Composers Anna Clyne, Anne LeBaron, and Cindy McTee
It was time for musicians to break out their summer whites and for the audiences to try to not roll empty bottles of wine down concrete steps. That’s right: I’m talking about summer at the Hollywood Bowl.
After a few concerts of playing back-up band to Barry Manilow, the Los Angeles Philharmonic opened the classical music portion of the 2012 summer season last Tuesday in an unlikely fashion: playing three works written by living composers — living female composers, no less. If you throw in two concerts of playing the world premiere of George Fenton’s Frozen Planet in Concert, this was a non-trivial amount of new music that the orchestra had to digest.
Granted, it wasn’t as a big a challenge as, say, playing Don Giovanni and The Gospel According to the Other Mary in short succession, but it’s not like the musicians could just put it on autopilot even if they wanted to. Considering the usual penchant for warhorses at the Cahuenga Pass combined with the limited rehearsal time in the summer, this was rather noteworthy. And if you added in the single performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that can hardly be thrown together nonchalantly, it all made for a relatively ambitious and auspicious start to the Bowl season.
When everything was said and done, it all worked quite nicely, even in an environment that can be filled with attention-deficit concertgoers, many of whom were generally unfamiliar with any contemporary classical music and only there for the Beethoven. Credit conductor Leonard Slatkin for putting together a program that gelled and for inspiring compelling performances from the orchestra. He may not always be the easiest conductor to follow (he tends to conduct waaaay ahead of the beat), but there is clearly enough chemistry between him and the LA Phil that they can give him what he wants with equal parts precision and finesse.
It was a satisfying evening, easy to enjoy and full of musical rewards.
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