Category: Los Angeles Philharmonic

Piatigorsky Cello Festival blends learning with performance

March 14, 2012 |  8:15 am

Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson’s YouTube tastes are admittedly a little bit different from his peers at Santa Monica High School.

“I search cellists on the Internet and whatever pieces I’m interested in hearing, and I’ve created a library of my favorite cellists,” says Ferguson, a senior.

The 17-year-old recently added himself to the cellists on YouTube as part of an audition for a spot in the inaugural Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, a 10-day extravaganza that began Friday night. Ferguson will be one of 110 cellist performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall in the finale of the festival.

“This is the first time I’ve ever put anything of myself playing solo out there for the world to see,” says Ferguson, dressed in a pressed black button-down shirt and matching trousers before a chamber music performance at the Colburn School. “You upload those two pieces, and they watch it, and you hope you get it.”

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Gustavo Dudamel’s former bodyguard killed in Venezuela

March 9, 2012 |  4:24 pm

DudamelGustavo Dudamel’s former bodyguard was killed by a stray bullet outside his home near Caracas, Venezuela. Yojham Tupac Amaru Oliviera Camero, 33, leaves behind two children.

Reports have been circulating that Camero was working for the conductor at the time of his death. But a spokeswoman from the Los Angeles Philharmonic said Camero hadn't worked for Dudamel in about two years. The shooting took place at 2 a.m. on March 3 and was reported by the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Dudamel was not available for comment.

The Venezuela-born conductor was in his homeland last month with the Philharmonic for a series of Mahler concerts, marking the first foreign orchestra appearance in Caracas in two decades.

On the trip bodyguards and police escorts accompanied Dudamel, as is often the case with famous or rich people in the country, where crime is a major problem and abductions are not uncommon. Caracas has been called the unofficial murder capital of South America; there were 19,000 homicides nationwide last year. 

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Susan Stroman to direct 'The Producers' at Hollywood Bowl

March 8, 2012 |  7:00 am


Susan Stroman, the Broadway powerhouse who has won five Tony Awards, will direct and choreograph "The Producers" at the Hollywood Bowl in July, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will announce on Thursday.

The musical is familiar territory for Stroman, who staged the original show on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in 2001 and directed the movie version of the show in 2005.

"The Producers" is scheduled to run July 27 to 29 at the Bowl. No cast has been announced for the staging. (On Broadway, the show starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.) Recent Bowl productions of Broadway musicals have included "Hairspray," "Rent," "Guys and Dolls" and "Les Misérables."

Based on the 1968 Mel Brooks movie, "The Producers" tells the story of a theatrical impresario and an accountant who try to get rich by securing investments for a guaranteed Broadway flop, "Springtime for Hitler." The musical features songs by Brooks and a book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan.

"The Producers" opened in Los Angeles in 2003 at the Pantages Theatre, with a cast including Jason Alexander and Martin Short.

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Pau Gasol says hello to Placido Domingo after Lakers beat Heat

March 5, 2012 | 12:47 pm

Pablo Heras-Casado Plácido Domingo Pau Gasol.
Three Spanish talents finished up afternoon performances Sunday and then aligned backstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

After helping the Lakers put away the Miami Heat at Staples Center, Pau Gasol headed a few miles north to catch the final act of L.A. Opera's "Simon Boccanegra," starring Plácido Domingo.

Another Spaniard happened to be in town as well and stopped by to make it a Spanish trifecta of sorts. After conducting his third concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Pablo Heras-Casado went across the street to greet his fellow countrymen.

Gasol has spoken in the past of his appreciation of opera in general and the superstar tenor in particular. And Domingo is an avid sports fan -- he has attended Lakers games, he sang the National Anthem before a Dodgers game last season and most enthusiastically supported Spain's World Cup champion team.

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Music review: Pablo Heras-Casado, Martin Chalifour and L.A. Phil

March 4, 2012 | 12:15 pm


The career of Pablo Heras-Casado has been rocketing along as of late –- a debut with the Berlin Philharmonic last October, landing an American post as principal conductor of New York’s Orchestra of St. Luke’s in December, and so forth. He has a lot on his plate -– chamber music, early music, opera, standard symphonic repertoire -– yet seems to be most celebrated for his work with new music.

So in his return to Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday afternoon, Heras-Casado offered something new -– the West Coast premiere of a violin concerto by James Matheson, director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program –- following a rather blunt, lean-and-mean rendition of Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture with the orchestra.  

The Matheson concerto was first performed in December by Esa-Pekka Salonen (who recently wrote an impressive violin concerto himself) and the Chicago Symphony. It must be a coincidence that both Matheson’s and Salonen’s concertos open in a similar way, with perpetual-motion violin right from the starting gate. 

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Music review: Two Louis Andriessen premieres at Green Umbrella

February 29, 2012 |  2:40 pm

Cristina Zavalloni
When asked at a pre-concert talk Tuesday whether the two remarkable soloists in the evening’s U.S. premieres at Walt Disney Concert Hall of two fresh (in both senses of the term) works were his muses, Louis Andriessen dismissed the term as being a bit bourgeois. Of all the unconventional risks the Los Angeles Philharmonic has taken in recent years, embracing this profoundly significant anti-bourgeois 72-year-old Dutch composer –- who doesn’t have much truck with orchestras, nor they with him –- has been perhaps the most daring.

There is no question that violinist Monica Germino and the soprano Cristina Zavalloni were muses for a curious violin concerto, “La Girò,” and the theatrical “Anaïs Nin.” The dramatic as well as musical talents of these women clearly motivated Andriessen’s shockingly fanciful scores, which received riveting U.S. premieres Tuesday at a Green Umbrella concert by the L.A. Phil New Music Group. Each work, moreover, is about a muse.

PHOTOS: Green Umbrella concerts

But bourgeois the pieces are not. Instead, Andriessen reveals how meaningful musery, at least among artists who flout convention in search of insight, all but invites perversion. The violin concerto is a sad, funny and sharp chronicle of an older composer’s obsession with a young singer, Anna Girò. The inspiration for “Anaïs Nin” was a frank diarist’s erotically explicit delight in her incestuous relationship with her father, the Cuban-Catalan composer Joaquin Nin. Andriessen pulls no punches.

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Music review: Charles Dutoit conducts L.A. Phil at Disney Hall

February 24, 2012 |  1:08 pm

Charles DutoitThe Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit has a reputation for working fast and knowing what he wants. He was exactly what the Los Angeles Philharmonic needed on Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where he led them in a program of Stravinsky, Debussy and Prokofiev. It was the orchestra’s first concert on its home stage since repeating its recent Mahler symphony cycle in Caracas, Venezuela, with music director Gustavo Dudamel.

Returning Sunday from a trip partly marred by bouts of food poisoning, head colds and flu, the musicians had Monday and Tuesday off to recover from jet lag, and then went into a five-hour double rehearsal on Wednesday.

Before the scheduled program began, Philharmonic president Deborah Borda announced that Lorin Levee, a 36-year veteran of the orchestra and its principal clarinetist since 1981, died on Wednesday. In his honor, Dutoit and the orchestra gave a lovingly shaped account of Ravel’s “The Enchanted Garden,” the moving finale to the ballet “Mother Goose.”

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Lorin Levee, principal clarinetist with L.A. Phil, dies at 61

February 23, 2012 |  2:50 pm

  Lorin Levee
Lorin Levee, the principal clarinetist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has died at age 61, the orchestra announced Thursday. He died Wednesday following a long battle with a blood disorder, said a  Philharmonic spokeswoman.

Levee did not join the L.A. Phil on its recent trip to Venezuela. His last concert was on Jan. 8 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, a program of Dvorak, Liszt and Saint-Saens that was led by guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya.

Levee, who was born in Chicago, has played with the L.A. orchestra since 1976, first as a bass clarinetist before becoming principal clarinetist at the start of the 1981-82 season.

A concert on Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall will be dedicated to Levee. The orchestra has added an extra piece to the program -- Ravel's "Le Jardin Féerique" (The Enchanted Garden) -- in honor of the musician. In addition, Deborah Borda, president of the L.A. Philharmonic, is scheduled to speak.

Prior to coming to Los Angeles, Levee played with Chicago's Grant Park Symphony, the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

The L.A. Philharmonic said Levee, who lived in downtown L.A., is survived by his mother Mildred, brother Phil, son David, daughter Marissa Martinez and granddaughters Maya and Gwen Levee. His funeral will take place in Chicago.


Music review: Gustavo Dudamel's monster Mahler 8 in Caracas

Caracas diary: Dudamel, Abreu and a multitude of young musicians

Caracas diary: L.A. Phil musicians get to know the Venezuelans

-- David Ng

Photo: Lorin Levee in 1994. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Music review: Gustavo Dudamel's monster Mahler 8 in Caracas

February 19, 2012 |  9:15 pm

Caracas Mahler 8

Carnival starts on Monday in Caracas. But the chaos outside the Teatro Teresa Carreño on Saturday night as crowds arrived to hear Gustavo Dudamel conduct a gargantuan Mahler's Eighth Symphony was indication that something was already in the air.

Venezuelans love monster concerts, the more performers the better, partly as a matter of national pride at their extensive and inclusive music education system. This was Mahler's “Symphony of a Thousand” with 1,400 performers, and many people without tickets showed up anyway, jostling to get past an ineffective security cordon. Their backup was a free outdoor screen area where people could sit and watch the performance while enjoying the lovely Caribbean breezes.

Inside, a chorus of 1,200 mostly young, uniformly ecstatic singers unleashed vast reserves of controlled energy filling every inch of the hall. They also let loose additional reserves of adrenaline at the curtain calls, with the chorus cheering Dudamel even more lustily than the audience, creating an amazing antiphonal applause.

Forget the Shrine Auditorium. That is where Dudamel had conducted an eventful but acoustically crippled Mahler's Eighth two weeks earlier with the combined Los Angeles Philharmonic and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, a chorus of 1,000 Angelenos and eight vocal soloists in a venue with room for an audience of more than 5,000.

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Caracas diary: Dudamel, Abreu and a multitude of young musicians

February 17, 2012 |  3:00 pm

Dudamel security
Not even a parent is likely to relish the thought of a musical showcase with 1,700 schoolchildren performing. So it was probably smart of El Sistema not to tell the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its entourage Thursday afternoon what to expect for an event at and around the Teatro Teresa Carreno, the main concert hall in Caracas where the orchestra currently is finishing up its Mahler Project. The hosts for the showcase were a beaming Gustavo Dudamel and a beaming José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema.

The kids came from the núcleo schools around the country that are the heart of El Sistema. Several news crews were on hand, and though  the event was closed to the public, hundreds could look on from outside terraces. Dudamel was shadowed by formidable security bruisers.

The Venezuelans do know how to put on a show. At various points around the courtyard of the concert hall -- which faces a lush park and botanical garden where, like nearly everywhere else in this intriguing but frustratingly inaccessible city, it is not safe to wander alone -- we were shown one mind-boggling ensemble after another.

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