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The Great Indoors: First LA Phil subscription concert of 2022/23 shows off orchestra members, Walt Disney Concert Hall

I love Summer. The longer days and warmer weather facilitate more outdoor activities in Southern California. We can enjoy the plethora of al fresco high- and low-brow choices without the annoyances of mosquitos, high humidity, or thunderstorms to ruin the fun. Musically, the Hollywood Bowl looms large over the scene, and with the top-notch multi-genre menu it offers, there’s good reason for that.

So it’s always a little bittersweet when Fall rolls around. I already miss the concept of Summer even more than the reality of it. That said, I’m happy to have baseball, football, and hockey on tap at the same time. I’m happy to have an excuse to wear sweaters again (because in LA, any evening less than 70-degrees qualifies as an excuse). And I’m happy to escape the merely adequate acoustics of the Hollywood Bowl for the friendly confines of Walt Disney Concert Hall, especially after the Bowl’s sound system has been particularly up and down the past few months.

To that end, the opening concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2022/23 indoor season was an unexpected godsend. On paper, works by Adams, Mozart, and Orbón were mildly interesting without much tying them together. In practice, the program collectively gave the orchestra in general and some key individual members in particular an opportunity to strut their stuff and for everyone in attendance to revel in the glorious quality of the sound they produced. Delicate or thunderous, spacious or dense, it didn’t matter: the music was always clear, rich, and nuanced.

The night centered around two infrequently heard works by Mozart. The first, the Concerto for Flute and Harp, featured Principal Flute Denis Bouriakov and Principal Harp Emmanuel Ceysson. Each is an internationally in-demand soloist in his own right, but this was the first chance either had to play front and center with the orchestra. Thank heavens they did.

The concerto was the ideal vehicle for the two virtuosi, enabling them to demonstrate why the LA Phil is very lucky to have them in its ranks. Mr. Bouriakov possesses a pure, creamy tone which never wavered. Mr. Ceysson masterfully created a variety of colors. Both played with precision and musicality, creating sonic landscapes that could be gossamer one moment and grand the next. Together, they formed a seamless pair, handing phrases back and forth with ease even in the most demanding passages. Once the concerto was done, they offered a fiery account of music from Bizet’s Carmen arranged by Mr. Ceysson himself. The audience justifiably went bananas.

After intermission, Mozart’s Serenade No. 6 featured four string players: Martin Chalifour (Principal Concertmaster), Lyndon Johnston Taylor (Principal 2nd Violin), Teng Li (Principal Viola), and Christopher Hanulik. The “Serenata notturna” treats the quartet as a concertina element amidst a larger string ensemble with timpani. The effect was jovial and charming.

In both works, Mr. Dudamel shaped the music with lively refinement, and the orchestra responded accordingly, providing a rich yet subtle foundation.

Surrounding the Mozart were two more assertive works with colorful, cinematic qualities. I loved them both.

I Still Dance, John Adams’ 2019 work, opened the concert. Its unyielding rhythmic churning seemed like a throwback to earlier works by the LA Phil’s Creative Chair married to a score to a Batman movie chase scene. Orbón’s Tres Versiones Sinfónicas (1953), receiving its first-ever LA Phil performances on this night, rounded things out. The work starts with a horn fanfare (brilliantly played by Principal Andrew Bain) before traversing three movements, each highlighting different sections of the orchestra; Principal Percussion Matthew Howard was excellent on xylophone in the work’s finale. In total, it gave Mr. Dudamel another chance to highlight the LA Phil’s — and Walt Disney Concert Hall’s — world-class stature.

Night One for this new season was a winner. Bring on the rest of it.

Random other thoughts:

  • Earlier this year, I shared (HERE, HERE, and HERE) that four new musicians would be joining the orchestra. The LA Phil officially welcomed them in mid-September. Principal Oboe Marc Lachat, Assistant Principal Timpani and Section Percussion David Riccobono, and Tuba Mason Soria began their tenures with the start of the indoor season, while Associate Principal Bass Kaelan Decman started over the summer.
  • The LA Phil’s website currently lists Mr. Ceysson as “Principal,” though as recently as June, it didn’t, simply noting that he holds the Ann Ronus Chair. The printed program handed out in WDCH also failed to list him as Principal, and none of the artist’s own website or social media give him the fancier title. I’ll have to double check with the orchestra, but guessing the current website is inaccurate.
  • The printed programs handed out in WDCH are notably smaller this year. Not quite as compact as a Playbill, but definitely 1-2″ smaller on each side than they were previously.
  • While this was the first time Messers. Bouriakov and Ceysson appeared together for a Los Angeles Philharmonic subscription concert, the duo has performed together previously. Mid-pandemic, they shared this video of the two of them playing the second movement of Piazzola’s “Histoire du tango” from separate cities:

Photo credits:

  • Denis Bouriakov and Emmanuel Ceysson: courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic

15 thoughts on “The Great Indoors: First LA Phil subscription concert of 2022/23 shows off orchestra members, Walt Disney Concert Hall

  1. For some reason, you also neglected to mention in your otherwise fine review that Christopher Hanulik is LA Phil’s Principal Bass player.


  2. I always look forward to the winter season at WDCH, but this year’s opener was exceptional. Without a guest soloist, it gave a chance for some of our principals to shine. It was especially good to see Mr. Taylor back from his sabbatical taking center stage in the Mozart serenade with his fellow string colleagues (and Mr. Pereira). The Orbón piece was a revelation to me. As you point out, it demonstrates the world-class stature of this orchestra.

    Once again Mr. Dudamel has appointed several exciting and very young players. This is no surprise given his background, but it is still wonderful to see. It plays a large part I feel in maintaining the vitality of the orchestra.

    I was surprised however by the apparent disappearance of Dale Hikawa Silverman. Mr. Ullery continues to be shown as the assistant principal viola, but there is no indication of a vacancy for an associate principal. My apologies if I missed some news, but do you have any insight into this? I’m hoping she is well and happy. She will be missed.


  3. CK, this concert hall, recently opened (rebuilt), cost more than $500 million. This too was recorded on a cell phone. But even with a cell’s technical limits (but also based on certain published comments or reviews), you can already get a sense of what’s going on:


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