Sunday, November 29, 2009

Viva Gustavo

FRIDAY night I was lucky enough to take in the concert Gustavo Dudamel conducted as part of the LA Philharmonic's "West Coast, Left Coast" festival. (The concert was repeated Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.)

I say lucky because not only were we seeing the nation's most exciting young conductor -- albeit one born, raised, and trained in Venezuela -- but a program that made the case, if it still needs to be made, for the West Coast as the site of much of the freshest, most distinct music post-World War II. This weekend that meant Esa-Pekka Salonen's "LA Variations," which seems to me his breakthrough piece, Lou Harrison's Asian-accented, alternate-tuned Piano Concerto, played by Italian phenom Marino Formenti, and John Adams' "City Noir."

The Adams is the newest piece, debuted just last month. Adams is known as a minimalist, and this piece offered some of the genre's use of repetition, but also drew from film noir soundtracks, Gershwin, mid-century West Coast jazz, automobile sounds, and other signifiers of Southland culture. Even by Adams' high standards this was a wonderful piece. (It was inspired by the excellent books of California history by Kevin Starr.)

Here is Mark Swed's LA Times review of the show.

None of this music is an obvious fit conductor Gustavo "The Dude" Dudamel, but he brought it alive. I really wanted to be a detractor on this guy, but he keeps winning me over.

Amazingly, we sat right in front of Adams, who is a very cool guy, Frank Gehry -- who of course designed the hall we were sitting in, and legendary tenor Placido Domingo. Next to us was Phil boss Deborah Bordah. Quite an evening -- and more proof that traditional "high" culture in LA has long come of age. The fact that the show sold out also proves that the audience is on board with the explosion of serious music here.

Photo credit: LA Philharmonic


Milton said...

hhhmmmm, Scott ... You make it sound as if performing music by local composers is "high culture" and "serious music" ... but when Salonen debuted new works by Europeans, it wasn't?

Scott Timberg said...

Of course I dont mean that -- simply that the show highlighted to me how strong a body of non-pop, "serious" music Calif has developed, as well as an audience that gets it.

Milton said...

As a denizen of the region where Adams learned his craft, I was forced to cop that pose!

Scott Timberg said...

As a denizen of the state where Adams, Salonen and Harrison -- all immigrants, as Swed's review highlights -- I was forced to cop the pose of California patriot!