On Friday and Sunday, Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct the LA Phil in Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” the very piece that he chose for the first public concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall in October 2003. Salonen, now in his final season with the Phil, has often revisited Stravinsky’s work over the past 17 years. He explained his fascination with the Russian composer at a press event last year when he said, “I know he is the heart of all that is new in the music of the last century and this century.”
In 1913, “The Rite of Spring” was revolutionary. The ballet about a pagan ritual of human sacrifice with dissonant music and unconventional dance movement actually caused a riot at its premiere. Perhaps that is a common response to genius ahead of its time, as “The Rite of Spring” has proven to be one of the most important compositions that exists. Leading the orchestra in this incredibly complicated and rousing piece, the 50-year-old Finnish conductor will show that his passion for music is no less fiery than incoming music director 27-year-old Gustavo Dudamel.
Salonen’s programming, the sound of the orchestra, and the architecturally and acoustically magnificent Disney Hall (which Salonen played an important role in bringing to fruition by working closely with architect Frank Gehry) have brought the Phil to the elevated place where it now stands. In January 2006, The New York Times wrote that LA was overtaking NY as the symphonic capital of the nation.
Salonen ends his tenure with eight concerts in April, but you’ll only be able to hear “The Rite of Spring” this weekend. If you miss it, there’s a disc with a live recording in the gift shop. It’s a rare chance to own a CD featuring Salonen and the Phil at Disney Hall.
Friday, Jan. 16, 8 pm
Sunday, Jan. 18, 2 pm
Also on the program: Leos Janacek’s “Sinfonietta” and the world premiere of Louis Andriessen’s “The Hague Hacking”
On tap Thursday and Saturday is the West Coast premiere of fellow Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s “La Passion de Simone,” directed by Peter Sellars with dance and voice, including soprano Dawn Upshaw and the LA Master Chorale.
Thursday, Jan. 15, 8 pm
Saturday, Jan. 17, 8 pm
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000, www.laphil.com