Category: Esa-Pekka Salonen

L.A. Phil concert at Disney Hall to be broadcast on KUSC-FM

March 29, 2011 |  2:02 pm

Fleischmann The Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.'s tribute concert to its former leader Ernest Fleischmann will be broadcast live from Walt Disney Concert Hall Tuesday night by classical music station KUSC-FM (91.5). 

The concert, which begins at 8 p.m., features the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez and Lionel Bringuier sharing the conducting duties. Also performing will be tenors Daniel Chaney and Grant Gershon, baritone Abdiel Gonzalez, bass Reid Bruton and the Los Angeles Children's Chorus.

Fleischmann, who managed the L.A. Phil from 1969 to 1998 and is credited with transforming it into one of the nation's leading orchestras, died last June at the age of 85.

Hosting the concert for KUSC will be Gail Eichenthal and Brian Lauritzen.

Meantime, it was business as usual for KUSC Tuesday, a day after learning it would be getting some local competition beginning next week when KGIL-AM (1260) morphs back to its previous incarnation as KMZT (K-Mozart). Station executives said they weren't concerned about the explanation from station owner Saul Levine that he was changing formats in part because of what he believed was dissatisfaction among some listeners over how classical music is presented on KUSC.

"We don't expect Saul's format shift to have a negative impact on KUSC," station president Brenda Barnes said. "Since classical music is our mission, not our business, we are always glad when more classical music is available."


L.A. Phil to honor Ernest Fleischmann

L.A. to get second classical music outlet

--Lee Margulies

Photo: Ernest Fleischmann. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Esa-Pekka Salonen vs. Gustavo Dudamel, as both conduct Bruckner

March 10, 2011 | 10:05 am

For once it has not been a contest: The music world’s 2007 Easter Surprise — the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s joint announcement that Esa-Pekka Salonen would step down after 17 years as music director and Gustavo Dudamel would succeed him — was, of course, big news.

Clearly the new guy was a star. But also the smoothness of the transition was notable. Even when a music director doesn’t wear out his or her welcome (and many do), there is usually an awkward transition period of a year or two or more before the new person steps in. There is also usually a public guessing game. There is never one music director literally passing the baton to the next, as happened at the 2007 philharmonic news conference.

And to make this even smoother, Salonen, while not a mentor of Dudamel, was a role model. Dudamel pays homage to Salonen by conducting his music.

And yet, and yet.

It would be harder, in some ways, to find two conductors from more dissimilar cultures and backgrounds than the 52-year-old Finn and the 30-year-old Venezuelan. Finally, last weekend, there was a chance to see them back to back, when Dudamel conducted Bruckner’s magnificent Seventh Symphony at home and Salonen led it Chicago, as a guest with that city’s great orchestra.

Here’s what happened.

— Mark Swed

Photo: Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel at the Los Angeles Philharmonic news conference in 2007. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times.


New Esa-Pekka Salonen piece withdrawn from Disney Hall concert

March 3, 2011 | 11:12 am


Esa-Pekka Salonen's new piece for piano, "Humoreske," was scheduled to have its world premiere at a Yefim Bronfman recital at Walt Disney Concert Hall March 9. But the composer has had to withdraw the piece from the performance as well as from Bronfman's March 18 recital at Carnegie Hall.

In a statement, the orchestra said that Salonen "regrets that the work will not be completed in time for the March performances in Los Angeles and New York."

Bronfman's concerts at Disney Hall and Carnegie Hall will feature Haydn's Piano Sonata in C, Hob. XVI/50, Schumann's Humoreske in B-flat, Op. 20 and Chopin's Twelve Etudes, Op. 10.

Salonen has been busy in recent weeks traveling and conducting. He is in the midst of a two-week residency with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he is conducting a number of concerts, including his Violin Concerto, which had its L.A. premiere in 2009.

Later this month, he will conduct a series of concerts with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fischer Hall in New York.

Salonen served as the L.A. Philharmonic's music director from 1992 to 2009. He now holds the title of conductor laureate. Salonen is scheduled to conduct during a tribute concert to the late Ernest Fleischmann on March 29 at Disney Hall.

His latest composition is "Nyx," an orchestal work that had its world premiere in February with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. You can watch the performance in the video below, courtesy of Arte.

Continue reading »

Culture Watch: Lisa Batiashvili plays Shostakovich with Esa-Pekka Salonen

February 22, 2011 | 10:00 am

Batia Lisa Batiashvili: “Echoes of Time” (Deutsche Gramophon). The hot, impressive young violinist from the Republic of Georgia offers a varied program of affecting Eastern European music.  The highlights are a penetrating, progressive performance of Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Georgian composer Giya Kanchelli’s spine-tingling “V & V” for violin, taped voice and orchestra.

-- Mark Swed

The best CDs that fuse classical and jazz music

January 15, 2011 |  9:30 am

In Sunday's Arts & Books section, I explore the storied history of fusing two distinct music forms, jazz and classical. Walt Disney Concert Hall will be hosting two high-profile fusions: on Friday, pianist Brad Mehldau comes in with a jazz combo (including the saxophonist Joshua Redman) and a chamber orchestra conducted by Scott Yoo to perform Mehldau’s recent double album, “Highway Rider.” On Feb. 12 and 13, Wynton Marsalis merges his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Leonard Slatkin and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in his “Swing Symphony.”

Over the decades, there have been many attempts to make meaningful, exciting, edgy and/or beautiful music on recordings out of the improbable fusion of jazz and classical music. Some, alas, never found their audience –- or did, but are no longer in-print.

Here is a short list of my favorite albums that successfully fuse jazz and classical music:

Gershwin: “Rhapsody In Blue,” “An American in Paris”: Leonard Bernstein (conductor, piano), New York Philharmonic, Columbia Symphony, Columbia Jazz Band (Sony Classical Masterworks). To this day, Bernstein’s performances of the Gershwin pieces are the jazziest, least-inhibited ones that I know of on disc. Elsewhere in this “expanded” edition (there are other configurations available), you get Bernstein’s brashly swaggering “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs,” written for but never played by the Woody Herman band.

“Ebony Concerto”: music by Stravinsky, Victor Babin, Morton Gould, Bernstein, Artie Shaw. John Bruce Yeh (clarinet), DePaul University Wind and Jazz Ensembles (Reference Recordings). Yeh, a member of the Chicago Symphony, displays a more idiomatic grasp of classical and jazz styles than most in this selection of mid-20th century pieces, put forth in sumptuous sound. This duplicates “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs” but Yeh’s rip-roaring rendition is a match for Lenny’s own (with Benny Goodman).

Stan Kenton: “The Innovations Orchestra” (Capitol Jazz). This anthology from 1950-51 represents the furthest out that Kenton went toward embracing contemporary classical music, often massive in texture, yet not quite losing touch with the pulse and pizazz of jazz.

Continue reading »

2010 Year End -- Classical music

December 18, 2010 | 11:00 am

Orange It’s time again for that favorite year-end topic: the imminent demise of classical music as we know it and love it. You are deluded if you think otherwise.

So what to do with the hundreds of millions of kids in China, Japan and Korea who are practicing the piano or violin as you are reading this? And, someone, quick, tell Hugo Chavez to rip the instruments from the little hands of all those Venezuelan children, so they can take up guns and drugs instead and so Americans and Swedes and the Scottish will stop copying El Sistema. 

We’ll have to do something about classical CD sales too: They’re slightly up (unlike almost every other genre).  Plus, the sooner we empty the full houses of Walt Disney Concert Hall the better.

These annual predictions of doom and gloom are much older than a lot of the music the L.A. Phil plays. Sure, concert life is changing, but that is the definition of a living art form. Yes, orchestras in America die while new organizations are born in places like China and Vietnam; the West is not the world. Of course young audiences are inattentive, poorly educated and half deaf, just like they’ve always been.

The fact is more people listened to classical music this year, in one form or another, than ever before. I say that every year, and every year it is true. 

This year’s top 10 is already history, but these events left something for keeps. So will next year’s, if we haven’t blown ourselves up by then.  For an explanation of the photo, see this year's classical top 10 ... and one dud.

-- Mark Swed


Notes on a Year: Mark Swed on classical music

Photo: A bowl of oranges at the Patina Cafe before a concert in the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Dec. 1. Credit: Mark Swed/Los Angeles Times.

L.A. Philharmonic to host free Disney Hall concert in honor of Ernest Fleischmann [updated]

December 8, 2010 |  4:24 pm

Ernest The Los Angeles Philharmonic said Wednesday that it will host a free concert in honor of the late Ernest Fleischmann that will take place at Walt Disney Concert Hall on March 29. The concert will feature the L.A. Philharmonic New Music Group and conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez and Lionel Bringuier.

Fleischmann, the orchestra's former general manager, died in June at the age of 85. The orchestra said that tickets for the concert will be available to subscribers starting Feb. 22 by calling 323-850-2000 or e-mailing

Remaining tickets will be made available to non-subscribers starting Feb. 26 via the same contact information.

A spokeswoman for the orchestra said the program for the concert will be announced at a later date.

During his tenure as the head of the L.A. Phil, which lasted nearly 30 years, Fleischmann raised the stature of the orchestra to new levels in the classical world. He oversaw a revamping of the Hollywood Bowl and was instrumental in bringing in Salonen as music director in 1992.

Continue reading »

Music review: Esa-Pekka Salonen and Bryn Terfel perform Wagner at Disney Hall

November 27, 2010 |  3:19 pm

In 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen made a potentially blockbuster recording of Paul Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber” in Royce Hall, as part of an important  Los Angeles Philharmonic all-Hindemith CD. But the titles on the cover of the Sony Classics release were in German alone.

This — the only L.A. Philharmonic recording I know of never released in the U.S. — was not intended for us. Hindemith is box office death in America.  So clearly, a capacity crowd filled Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday night not for "Symphonic Metamorphosis," which opened the program, but for Salonen, in the second of his two weekends this season with the Philharmonic. The popular Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel was a significant added attraction as soloist in excerpts from Wagner operas.

A brooding, booming, vocally bountiful Terfel proved an awesome Wagnerian presence in Disney Hall. He’s a big guy with a big voice, a big star with a big personality. Standing up to a huge orchestra, he got as expected (and deserved) a standing ovation.

But so too did the unloved Hindemith. Americans only think they don’t like this supposedly stolid and heavy German composer. His opera “Mathis der Maler,” for instance, is worshiped in German-speaking countries but never staged here.

Continue reading »

Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall

November 20, 2010 |  3:56 pm

Esa-Pekka Salonen received a whistling, whooping, foot-stamping ovation when he walked onstage at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday night. So what else is new?

His hair is now short, but little else has changed since his last appearance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic a year and a half ago, when he was extravagantly cheered for his 17 seasons as music director, which had come to an end.

Holding a microphone, he told the Friday audience that he had looked forward to seeing his friends in the orchestra and once more playing in the hall, but that he didn’t expect the experience to feel quite so comfortable, like wearing old slippers. “And not just any old slippers,” he elaborated, “but sushi-grade slippers.”

Then he picked up precisely where he had left off. That program in April 2009 contained moving performances of Stravinsky's  opera/oratorio “Oedipus Rex” and “Symphony of Psalms,” both of which have Latin texts. This time Salonen, now conductor laureate, began with the U.S. premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s “Graffiti,” which once again featured the Los Angeles Master Chorale and used Latin texts. Bartók’s disturbing opera, “Bluebeard’s Castle,” followed in the second half.

In the program notes, Lindberg mentioned “Oedipus” and “Symphony of Psalms” as inspiration, but he went in a more contemporary direction. Instead of selecting a dead language as a distancing device as Stravinsky had, the Finnish composer chose graffiti from ancient Pompeii that wouldn’t be out of place scribbled on the walls of a grubby Grand Central Station men’s room, as Salonen put it in introducing the work to the Disney audience. “Nothing has changed,” he said. “We have a human need to broadcast our existence.”

Continue reading »

Critic's Notebook: Mehta, Guilini, Previn and Salonen are still with us, via disc and page

October 9, 2010 |  8:40 am

Remember last season when a certain French flutist from the Chicago Symphony who, flirting with a position in the Los Angeles Philharmonic before decamping back to his old band, derided our lack of tradition in the playing? 

Well the Gustavo Dudamel music directorship in L.A. is now a year old, with his second season having begun Thursday. So maybe now is a good time to talk about tradition.

The Phil’s four previous music directors of the last half century -- Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, André Previn and Esa-Pekka Salonen –- were the molders of the band as we now know it. And all of them happen to be featured in new CDs, DVDs, documentaries and books.

L9own5nc Moreover, the three surviving former music directors (Giulini passed away at 91 five years ago in Milan), are ever making news. Just last week, for instance, Mehta conducted an outdoor concert in Argentina in front of thousands.  Salonen last month toured his L.A.-originated “Tristan Project” in Europe and Britain with the Philharmonia Orchestra. On Oct. 17, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players will give the world premere of Previn’s “Octet for Eleven.”

For this Sunday's survey of where to find the L.A. Phil old-timers in the newest media, look here. 

-- Mark Swed

Photos: Zubin Mehta conducting an outdoor concert in Buenos Aires on Oct. 2.  Credit: Martin Quintana / European Pressphoto Agency


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.