Thursday, March 20, 2014

Los Angeles Philharmonic

My wife and I went to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic last Friday evening at the Kauffman Center here in Kansas City. (My mom gave me 2 tickets and a parking pass to this concert as my birthday present in January. What a great mom, right?) The LA Philharmonic is on tour this year, and is only making one stop between the coasts…right here in KC. A big reason we lucked out was the hall itself. Yasuhisa Toyota, who developed the acoustics at the Kauffman Centers, also developed the acoustics at the Walt Disney Hall in LA where the Philharmonic now call home.
Their music director is Gustavo Dudamel. Even at such a young age (33) he is already recognized internationally as a fine conductor.
Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I am not a music critic. I go to concerts because I love music. I am happy to share my experience with you in this blog, but I am not there to be critical. Any opinions I have are just that….my opinions.
Our seats were in the choral loft behind the stage, facing Dudamel. The program consisted of Daniel Bjarnason’s Blow Bright, a piece commissioned by the LAP and premiered last December. Next was the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto performed by Yuja Wang. She is a 27 year-old prodigy from China who rocked a skin tight, thigh high, sleeveless red dress and 6 inch stiletto heels.  Yes, she was lovely, but her musicianship was breathtaking. The “Rach 3” is famous, or infamous, as portrayed in the 1996 Hollywood movie “Shine” starring Geoffrey Rush about a pianist (David Helfgott) who suffers a mental breakdown as he struggles to perform it. Yuja was amazing, as was the orchestral accompaniment.  After intermission, they played the Brahms 2nd symphony. Brahms wrote 4 symphonies, and they are all great. This is the one I am least familiar with. It is truly a majestic work…full of wonderful melodies. The LA Phil is a large ensemble, and they have a giant sound. Their musicianship is first rate. It was so impressive to sit there and watch them work together is such a seamless way, knowing that I was seeing one of the BEST orchestras in the WORLD! Very humbling.  Dudamel was very expressive, seemed to be having a blast, and it was obvious that the musicians liked playing for him….and for each other. After the Brahms, Dudamel walked deep into the stage recognizing individuals and entire sections. He shook many hands. I also loved seeing the principal trumpet player walk over to the principal French horn player and pat him on the back.
In the days since the concert, I have done a bit of research. I knew I had seen the LA Phil before, once in the 70’s and another time in 1981, but that’s about all I could remember. As it turns out, their website has an archive of all of their concert tours since 1921. I saw them on December 3, 1979 in Austin, Texas. The conductor was Carlo Maria Giulini, and the program consisted of Webern’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, the Adagio from Mahler’s Symphony #10, and the Brahms 1st Symphony. I remember being there, but it was nice to get some of the details back! The next time I saw them was May 16, 1981 in Ames, IA. They were led by Michael Tilson Thomas and the program was Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite #2,  Copeland’s  A Quiet City, Berlioz’s Overture to Benvenuto Cellini, and the Tchaikovsky 4th symphony.
Lastly, it was nice to see Judith Mass still playing the violin in the orchestra. I studied violin with her when she was a music student at the University of Texas back in 1977-78. She joined the LA Phil in 1980 and has been with them ever since.

So it was a wonderful night at the symphony, one that I will remember forever. 

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