By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.
By any reasonable standard of measurement, the year 2009 was significant from a classical music point of view. One question about 2010 is whether the year now ending represents a high-water mark or whether next year marks the dawn of a bright new age.
Locally, the Pasadena Symphony scrambled away from the precipice of financial disaster, resuming its interrupted season in January with a triumphant “Resurrection” concert and cautiously moving forward. Its sister group, the Pasadena Pops, found a place at the Rose Bowl in which to perform its summer concerts beginning in June. However, there’s still a lot of work remaining to be done before the group can take a deep breath. The PSO’s next concert is Jan. 16 at the Pasadena Civic featuring Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with British pianist Howard Shelley returning as soloist.
The Rio Hondo Symphony began its 77th season of free concerts (a remarkable achievement in itself) by welcoming a new music director, Kimo Furumoto. Attendance continues to be strong and the board continues to be willing; can they keep it up? The next RHS concert is Feb. 28.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic sent one music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, into retirement with a series of magnificent “farewell” concerts and eagerly welcomed 28-year-old Venezuelan wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel as Salonen’s successor. They opened with mesmerizing performances at Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall, harbingers — one hopes — of glories to come.
Ticket sales continue to be a concern at the Philharmonic, along with virtually every other organization. Seats for the initial wave of Dudamel concerts were basically sold out but “the Dude” doesn’t return to L.A. until April and, in the meantime, seats are plentiful for nearly all concerts in the interregnum.
Part of that conundrum comes from high prices; Phil tickets begin at $42.50 and skyrocket upward from there. However, there are bargains to be found. Many of the concerts offer bench seats (directly behind the orchestra) for $17, They offer a unique perspective from which to see and hear a concert and are available two weeks in advance of some concerts; check the box office for details. Seniors (age 62 and over) and students can get bargains on the day of most concerts. The Phil, of course, isn’t alone in struggling with this critical issue but it’s a problem that isn’t going away.
The LAPO resumes concerts at Disney Hall on Jan. 7, 8 and 10 when Bramwell Tovey leads the orchestra in Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 2 (A London Symphony) and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with André Watts as soloist.
Los Angeles Opera presented the first three segments of its Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle last year, delivering excellent work from Music Director James Conlon and the LAO Orchestra, mostly strong singing and a dynamic, albeit somewhat quirky, staging from German director Achim Freyer. The final segment, Gotterdamerung, will be mounted beginning April 3 and the entire cycle will be produced three times beginning May 28, June 8 and June 18.
The Ring has put significant financial strains on L.A. Opera (it had to negotiate a $14.5 million bridge cash-flow loan this month with the help of Los Angeles County) but The Ring will be completed and the company hopes there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll have more to say about The Ring in coming months, but now is the time for you to get tickets for one of the cycles. Seeing the four operas over an eight-day span is how Wagner envisioned them and, given that your lodging, meals and transportation costs will be negligible, you’ll never have a more cost-effective way of seeing The Ring than in Los Angeles in 2010.
Happy New Year — see you at a concert sometime!
(c) Copyright 2009, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.