A LETTER FROM Los Angeles: In Our Series Exploring the Range of Music-Making in North America, Laurence Vittes Reports from California

By Vittes, Laurence | Gramophone, June 2019 | Go to article overview

A LETTER FROM Los Angeles: In Our Series Exploring the Range of Music-Making in North America, Laurence Vittes Reports from California


Vittes, Laurence, Gramophone


With the July 9 opening of the Hollywood Bowl on the horizon, LA's classical music season hurtles to a close, becoming more youth-orientated, more culturally diverse, decentralised and expansive, with a flourishing new music scene.

The city also seems to have turned a corner on how to build a classical music community in a city laid out over such vast distances and without robust public transportation. The answer may lie in the many series and home concerts springing up to satisfy and create local demand, whose growth fuels the interest in bigger theatres and performing arts centres.

The season started in September with an eight-mile street party entertained by 1800 musicians, artists and dancers, connecting the LA Philharmonic's two homes: Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown and the Hollywood Bowl eight miles north on the 110 Freeway. The evening ended with a free concert at the Bowl, with Gustavo Dudamel and LA Phil plus pop stars Katy Perry, Herbie Hancock and Kali Uchis. Also on hand was Dudamel's baby, the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, for whom Frank Gehry designed a new hall in Inglewood, half an hour south of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where a new stadium is going up for the professional American football team, the Los Angeles Rams.

April started as Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla kept the LA Phil together heart and soul with a wildly passionate Patricia Kopatchinskaja in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, and produced sonic miracles with the premiere of Unsuk Chin's SPIRA, A Concerto for Orchestra, a tour de force with a Wizard of Oz sensibility in which two vibraphones played pivotal roles. Later in April Esa-Pekka Salonen returned to his old haunts with two concerts of Stravinsky: Funeral Song, Agon, The Rite of Spring, Orpheus and Persephone, the last in a staging by Peter Sellars. Meanwhile, after celebrating their 50th birthday last year, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra rounded out the month by performing Mozart's Requiem under their incoming new music director, Jaime Martin.

On the Westside, Carlos Izcaray, the young Venezuelan conductor of the American Youth Orchestra, who had performed a programme titled 'The Year of the Woman' in March, made a pledge: 'From now on, 50 per cent or more of new music performed by the youth orchestra will be the work of female composers. These are already composers that I follow,' Izcaray said, singling out Joan Tower and Jennifer Higdon. The conductorless orchestra Kaleidoscope, which in March played a programme combining works by Alison Yun-Fei Jiang, Meilina Tsui, George Walker, Anna Pidgorna and Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade with Brahms, in May held the final rounds of its 2019 instrumental and vocal competitions.

LA's chamber music situation, which has slipped in recent years, recently received a much-needed boost in the form of Chamber Music LA, a collective of eight organisations based in the city: Camerata Pacifica, The Colburn School, The Da Camera Society, Jacaranda Music, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Martin Haselbock's period ensemble Musica Angelica--which in April performed Bach's St Matthew Passion--Pittance Chamber Music and Salastina Music Society. …

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