Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic opened their 2012/2013 season with a contemplative work by Ravel, a world premiere by Steven Stucky, and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring).
In other words, it was Retro Week at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
This is exactly the kind of program which the orchestra famously made common during Esa-Pekka Salonen’s tenure as Music Director. Mr. Salonen had a habit of programming Stravinsky pieces seemingly more often than Beethoven’s, and Mr. Stucky was his in-house composer during his entire 17-year stay in Southern California. In fact, the ties go back even further than that. While Mr. Stucky has had many of his works receive their premieres care of Mr. Salonen and this orchestra, he was first named Composer-in-Residence by Mr. Salonen’s predecesor, André Previn. The orchestra’s relationship with Stravinsky goes back further still, having played many times under the baton of the erstwhile Angeleno composer himself.
Of course, Mr. Stucky hasn’t had any official link to the orchestra since the end of Mr. Salonen’s Music Directorship, and with The Rite of Spring and the LA Phil having been indelibly linked to Mr. Salonen for some time now, it was rather wise for Mr. Dudamel to give this showpiece a break for the past three years. Putting a program like this together to start his fourth season with the orchestra is no small gesture for Mr. Dudamel, and I made a point of seeing and hearing it twice: Friday’s opening night performance, and the close-out on Sunday afternoon.
So how did this very Salonen-like program come across in Mr. Dudamel’s hands? In a word: magnificently.
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