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Tchaikovsky's Fifth, here there and everywhere

October 7, 2011 |  9:00 am

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

The conductor Leon Botstein, music director of the American Symphony and known for his investigations of neglected repertory (as well as for being president of Bard College), was Jim Svejda’s guest recently on the KUSC evening program. For five hours, they explored composers of great interest but names only known to the most curious of collectors — such as Ernst Toch or Gavrill Nikolayevich Popov — in a feast of repertory revelations.

Now back to the real concert world and those in need of their Tchaikovsky Fifth fix.

The last performance of this popular symphony was at the Hollywood Bowl way back in August. No problem. The Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by its famed music director Valery Gergiev will perform it on Oct. 13 at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. That same night, Gustavo Dudamel leads the same Tchaikovsky symphony in the first of three performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Then it is a full two-week wait for the Pasadena Symphony’s Tchaikovsky Fifth at Ambassador Auditorium, this time with a young Taiwanese conductor, Mei-Ann Chen, doing the honors.

Tchaikovsky’s Fourth is right behind; it too was programmed by three different orchestras for October. The Long Beach Symphony opened the month with it last Saturday. The St. Petersburg Symphony performed it at the new Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo four days later. The Mariinsky brings it to Segerstrom on Oct. 17.

Not to be outdone, Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, which Lang Lang played at the Bowl in July, clocks in thrice in the span of 32 days -- again St. Petersburg at Soka, Mariinsky (this time at the nearly new Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge) and the L.A. Phil at Disney (with the hot young star Yuja Wang as soloist). 

Call it synergy if you like, or great minds that think together. But given the amount of standard repertory repetition this month and next among orchestras, local and touring, the choices are beginning to seem a little claustrophobic.

Other examples:

The L.A. Phil opened its season with John Adams’ “Tromba Lontana” and Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” The Santa Barbara Symphony opens its season with guess what? “Tromba Lontana” and “Symphonie Fantastique.” The Berlioz symphony was also on a recent Bowl program.

The Pacific Symphony program for the third week of October includes Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 and Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” The L.A. Phil’s slight variation on that theme  the following week is Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 and “Zarathustra.”

Performances of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 by the L.A. Phil and the Redlands Symphony are two weeks apart.

The New West Symphony (based in Thousand Oaks) and the Mariinsky (this time at nearby Northridge) both have Stravinsky’s “Firebird" Suite on upcoming programs less than a month apart.

Also showing up more than once in fairly close geographical and temporal proximity are John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” (Pacific Symphony and L.A. Phil) and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (Pacific Symphony and Redlands Symphony).

A little Popov anyone?


Leon Botstein is a multi-task force

Soka Performing Arts Center: Tuning a young concert hall

Music review: Gustavo Dudamel conducts Benzecry and Berlioz

-- Mark Swed

[For the record, Oct. 7, 11:36 a.m.: An earlier version of this post misstated the Beethoven piano concerto for the L.A. Phil.]

Photo: Valery Gergiev conducting his Mariiinsky Orchestra at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall last year. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.