It’s a big week for orchestras in O.C. and L.A.
The New York Philharmonic visits for the first time with music director Alan Gilbert. They perform Tuesday night in Segerstrom Concert Hall (closing out the Philharmonic Society’s season there) and Wednesday night in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Both programs have something to offer, though frustrate as well.
On Tuesday, Gilbert and the Phil perform three pieces that I consider among my favorites, all featuring sparkling orchestrations: Berlioz’s Le Corsaire Overture, Debussy’s La Mer and Ravel’s La Valse. Yefim Bronfman arrives for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. And while I look forward to hearing him playing it, I would much rather have heard Magnus Lindberg’s new piano concerto (his second), which Bronfman and the Phil will play in L.A. the next day (a concert I most likely won’t get to.) The Lindberg in O.C. would have made good sense too, since during its season the Philharmonic Society featured American orchestras that played substantial contemporary pieces (by Bates, Higdon and Saariaho).
And while the Disney Hall performance will include the Lindberg, it surrounds it with a pair of over-familiar works — Dvorak’s “Carnival” Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. (Here’s Martin Bernheimer’s review of the same program, played Thursday in New York.)
Thursday through Saturday, Carl St.Clair and the Pacific Symphony take on Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, always a pleasure to hear. And yet, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a satisfactory live performance of it. I can only assume it’s difficult to pull off. It seems to me that a successful traversal of it requires a combination of factors not very often encountered. It needs to feel inevitable, like a train on rails, like a machine. But the machine plays folk music. So, it has to be a warm and gracious machine. My favorite recording manages it — this one, by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.
St.Clair and his musicians add a new piece by Narong Prangcharoen (who once won the orchestra’s American Composers Competition, which included audience voting) and Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (a piece we haven’t heard in a long while) with the young American pianist Andrew von Oeyen as soloist.
And Gustavo Dudamel is back. Sort of. He dropped out of the Green Umbrella concert on Tuesday, citing the need to concentrate on John Adams’ new oratorio, “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” which he will premiere with the L.A. Phil later this month.
Thursday and Saturday, though, Dudamel leads the orchestra in Mozart’s “Figaro” Overture and “Posthorn” Serenade, which sandwich Peteris Vasks’ violin concerto “Distant Light” (with Alina Pogostkina). Next week, it’s “Don Giovanni.”
Thanks to a colleague, I have Wednesday and Friday off from the celeb column, so I’ll be able to review the New York Philharmonic on Tuesday and the Pacific Symphony on Thursday.