December 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Saturday night’s Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert featured a first half with a rustic sensibility and a second half with an urban vibe. Both halves were anchored by an American classic in a less-often heard rendition:
- The country mouse portion featured Dvořák’s Serenade for Winds paired Appalachian Spring Suite in Copland’s original 1944 version.
- After intermission, the city mouse segment began with Son of a Chamber Symphony by John Adams before ending with the original jazz-band orchestration of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
The program wasn’t billed that way, but the links were very easy to make once you heard it all. It was a crafty move by Jeffrey Kahane, the orchestra’s Music Director and conductor for the evening, who also did double duty on the piano for the Copland and Gershwin. A packed Alex Theatre crowd responded enthusiastically, even to the lesser-known works. It was the latest example of LACO showing off their depth and range in diverse repertoire.
Appalachian Spring was particularly rewarding. The work was commissioned by Martha Graham, and Aaron Copland wrote the score for her dance company without knowing what the story of this particular ballet would be about; but despite the composer having made no purposeful link between his music and Appalachia, the work has become the iconic invocation of an open, pre-industrial America.
The grand orchestration that is most commonly performed offers a broad, cinemascope rendition of this ideal. In contrast, LACO’s performance of the original version had a raw, edgy quality that seemed to more accurately reflect the bleak challenges overcome by the rural-folk and American pioneers of the listener’s imagination. And at a time when folk-inspired musicians such as Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and Avett Brothers have justifiably captured wide attention of the masses, Copland’s spare-sounding chamber scoring actually felt more current.