elfman. I recently had the opportunity of writing a piece of music for a CD collection of pieces to be released in February inspired by the new Kris Saknussemm novel “Reverend America.” 

Women: Unabashed, I must answer a query as to why I play the piano honestly, and say it’s to impress girls. In sixth grade, when it started becoming apparent that the flashing octaves of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 was not getting me the feminine attention I began to crave, I thought to widen my horizons and start playing this music all the prettiest girls were listening to. I started my own little rock band, playing the keyboard-inspired music of my youth: the Doors, Iron Butterfly, Santana, Derek and the Dominoes, and later the jazz and fusion music of Miles Davis and John McLaughlin, even starting to write my own things. Suffice to say, I found that girls liked bad boys a lot more than they ever liked musicians. 

-- Scott Timberg

Christopher O'Riley and Matt Haimovitz, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, (562) 467-8818, Jan. 18,

Photo: Christopher O'Riley, with Matt Haimovitz on the left. Credit: Sarah Scott

Influences: Violinist Ray Chen

September 14, 2011 |  6:00 am

Ray Chen
Violinst Ray Chen has been called “a thoughtful player” by Gramophone and the possessor of “a beautiful sound” who “doesn’t get lost in tone for its own sake” by the Washington Post. Chen, who was born in Taiwan and raised in China, released his debut album, "Virtuoso," in January and has won acclaim for both the recording and for his extensive touring. 

Wednesday night Chen will inaugurate the new season at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, performing pieces by Bach, Tartini, Franck and Wieniawski. The 22-year-old violinist, who is also an enthusiast of food, exercise and family, talked to us about his influences.

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Valentine's Day countdown: Singer Keely Smith's favorite love song

February 7, 2011 |  2:41 pm

Whether you need just one more track to finish off your ironically sappy mix for your sweetheart or are searching for a tune to soothe the pain of a Valentine gone wrong, we’ve got you covered.

For the next eight days, we're sharing the favorite love song from eight musicians who are about to perform in Los Angeles. First up the singer Keely Smith, who has her reasons for selecting the classic “All The Way” (music by Jimmy Van Heusen and words by Sammy Cahn.)

"Because of Frank Sinatra [with whom Smith had an affair; she recorded the song], but I’m not going to go into it. I like what the song says: When somebody loves you, it’s not good unless he loves you all the way. That’s pretty strong. Love is beautiful I would never describe it as tragic. If you’re in love, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. The guy doesn’t have to be in love with you. It would help if you were very serious about it for him to love you but you can always just have a crush."

Above is Sinatra's version and here is Smith's:

Smith performs in concert Sunday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts

Check back with Culture Monster every day through Feb. 14 for a new selection.


Keely Smith on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

-- Marcia Adair

Music review: Moscow State Symphony is astonishing in Cerritos

October 31, 2010 |  3:30 pm

When Gramophone magazine made its list of the 20 best orchestras in the world two years ago, the Dresden Staatskapelle, which played in Orange County Wednesday night, came in at No. 10. The 14th, 15th and 16th spots went to Russians (Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra and Leningrad Philharmonic), all reasonable choices.

I happened to be one of the critics polled for the list, and it never occurred to me to nominate the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra, which was formed in 1934, appeared at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Friday night. Sorry, Dresden, and all you other Russians, but I won't make that mistake again. The MSSO might well be the world's least-heralded great orchestra.

The program was conventional and the audience modest-sized. Pavel Kogan conducted. The young American violinist Jennifer Koh was soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto. The concert ended with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and after the first picture, “Gnomus,” someone in the audience exclaimed “wow!” Mussorgsky’s gnarled gnome came to life as an unsettling creature in three horrific dimensions.

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Music review: John Williams at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts

October 21, 2010 |  2:38 pm

JohnWilliams In days of old, Los Angeles hosted many of the world’s great classical guitarists — including the upper echelon, still-evolving John Williams — at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium. Out of the presenting game since the mid-’90s, that hall’s absence is still felt, especially for guitar fans. But Williams’ concert, Wednesday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, conjured up memories of the Pasadena haunt, given the Cerritos venue’s appealing blend of welcoming acoustics, warm wood surfaces and relative intimacy amid the hall’s grand upward sweep.

On Wednesday, Williams, now 69 and sounding characteristically and fully on his artistic game, took aim at the fertile but under-acknowledged  guitar music motherlode of Latin America. Central to the compact survey were dazzling pieces from Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, Cuban Leo Brouwer and Paraguayan Agustin Barrios Mangore. Also in Wednesday’s mix was a jubilant short piece, ”O Bia,” by the late Cameroonian guitarist-composer Francis Bebey and a few tasty morsels by Williams himself.

Although not generally associated with Villa-Lobos’ famed five preludes, this program's closest thing to core repertoire, Williams played them with revelatory cleanliness and insight. From the poignancy of the third prelude — one of the single most beautiful pieces in the guitar canon — to the other alternately rugged and melodic preludes, Bach’s influence mixes with Brazilian impulses, uniquely guitaristic effects and dreamily atmospheric passages. Williams nailed them, perhaps unsurprisingly.

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Cerritos Center's 2009-10 performing arts season announced

May 27, 2009 |  7:00 am

SarahChang The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts will offer a slightly belated Valentine for classical music aficionados in its 2009-10 season, with a concert by the Russian National Orchestra  on Feb. 20 and a matinee recital by violinist Sarah Chang on Feb. 28, with a Feb. 17 prelude of chamber music from Germany's Atos Trio.

Other ensembles include Musica Angelica, led by conductor Martin Haselbock (March 26), the all-sibling Ying Quartet (Jan. 8), the String Orchestra of New York City (April 24), the Pacific Symphony performing a Halloween family matinee (Oct. 25) and the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra and Harlem Quartet, both devoted to showcasing the talents of young black and Latino musicians (Oct. 24).

Also on tap are recitals by sitar player Kartik Seshadri (May 8), cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Jon Kimura Parker (March 26) and the Israeli American pianist Pnina Becher (Nov. 18).

Robert Kapilow's "What Makes It Great?" talk-and-performance series delves into Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" (Jan. 27) and Schumann's Piano Quintet (March 3), then takes a detour into the Great American Songbook with the music of Cole Porter (May 5).

Opera buffs can take in a touring production of "Don Giovanni" by the Mozart Festival Opera (Nov. 6-7),  Teatro Lirico D'Europa's "La Traviata" (Feb. 12-13) and a Sept. 30 recital by soprano Christine Brewer, who was hailed last year by Times music critic Mark Swed for mustering "a robust sound that mixed sweetness, power, glory and consolation -- a thrilling combination," during a performance of Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs" with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players will perform "H.M.S. Pinafore" (April 30-May 1).

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*Review: Christopher O'Riley (sans Radiohead) at Cerritos Center

April 30, 2009 |  3:03 pm

ORiley Like any ambitious artist with a new single, Christopher O’Riley is playing gigs this week in the L.A. area and New York.  His hard-thumping arrangement of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” was released Tuesday on iTunes and will hit the rest of the download universe next week.
O’Riley is the model of the hip 21st century pianist. At Miller Theatre in New York, his versions of the music of singer and songwriter Elliott Smith will be on the bill and he will employ a videographer to accompany his playing.  Last week, in an appearance with the Baltimore Symphony, his encore was a number by Radiohead.

At the Cerritos Center Wednesday night, O’Riley attached a laptop computer to a Steinway grand piano.  The screen displayed his “printed” music, and he turned pages with a foot pedal.  He wore an updated version of concert dress, with the kind of long coat actors choose for the Academy Award ceremonies. 
But unlike an ordinary artist with a new pop single out the day before, O'Riley presented a promotion-free concert.  There was no mention of iTunes. He played neither Nirvana nor anything else vaguely pop, even though his biography in the program emphasized his interpretations of rock songs.   

Computer and Oscar duds be damned, his was a traditional recital concentrating on Beethoven and Debussy.  And the result was the portrait of an uncomfortable pianist, neither here, historically, nor there.

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