Yesterday, the good folks at the Los Angeles Philharmonic made public the plans for the upcoming 2014-15 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall (details available HERE). This comes on the heels of last week’s announcement of the coming 2014 summer season at the Hollywood Bowl (HERE are details of that). Unlike last year, there was no fanfare, no press conference, no video introduction or interviews with the orchestra’s leaders put on YouTube. The press release was sent out, the website was updated, and that was that. I only knew it was coming because I happened to ask a couple of weeks ago. Go figure. Anyway . . . My general take is that both WDCH and HB seasons are good, though not great — at least by LA Phil standards, though it would remain scary adventurous for most other orchestras in the world. It’s nice to have more visits from Esa-Pekka Salonen and there’s an interesting emphasis on incorporating video into many more concerts, but there are no real surprises or “wows” with conductors, soloists, or programs. The most noteworthy concerts: two performances (Feb 27-28, 2015) of Unsuk Chin’s opera, Alice in Wonderland, conducted by Susanna Mälkki.
- It was supposed to be presented by Los Angeles Opera in the 2005-06 season, with Kent Nagano, the company’s former Music Director, being a major proponent. The company decided that it couldn’t afford to produce it that year, Mr. Nagano left LA Opera at the end of that season, and the U.S. Premiere ended up being given instead by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2012.
- This West Coast premiere production with the LA Phil will be a fully staged version, directed by Netia Jones and featuring her style of video projections used in WDCH for both this season’s opening gala and last season’s production of Oliver Knussen’s opera, Where the Wild Things Are. Cast is still TBD.
After perusing the details of both seasons, here are all the things I thought were worth highlighting and/or commenting upon: Conductors
- Music Director Gustavo Dudamel leads 11 weeks of subscription concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, plus the season opening gala, and one Green Umbrella new music concert. He also takes the orchestra on tour in March 2015 to Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo with programs that include Mahler’s 6th Symphony, Dvorak’s 9th Symphony (aka the “New World Symphony”), and City Noir by John Adams. He also leads two weeks at the Hollywood Bowl, with this summer’s opera being the Mascagni/Leoncavallo “Cav-Pag” double header featuring a solid cast of Stuart Neill, Michelle DeYoung, Julianna Di Giacomo, Christopher Maltman, Tamara Mumford and Susan Bickley.
- Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen appears at WDCH for three weeks (all in calendar year 2014), plus an additional week at the Hollywood Bowl. That makes 2014 the most we’ll have seen of the beloved maestro since he stepped down as Music Director in 2009. The programs are a fun mix of standard repertoire and more eclectic stuff, with my favorite being Oct 24-26: Janáček’s Sinfonietta; The U.S. Premiere of Maan varjot (Earth Shadows) by Kaija Saariaho, Mr. Salonen’s long-time friend and collaborator, and Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Suite.
- For the second year in a row, no other conductors besides Messrs. Dudamel & Salonen conduct two or more subscription concert weeks. Coming closest:
- John Adams, the orchestra’s Creative Chair, conducts one week of subscription concerts plus two Green Umbrella concerts;
- Bramwell Tovey, the LA Phil’s former Principal Guest Conductor at the Hollywood Bowl, conducts one-and-a-half weeks of concerts during the summer.
- Charles Dutoit continues his annual visits with a rarity (Penderecki’s Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos) sandwiched between more common works from Ravel (Rapsodie espagnole) and Elgar (Enigma Variations).
- Other notable returning guest conductors include Michael Tilson Thomas, Herbert Blomstedt, Susanna Mälkki, Emmanuelle Haïm, Xiang Zhang, Neeme Järvi, Andrey Boreyko, and Vasily Petrenko.
- For those keeping score, that would be three different female conductors, all of whom are excellent regardless of gender. Ms. Mälkki in particular is among my new favorite guest conductors — she’s the only conductor who’s gotten me to really like a performance of the Brahms 4th Symphony. In addition, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla (a former Dudamel Conducting Fellow) makes her subscription concert debut with a single Thursday night appearance at the Hollywood Bowl.
- Speaking of female conductors . . . am I the only one a little surprised to see Mr. Petrenko on the roster? His most recent appearance with the LA Phil was terrific, but given his misogynistic comments late last year regarding women on the podium, I wouldn’t have been shocked if Deborah Borda would have banned him.
- Juraj Valčuha, the latest young conductor to have success in his Hollywood Bowl debut, makes his first WDCH appearance after a solid LA Phil debut last summer. Well deserved.
- Andrew Manze, period performance specialist and Artistic Director of The English Concert, is the only conductor making his subscription concert debut with the LA Phil during the next season.
- Leonard Slatkin, Stéphane Denève, Ludovic Morlot, Micholas McGegan, and Mr. Tovey appear during the summer at the Bowl, but won’t be at Disney Hall.
- Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Christoph Eschenbach, two conductors who have been making annual appearances with the LA Phil — even being given multiple week residencies — are notably missing from the podium this year.
- Other frequent/occasional guest conductors notably absent this year: Zubin Mehta, Simon Rattle (sigh), James Conlon (he conducts at WDCH every other year, and this will be his off year), David Robertson, Thomas Adès, and Semyon Bychkov.
- Soloists appearing with the orchestra skew noticeably towards pianists:
- The usual suspects: Yefim Bronfman, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, Simon Trpčeski, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, the Labèque sisters (piano); Leila Josefowicz, Joshua Bell (violin); Gautier Capuçon (cello); Cameron Carpenter (organ)
- Nice to have them back: Richard Goode, Jeremy Denk (piano), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), tenor Brandon Jovanovich (!!), Calder Quartet
- Some news about LA Phil members taking solo turns:
- Principal Cello Robert deMaine joins Hillary Hahn (violin) at the Hollywood Bowl in the Brahms Double Concerto.
- Principal Horn Andrew Bain and Principal Trumpet Tom Hooten take turns at center stage for a week of programs featuring Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto and Haydn’s Trumpet concerto.
- Speaking of Messrs. Bain and Hooten: they’ll almost certainly be featured in the season opening concerts of the Mahler 5th Symphony. Given the stellar nature of the orchestra’s and their most recent previous performances of the Mahler 5, it is a must-see concert. In addition, it happens to be the first time Mr. Dudamel conducts the LA Phil in this particular Mahler symphony.
- An as-of-yet unnamed musician will be featured in the very prominent trumpet solos along with piano soloist Yuja Wang in the Shostakovich 1st Piano Concerto at the Bowl (Mr. Salonen conducts). There is always a chance that an outside trumpeter would take the role, but more than likely, Mr. Hooten or Associate Principal Trumpet Jim Wilt will play the part.
- For the first time in recent memory, Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour will not be appearing in a concerto performance during the WDCH season. That said, he will be playing as soloist during the summer at the Hollywood Bowl.
- Gidon Kremer makes a welcome return to Los Angeles in a recital with pianist Daniil Trifonov. After seeing the young Russian pianist in a rather schlocky Hollywood Bowl debut last summer, I really hope he keeps up his end of the bargain.
- There will be no resident artists during the season, unlike in previous years where there was an “On Location” artist or, like this season, where Emanuel Ax appears multiple times as part of his “Brahms Project.”
- The WDCH season will feature eight world premieres, five U.S. premieres and seven West Coast premieres, with Ms. Saariaho getting a world premiere conducted by Mr. Dudamel in addition to the aforementioned U.S. premiere conducted by Mr. Salonen. In addition, Mr. Dudamel conducts four of the other world premieres (by Philip Glass, Bryce Dessner, and Steven Mackey) and one of the U.S. premieres (by David Lang).
- Composers shockingly and disappointingly missing from LA Phil programs in the 2014-15 season: Shostakovich (ugh), Bartók (double ugh), Stravinsky (triple ugh)
- Composers shockingly and perhaps not-so-disappointingly missing from LA Phil programs in the 2014-2015 season: Mendelssohn — including no violin concerto. Really.
- Works that are shockingly missing from the program: no Tchaikovsky symphonies, no Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos (and yes, I know that the Paganini Rhapsody is being performed),
- The LA Phil has a couple of new programming initiatives that specifically attempt to attract new audiences by adding additional elements to the traditional concert hall concert experience:
- Very happy to see that Brian Lauritzen — classical music radio luminary, occasional cellist, fellow Gen-Xer, and distinguished friend of All is Yar — is getting four weeks of programming to play with, in a series titled (appropriately enough): “Inside the Music with Brian Lauritzen.” In Mr. Lauritzen’s own words, “The series has several components:
- Prior to each performance, we will release a video online for on-demand streaming that provides a way in to the stories of each concert’s repertoire.
- Then comes the educational meat: a pre-concert talk where we will dive deeply into the music for each of the performances.
- The concert hall experience will remain untouched. This is traditional concert-going in all its glory. Two concerts conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, a world premiere, a US premiere, a rarely heard Prokofiev Symphony, and more.
- Afterwards, we will have an opportunity to talk about what we’ve just experienced. I’ll host an on-stage Q&A session with the audience and some of the performers involved in the music-making. Your chance to connect more meaningfully with the music you’ve just heard.”
- “in/SIGHT:” described as “a new Friday evening series designed to be a feast for eye and ear: all four concerts will be enhanced with video installations, and in some cases, with additional artistic elements, such as dance or staging, for a complete and engaging experience.” The four-concert series includes performances of Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet (Mr. Salonen conducting), Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, the aforementioned Alice in Wonderland by Ms. Chin, and a concert conducted by Mr. Dudamel featuring the Steven Mackey world premiere and Steve Reich’s Three Tales with video by Beryl Korot.
- The “Casual Friday” series (shortened concerts featuring discussion by the performers on stage and a chance to mix and mingle with orchestra members after the concert) remains.
- This year’s festival of sorts is “NEXT ON GRAND: Contemporary Americans,” the first of what will be a recurring cross-collaboration between the LA Phil and the other resident companies and venues along the Grand Avenue Corridor. The focus this time around will be on American composers.
- In celebration of the 10th Anniversary of WDCH’s unique-looking organ, a number of regular orchestral subscription concerts will feature the iconic instrument.
- Gustavo Dudamel: courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association
- Brian Lauritzen: courtesy of What Would Beethoven Do?