Review: ‘Premiere of Samuel’s Apollo and Hyacinth’, December 6, 1989

(This is one of my earliest reviews for the Los Angeles Times; I was 29 years old, hired as a freelancer just a couple of months before. I remember a few things about this review — one was a bungle. I neglected to mention, because I was unaware, that Gerhard Samuel had served as an associate conductor under Zubin Mehta at the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the early 70s. I received a slightly scolding note for the omission from my boss, Martin Bernheimer, a day or two later, and felt hurt by it. Another thing I remember is how darned difficult it was to write these short reviews of new music concerts. Last, I recall receiving a glowing letter in response to the review from the poet Jack Larson, who provided the texts for two of the works on the concert. Larson, most famous for playing Jimmy Olsen on the old Superman television series, later became a serious poet and librettist, and he collaborated with Virgil Thomson on the opera “Lord Byron.”  Well, what do you know, in his letter, Mr. Larson equated my writing with Thomson’s criticism, and I was over the moon. –TM)

Music Review : Premiere of Samuel’s ‘Apollo and Hyacinth’
December 06, 1989|TIMOTHY MANGAN
The celebration of composer/conductor Gerhard Samuel’s 65th birthday was no retiring affair. Taking part in his own birthday tribute, Samuel conducted three of his own works, including a world premiere, for an appreciative gathering in Bing Theater at the County Museum of Art on the latest Monday Evening Concert.

On the first half, the German-born American composer led 14 members of the MEC Ensemble in the premiere of his “Apollo and Hyacinth,” a brief programmatic work in five sections that vividly captures the Greek legend.

It begins with a hymn in the upper register of the woodwinds and bells that slowly intertwines in ethereal dissonances. The music builds to an outpouring of melody, which nevertheless is delicately, airily scored. Then, isolated sustained tones float throughout the ensemble, eventually congealing into a coherent swirl, and the piece ends in mid-air with the cut-off of a rising line. It is a complex though readily accessible score, brightly colored, elegant and graceful.

Read more…

Review: ‘Pair Skillfully Meet Musical Challenge,’ January 12, 1998

(When I was a freelance contributor to the Los Angeles Times in the late 80s and 90s, I must have written hundreds of short concert reviews like the one below — 6 to 8 column inches in length. It’s an interesting challenge, writing so short, and I think I became fairly skilled at it. At any rate, note that this review, from 20 years ago, is of a recital by two student performers. Newspapers no longer cover the classical music beat to this extent, and that’s a shame. –TM)

Music Review
Pair Skillfully Meet Musical Challenge
January 12, 1998|TIMOTHY MANGAN
Two young talents, violinist Radu Pieptea and pianist Alpin Hong, were featured Friday night in a duo-recital at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall.

Both past winners of Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards (in 1996 and 1994, respectively) and largely trained locally, these musicians showed technical proficiency and musical resolve in a demanding program. Neither is skittish of the big works. Despite the rain, a sizable, supportive audience turned out.

Read more…

Review: Previn at the LA Phil, January 1992

(Here’s another one of my reviews from olden days, written as a freelancer for the Los Angeles Times. Notice the date: What many of us forget is that Previn actually returned to conduct the orchestra after his acrimonious departure from the position of its music director. This review isn’t as sassy as my recently shared Perlman review, but it’s pointed. –TM)

MUSIC REVIEW : Previn Leads Philharmonic ‘Nutcracker’ at Pavilion
January 18, 1992|TIMOTHY MANGAN
Conductors usually get what they ask for. Trouble is, Andre Previn didn’t seem to ask for much Thursday.

On the podium, he was pretty much the traffic cop. Expressive gestures were few, cues for entrances and beat patterns soberly laid out. He often looked bored–and the playing, not surprisingly, reflected this. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Read more…

Review: Itzhak Perlman in recital, March 1995

(I wrote this slam as a freelancer for the Los Angeles Times in 1995 and was subsequently assigned to review Perlman twice more that same year. I would never write a review in such a bratty manner these days — I was obviously trying to prove something, to out-Bernheimer, Martin Bernheimer, my boss — but it does make for entertaining reading. –TM)

MUSIC AND DANCE REVIEWS : Perlman-Lite at Wadsworth Theater
March 06, 1995|TIMOTHY MANGAN

It has been shown, under strict laboratory conditions, that rats fed large and consistent doses of margarine (in tandem with electrical stimuli to certain cerebral zones) actually come to prefer the taste of the oily substitute over the real thing.

Similarly, Itzhak Perlman played a recital Saturday night at a packed Wadsworth Theater. He exhumed his usual shtick. He executed his usual violinistic tricks. He gave his usual lukewarm interpretations of serious music and genial interpretations of light music. Almost everyone was happy.

The outer portions of the program listed two potentially potent names: Schnittke and Bartok. But, true to form, Perlman managed to find the pieces with the highest sugar content in each of their oeuvres , the Suite in the Old Style and the Romanian Folk Dances, respectively. He played both with careless aplomb and sticky sweetness. He may have not gotten a couple of the jokes in the Schnittke.

Sandwiched between were the Third Sonatas of Debussy and Brahms. He seemed entirely to miss the Debussy, its Frenchness, its curtly cut phrases, its volatility, the steeliness of its colors. He sounded adequately attentive to the Brahms, gooping up its low- and middle-register lyricism, going teary-eyed up high. Semblances. The “Presto agitato” finale became “Allegro moderato slightly upset.”

As a bonus, he added three of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. His accompanist, Janet Goodman Guggenheim, offered clarity and cleanliness, and sometimes more point than her soloist.

At encore-time proper, Perlman plumbed the depths of “Schindler’s List, Theme From,” Tchaikovsky’s Scherzo, a Chopin/Kreisler Mazurka and Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen.” The crowd oohed and aahed as if he were a trapeze artist. A few of us rats still prefer butter, though.

Happy New Year

Carlos Kleiber conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the “Radetzky March” by Johann Strauss I.

‘Christmas Every Day’ by William Dean Howells

(A great Christmas story that you don’t know. I hope you enjoy.)

Christmas Every Day

By William Dean Howells

THE little girl came into her papa’s study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:

“Well, once there was a little pig–”

She stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig-stories till she was perfectly sick of them.

“Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?”

“About Christmas. It’s getting to be the season.”

“Well!” Her papa roused himself. “Then I’ll tell you about the little girl that wanted it Christmas every day in the year. How would you like that?”

“First-rate!” said the little girl; and she nestled into comfortable shape in his lap, ready for listening.

“Very well, then, this little pig–Oh, what are you pounding me for?”

“Because you said little pig instead of little girl.”

“I should like to know what’s the difference between a little pig and a little girl that wanted it Christmas every day!”

“Papa!” said the little girl warningly. At this her papa began to tell the story.

Read more…

Trombonist/conductor/composer Christian Lindberg’s daily routine

I still like this.

Esa-Pekka Salonen named music director of the San Francisco Symphony

Esa-Pekka Salonen. Photo by Andrew Eccles

In a surprise announcement, the San Francisco Symphony named Esa-Pekka Salonen its next music director, effective September 2020. He is named music director designate, effective immediately, and will conduct the orchestra in January. He succeeds Michael Tilson Thomas.

The announcement is a surprise for many reasons, especially since Salonen has been pursued by several major orchestras in the past, and turned the offers down. What’s more, in an interview in the early 2000s, he told me he’d never accept another music directorship after he left the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and he has stuck to that pledge. (His position with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra is less taxing than a full music directorship.)

In the press release, Salonen even addressed these questions:

“I wasn’t looking for another Music Directorship. I am so proud of the work we did together at the Swedish Radio Orchestra, at the LA Philharmonic, and at the Philharmonia Orchestra, and that those organizations where I’ve held music director titles thrive without me gives me great joy. But there was a ‘no brainer’ aspect to this that I’ve been fortunate to have experienced a few times before in my career, so I know it when I see it. The San Francisco Symphony is an ensemble and an organization at the top of their game, renowned for their interpretations of masterpieces and unafraid to treat new works the same way. They have had the powerhouse combination of Michael’s exacting musicality and freedom of spirit for 25 years: a legacy I’m privileged to inherit. “

The full press release is below. There’s more news in it.

Read more…

Classical music playlist for Thanksgiving

Read more…

Review: Choral Arts Initiative

Review: Living Composers Reign During Choral Arts Initiative Concert. Voice of OC, Nov. 13, 2018.

%d bloggers like this: