January 18, 2013 1 Comment
A few years ago, I was at Walt Disney Concert Hall to see James Conlon conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a concert of works by Prokofiev. Sitting right in front of me were two gentleman, one older and the other younger, speaking a European language I did not recognize. Whatever they were saying, they were deeply engaged in what seemed to be music-related conversation before and after each work and during intermission, even occasionally whispering and gesturing towards the stage as the music played. The older gentleman was particularly fond of Principal Oboe Ariana Ghez’s playing, applauding extra vigorously when she took her solo bow.
The younger gentleman turned out to be Gregory Vajda, Resident Conductor of the Oregon Symphony, in town to replace an indisposed Lionel Bringuier to conduct one of the orchestra’s Green Umbrella programs which featured the work of prominent Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös. The older gentleman turned out to be the composer himself.
Before the end of the concert, I introduced myself to Mr. Vajda. In turn, he introduced me to Mr. Eötvös. Though the composer didn’t say anything in English to me, he smiled and shook my hand. I wished them both well in their upcoming gig . . . and missed their concert two nights later despite the best of intentions. I was always bummed out that I didn’t get a chance to hear any of the famous composer’s music despite having met him in person.
Fortunately, I had the chance to finally make up for it last Saturday when Mr. Eötvös returned to Southern California to participate in the latest program by “Jacaranda, music at the edge” featuring two of his works, including the U.S. Premiere of Schiller: energische Schönheit written in 2010 and co-commissioned by Jacaranda. Also on the program were three works by his compatriot, György Ligeti.
I was far from the only one drawn to this concert. Santa Monica’s First Presbyterian Church was packed, with extra seats shoved wherever the room could be found. Attendance was so high that they ran out of programs. It was an enthusiastic crowd, and all were treated to some excellent performances of stimulating music.