Posts Tagged ‘LA Philharmonic’

Artistic Capital of North America???

la-arts-monthIs Los Angeles really the “arts capital of North America?” How about “the world?” According to Steve Rountree (President of The Music Center), Antonio R. Villaraigosa (Mayor of Los Angeles), Olga Garay (Executive Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs for the city of Los Angeles), and many others in attendance at Wednesday’s kick-off for the 3rd Annual LA Arts Month—which took place outside, between the Music Center and the Ahmanson Theatre—it is. Which brings to mind another question: if you repeat something enough times, and you really believe it in your heart of hearts, does it start to become true?

Los Angeles Arts Month—or January, as most people know it—was put together three years ago in an effort to promote tourism and encourage artistic community engagement. And from what I gather—although it was difficult to ascertain during the afternoon’s strange launch party, which included a Glee-like performance from the Hollywood High School Choir and a body-bending tidbit from this coming summer’s Cirque du Soleil show at the Kodak—it’s essentially a couple ticket give-aways, free museum entries, and of course, lots of media coverage.

Of course, any Angeleno—no matter how prideful—who’s ever been to New York will tell you Los Angeles is not the artistic capital of North America. And anyone who’s ever been to most any major city in Western Europe will scoff at the notion that Los Angeles is the artistic capital of the world. Don’t get me wrong: I spend a lot of time supporting and enjoying LA’s enormous, eclectic, and vibrant arts scene, but I would never claim it to be any more than it is—which, at least on the government-supported side of things, is struggling.

25 full-time positions, between last year and this year, were eliminated in the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA); grants and donations to the DCA decreased significantly from 2009 to 2010; the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), responsible for a quarter of the Department’s entire budget, was decreased by approximately $1.6 million; and the expenses for the coming year are projected to be about $0.7 million more than last year.

And these numbers are not just numbers. They actually do affect our city in a major way. The DCA, through grants, is responsible for producing over 400 free or low-cost exhibitions, classes, performances, film screenings, and festivals each year. So all those times you go out to a cool, free event at LACE or LA Theatre Works or the Echo Park Film Center or even make the trip downtown to MOCA or the LA Philharmonic, you can thank the DCA. Not only that, but they provide grants to over 25 individual artists each year, they uphold historic sites like the Watts Towers, and they make sure those many murals all over town stay in tact.

So, if the DCA is in trouble, why all the bravado? Well, on one hand, there is a significant amount of money coming in through grant awards. These include the Arts and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. stimulus), Pacific Standard Time (an award to fund a massive collaboration of over 50 exhibitions throughout the city designed to show off Los Angeles’s contribution to modern art), and the Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative (a plan to install affordable artist housing in Downtown LA). On the other hand, it may have more to do with what I mentioned before—that the illusion of a thriving artistic capital (much like the illusion of easy weightlessness created by the Cirque du Soleil dancer as she balanced her entire body on top of her chin) is less challenging than the reality of a city that’s come a long way, but must still use every practiced muscle in its body to pull off the act.

- By Joshua Morrison

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Posted in Art, Contemporary Art, Downtown, Exhibitions, Festival, Music, Neighborhoods, Performance, The Social Scene, Theatre, World Music No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Zacharias! Zacharias! Ticket Giveaway to LA Phil!

WDCH-ImageOccasionally a friend—and even more occasionally, a date—will get in the passenger seat of my car and I’ll turn on the radio. Like most LA commuters, I spend most of my car-time alone, with the windows up, free to listen to whatever cool or un-cool music I  please, and the probability of the radio being tuned into Classical KUSC is quite high. For me, classical music is choice on a long trip down the 10 if only because it’s so unfathomable. Most pop and hip-hop music, though enjoyable and satisfying its own right, I can deconstruct. I can imagine the songwriting process, and in my limited musical ability, fathom the instrumentation. There’s little wonder involved; it’s more nostalgia and/or primal reaction.

But for most friends or dates, the mere sound of strings without vocals or brass without beat incites a confused reaction. They look at me like I’m a pretentious ass, as if just before they entered the car, I had switched the radio station to KUSC, then turned it off so as to trick them into thinking how cultured I really am.

The truth is I am just as confused as they are. Listening to classical music is a slow and constant learning process, at least for me, and I often struggle with what makes these so-called masters—these Beethovens, the Bachs, these Mozarts—what makes them so good. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I went to my first symphony voluntarily, that I realized the answer: you have to see it live.

And fortunately for you, our dear and patient reader, FineArtsLA is giving you that chance—for free, no less—to experience all three of the big names listed above (well, almost) in one night. This Saturday, October 30th, 8:00 PM at Walt Disney Music Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, world-renowned conductor and celebrated pianist Christian Zacharias leads the LA Philharmonic and mega-mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in a program featuring all music composed within 53 years.  Mozart’s “Ch’io mi scordi di te?“, C.P.E Bach’s “Keyboard Concerto in D Minor,” and Beethoven’s “Suite from The Creatures of Prometheus” make up the bill. All you have to do is enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below, and you will be eligible to receive two free tickets to this event (as well as be automatically entered into the running for our next three ticket giveaways).

This way, when your friend or date gives you that confused look when you turn on the radio to KUSC, you can simply say, “This is Beethoven. The music we’re headed to go see.”

- By Joshua Morrison

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Posted in Art, Classical Music, Downtown, Extra! Extra!, Music, Neighborhoods, Opera, Performance, Personalities, Tickets, Voice No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Ticket Giveaway to see All-Star George Gershwin Tribute!

george_gershwinBy far one of the greatest opening sequences of any film ever made is Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Yes, it’s the photography, the voice-over narration, the shots of New York City at its finest, but more than anything, it’s George Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue.” The undertow of buzzing clarinet and twinkling piano, combined with the slow, celebratory build of the entire orchestra induces a simultaneous feeling of hopeful anticipation and relaxed confidence. In Gershwin’s own words: “I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness.”

No, no. Too expected. Too pretentious. Calls too much attention to the movie. Try it again.

By far one of the best pieces of music to completely and flawlessly capture the essence of an entire season is “Summertime,” by George Gershwin. Originally conceived for the ‘folk-opera,’ Porgy and Bess, the aria—which has been covered more times than “Blackbird”—manages to somehow smell like summer. You need an iced tea when you hear it. And what better time, what better place than the Hollywood Bowl

No. Just get to the point, Josh. You’re supposed to be giving away tickets. That’s all people care about. Just do your job.

This Wednesday, August 25th at 8:00 PM at the Hollywood Bowl, the LA Philharmonic presents Gershwin Across America, an all-star, all-genre tribute to the legendary composer and upcoming CD of the same name. Artists include Jason Mraz, Monica Mancini (daughter of film composer Henry Mancini), gospel singer Bebe Winans, Grammy Award-winning Nancy Wilson), St. Vincent (for the hipster fetishists among us), and an accompanying big band and strings section feautring the Shelly Berg Trio, Gordon Goodwin, Tom Scott, Arturo Sandoval and more.

To win two tickets to this summertime rhapsody of sorts, all you have to do is enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below,and you will automatically be entered into the running for this concert, as well as our next three ticket giveaways.

I guess that’s good enough. Why make a blog longer than it needs to be? Why even write these things? God, it’s hot out… I wish I could play the piano…

- By Joshua Morrison

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Posted in Art, Classical Music, Extra! Extra!, Hollywood, Jazz, Music, Musical Theatre, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, Tickets No Comments »

From Bell and Bringuier to Mephistopheles in One Night

Joshua Bell, the George Clooney of the violin world, has a swagger.  The problem with his swagger, though, is that he actually has the goods to back it up; he talks the talk and walks the classical music walk.  You can see him in action with the LA Philharmonic this weekend under the direction of Lionel Bringuier.

Assistant music director for the LA Phil, Bringuier conducts as if he’s having a conversation with both the musicians and their instruments.  He conveys each feeling just before the musicians do and with each sad, beautiful violin chord, he looks as if he’ll cry right along with you.

The concert leaves behind canonical Mozart or Bach and instead features enticing and lasting works by Maurice Ravel, Edouard Lalo, Florent Schmitt, and Franz Liszt.  Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso  opens the performance on a disjointed, yet powerful and beautiful note.  Lasting all of eight minutes, it’s not long before Joshua Bell graces us with his presence and performs Lalo’s Symphonie espangole  that, throughout its five sections, has plenty of opportunities for Bell to impress.  Bell’s animated movements (along with his silky, brunette locks) compliment his style of play so well – he commands the violin to communicate his emotion and the audience, in turn, becomes enthralled.  Lalo’s Symphonie espangole is jovial, light, and calmer than the other pieces and has a clear focus on instrumentality.

Following Bell’s dramatic exit, the LA Phil performs Florent Schmitt’s La tragedie de Salome , which undoubtedly steals the show.  Without meaning to trump Bell’s performance, Schmitt utilizes the entire orchestra throughout most of his piece and the result is an overwhelming, intense beauty; the kind of music you let just wash over you.  Lastly is Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 , which is haunting, strong, and inspired by the German story of Faust – a man who strikes a deal with the devil in return for knowledge.  The legend of Faust has been used by composers such as Liszt, Berlioz, Beethoven, and Wagner, by such writers as Goethe and Thomas Mann, and in such films as F.W. Murnau’s Faust and the recent V for Vendetta. Liszt’s Waltz doesn’t spell the story out for you, but it’s a clear display of his focus on and love of individual instrumentality.

The highlight of the evening, for some, was Joshua Bell’s encore performance during which he played “Yankee Doodle” in every way imaginable.  He moved quickly, slowly, and through every octave a violin is capable of in an impressive show of creative ability. My money is still on Florent Schmitt, though.  I have a feeling that guy’s got a whole new level of posthumous celebrity coming to him.

 

Joshua Bell and Lionel Bringuier’s concerts continue tonight (Friday, April 24), Saturday, April 25, and Sunday, April 26 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  For more information, please call (323) 850-2000.

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