Los Angeles Philharmonic / Music News & Info: Classical

Observations from LA Phil’s 2013/14 season presser (um, “Death of Klinghoffer” perhaps?!!)

As promised, I did my best to tweet details of the upcoming Los Angeles Philharmonic 2013/2014 season.  That said, I’m sure there are those among you who didn’t follow along for whatever reason — perhaps you were otherwise occupied, or maybe you just don’t do that newfangled Twitter thing, or the dog ate your homework.  In any case, you can see the entire stream of consciousness HERE, some of which are included in my observations below (after the jump).

The entire press packet is available online (HERE).  That said, there were some interesting things mentioned at the press conference (aka “the presser” if you’ll permit me) that ARE NOT in that press release — the biggest one is this:

  • Deborah Borda (President and CEO) mentioned that in conjunction with the orchestra’s upcoming “Minimalist Jukebox Festival,” the Los Angeles Philharmonic will collaborate with Long Beach Opera in a performance of The Death of Klinghoffer.

Wait . . . what was that?  Really??!!!

The long saga about John Adams’s controversial opera will take forever to try to explain here, but suffice it to say that this is a big deal — “Klinghoffer” has never been performed in Southern California despite the fact that Los Angeles Opera was one of the original commissioning organizations.  I’ve asked for additional information, and we’ll see if I/we get any in the coming day or two.  (UPDATE, Feb 27:  per the Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Opera confirmed that they will present The Death of Klinghoffer in 2014, with James Robinson directing.  No other details were given).

In the meantime, here are some other observations about the 2013/2014 season:

  • There are no conductors visiting that haven’t already conducted the orchestra in the past.  Don’t remember the last time that happened.
  • Gustavo Dudamel will conduct 12 different subscription programs, plus the opening night gala and some community concerts around So Cal and at WDCH before the gala.  He will also take the LA Phil on tour to San Francisco, Kansas City, New York, Washington DC, Toronto, Montreal, and Boston.  Rather disappointingly, he will NOT be conducting any Green Umbrella concerts.
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen will be here in for two weeks in October.  This time, he won’t be doing any opera, but on the actual 10th Anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall’s opening (Oct 23, 2013), he will be conducting the world premiere of the complete version of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels.
  • No one besides Messers. Dudamel and Salonen conduct more than one week of concerts.
  • Nice to see that Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos are coming back again for their regular annual visit.
  • Notable guest conductors who aren’t visiting this season but will be returning in 2013/2014 (in no particular order):  James Conlon, Stéphane Denève, Semyon Bychkov, Christian Zacharias.  Also, Manfred Honeck and Krzysztof Urbański make their WDCH debuts.
  • Notable guest conductors who aren’t visiting  next season:   Simon Rattle (sigh), Zubin Mehta, David Robertson, Vasily Petrenko (bummer), Susanna Mälkki and Pablo Haras-Casado (whew), among others.
  • The return of the “Minimalist Jukebox” Festival is kinda fun, but not sure if we really need a Tchaikovsky Festival.  I like his music and all, but isn’t there enough Tchaikovsky being played without making a big deal about it?
  • Visiting orchestras:  The Simon Bolivar Symphony from Venezuela . . . and that’s it.  VERY disappointing.
  • No Mahler symphonies (shocking) and only one Bruckner Symphony (the 8th conducted by Mr. Bychkov).
  • New music:  11 world premieres, 4 U.S. premieres, and 4 West Coast premieres.  Dudamel conducts three of the world premieres (by Peter Lieberson, Daniel Bjarnason, and Andrew Norman) and a U.S. Premiere from Brett Dean.  Salonen presents the aforementioned Zappa work plus Oliver Knussen’s Cello Concerto (which the LA Phil commissioned a LONG TIME AGO).
  • Only two works each from Debussy or Stravinsky.  Sad, just sad.

My favorite concert is a toss-up between one of the Salonen concerts in October (Debussy/Knussen/Bartok, with cellist Anssi Karttunen) and a Dudamel concert in  December right before Christmas (Bjarnason/Rachmaninoff/Stravinsky, with pianist Yuja Wang).  Also happy to see Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 showing up in March; bummed that it’s paired with a Brahms symphony, but if it must be that way, at least it is the second.

I could go on, but that’s enough for now.  I’ve got lots of reviews to finish writing, and I’d better get on that again.  In the meantime, curious to see what others think.


Photo credit:  CK Dexter Haven

7 thoughts on “Observations from LA Phil’s 2013/14 season presser (um, “Death of Klinghoffer” perhaps?!!)

  1. This is strictly my opinion, so take what follows with a large grain of salt. But I’m afraid that I was pretty crestfallen by the announcement this morning of the upcoming season. The programming is rather banal, filled with the usual “one off” premieres of new music that is usually “so bad you will wish you’ll never hear it again,” and the recycled pieces that seem to get played every other season. There are some quirky choices like the Zappa’s 200 Motels. But I’m seriously wondering if we’ll ever get to hear something like Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, Mysterious Mountain by Hovhaness (not to mention a lot of other American composers — Barber, Morton Gould, Howard Hanson — who get fairly neglected by LA Phil Association programmers) or Scriabin’s Poem of Fire or Divine Poem? Bacchus et Ariane by Roussel? A season-long look at the works of Hindemith?The Durufle Requiem? Or maybe programming Poulenc’s works or Faure? What about a Bruckner symphony we never get to hear, like the 3rd, 5th or 6th? When was the last time we heard Debussy’s La damoiselle élue or The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian?

    Anyway, we’ve all got personal favorites, but whoever sits in their office in the administrative offices putting together a season needs to think about variety. Not just plugging in another Tchaikovsky or Brahms symphony ad nauseam. Aren’t there composers out there who need to be rediscovered?

    I’m glad to see Charles Dutoit returning to the podium with Daphnis et Chloe (his recording of the work is one of the best of the last 30 years), along with Semyon Bychkov, Krzysztof Urbański, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (who guest conducts everywhere) and Salonen. But with all of the talk about this big 10th anniversary, we don’t see Mehta, Jurowski, or Tilson Thomas? And Eschenbach just conducted the Dvorak 9th with the LA Phil a few seasons back — why do it again? How about something else? I’m starting to think that Simon Rattle returning was just a flash in the pan — a glorious one at that — and we’ll never ever see a guy like Chailly, or Bernard Haitink who appears with the other U.S. orchestras in New York, Boston, and Chicago. Maazel and Dohnanyi also don’t ever come back anymore.

    Like you, I’m disappointed by the lack of visiting orchestras — both the Vienna Philharmonic (w/ Gatti doing Mahler 4) and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras are going to be performing in Orange County. Yet, they aren’t coming to Disney.

    All my complaints aside, I will probably catch Dudamel conducting Stravinsky’s Petrushka, the Nutcracker (my family wants to see it), as well as the Ravel concert with Dutoit. Some of the others I might consider. Just wish there was a bit more meat on the bone as far as the season is concerned. I could’ve done without a massive Tchaikovsky festival, including the rehashing of things like the Shakespeare tone poems we just saw a season or two ago.


    • Thanks much for your thoughts. Agree w/ much of what you said. The Scriabin I could do without, but otherwise I’m right there with you about almost all of the composers you mention being absent. Was pleasantly surprised to see Ives represented, even if only by “The Unanswered Question” and not something really cool like one of the symphonies. I can’t remember if Michael Torke has been performed in the past decade or two — even something relatively brief like “Bright Blue Music” or “Javelin.” You mention a couple of Debussy works (La damoiselle élue & St. Sebastian) that aren’t performed much — I’ll go one step further and say that it seems like it’s been ages since even “Images pour orchestre” has been performed in full.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on the premieres — the more, the merrier for me. Given that the ratio of forgettable vs. compelling new music typically skews towards the former, you need to commission a lot of music so that among the random nuggets of rubble you get some gems.

      I don’t think we’ll ever see Chailly conduct the LA Phil again — there’s an infamous story regarding a recording session of “Rite of Spring” that didn’t go so well back when Giulini was MD, so bad that the recording was cancelled; Chailly hasn’t been back since.

      As far as Dohnanyi — well, not sure if you’ve read my post from a couple years ago on his disappearance from the WDCH podium. If not, I recommend that you do as that explains a great deal (click here: http://wp.me/p1D0Pj-9O). I don’t mention Maazel in that particular post, but I’d put him in the same category; plus, I found Maazel to be uneven and fussy in his interpretations (I like Dohnanyi’s much more).

      Not sure why Jurowski or Haitink don’t visit. I think Jurowski made one visit back when he was just beginning to make his first set of big orchestra rounds, and hasn’t been back since.

      Regarding Vienna Philharmonic: my best guess as to why they aren’t coming to WDCH is that their appearance fees are rather exorbitantly priced, and that perhaps Ms. Borda et al didn’t think it was worth it.


      • Thanks so much for replying to my post. My father was in the orchestra for thirty years, so I’m going to have to ask him about that failed Riccardo Chailly recording of the Rite. I never heard anything about it, although I did get all of the stories about Andre Previn’s cancelled projects (a complete cycle of Copland, all of the Strauss tone poems he did on Telarc with Vienna instead) — none of which were poor Andre’s fault. That being said, there were several major guests from the 80’s that I remember were notoriously disliked over that period like Myung Whun-Chung, who was an assistant conductor, and Giuseppe Sinopoli (his tempos were apparently slower than dripping molasses). More recently after the Phil moved into WDCH, there was grumbling about some other people who will remain nameless, but I never heard a bad thing about Dohnanyi or Maazel. In fact, my father said they were both excellent to work with and made good use of rehearsal time.

        Personally, I thought Maazel did a terrific job with Britten’s War Requiem and Bruckner 8th symphony, so we’ll have to “agree to disagree” on that one. But you’re right that some people just don’t quite gel with different orchestras. Christoph Eschenbach didn’t work out in Philly, but he’s done just fine in LA with the Philharmonic as an annual guest conductor. Incidentally, despite that post from the Chicago musician, Dohnanyi still regularly comes back for guest conducting stints with the orchestra. So I’m wondering if the Brahms cycle rehearsals with LA really just rubbed some of the players the wrong way.

        Whatever the cause, I guess Deborah Borda was trying to form a relationship between CVD and the orchestra that didn’t pan out (it could also have been for reasons we don’t know about — scheduling, an unwillingness to come back out to the West Coast, etc).

        Incidentally, Sir Simon is completely beloved. There are people wishing beyond all hope that he’d become MD after his stint in Berlin is done. I doubt that will happen, of course.

        Your explanation about the Vienna Philharmonic is probably correct, although it would have been nice to see someone visiting Disney Hall in 2013/2014. I know their appearance in 2009 with Mehta conducting the Bruckner 9th looked as if it had sold out.


        • Very interesting comments. You obviously have access to great stories via your father. Hadn’t heard about the Previn projects you mentioned — quite sad, especially for the Copland cycle. I heard him conduct a wonderful version of “An Alpine Symphony” back in the day.

          I’ve heard two slightly different first-hand accounts of the Chailly/Stravinsky recording session, but the bulk of my information comes from “Serving Genius,” Thomas Saler’s wonderful biography of Giulini. The way it is described in that book are largely consistent with what I’ve heard from those two other sources who were around at the time. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you the details, especially given your own first-hand source.

          Re: Maazel — I didn’t see his Bruckner 8th, but I did catch him doing the Britten War Requiem and Sibelius 2nd. I thought the War Requiem was fine but the Sibelius just waaay too micromanaged. Would have liked to have heard what he could have done with some other programs, but I doubt that’s gonna happen now.

          One big name that is making a huge splash in Europe these days and is probably not coming back here is Christian Thieleman. He had a two week debut with the orchestra (unheard of these days) and was never seen again. Based on one very interesting conversation I had with an orchestra member immediately after their performance of the Brahms 2nd Symphony, it was clear that the maestro did not endear himself to the orchestra. (FWIW: I thought the Brahms was spirited if somewhat messy, but even from my seat in the DCP Loge, you could tell that many in the orchestra were NOT happy campers.


          • Yeah, Christian Thielemann was a massive bust. One of the musicians in the string section apparently described the reaction between both him and the orchestra during the first rehearsal as “instant hate.”


            But he seems to avoid the United States altogether now, sticking with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Vienna Philharmonic. There were some rumors over at Norman Lebrecht’s blog that he might be in line to take over the Berlin Philharmonic in 2018 (Barenboim is also rumored for the position), which would be a jaw-dropping coup for Thielemann. Somehow I wonder if the Berliners will go for him or choose a dark horse candidate like Abbado and Rattle in ’89 and 2002.

            By the way, I did see Thielemann conduct Der Rosenkavalier in London with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham in a traditional production. The singing and sets were great, but Thielemann stretched out the beginning of the final trio at a very slow pace and then almost took a nose-dive into the pit during his curtain call (either Fleming or Franz Hawlata had to catch his arm).


  2. Pingback: LA Phil 2013-14: By the Numbers | Brian Lauritzen

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