A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Esa-Pekka Salonen and Emanuel Ax / photo courtesy of LA Phil

Esa-Pekka Salonen and Emanuel Ax / photo courtesy of LA Phil

Ah, the days after Thanksgiving are a great time to spend some quality time with family and friends, and that is just what the Los Angeles Philharmonic is doing this post-holiday weekend, giving us Angelenos a great opportunity to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime program at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen returns for three concerts with pianist Emanuel Ax, soprano Hila Plitmann and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, backed by the LA Phil and LA Master Chorale.  The program includes Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2 and his Piano Concerto No. 2 fronting a new world premiere, Sirens, by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg.

Leonore is dramatically dark and dissonant with a classic orchestra of woodwinds, brass, timpani and strings, and was first played by the Phil with conductor Otto Klemperer back in 1934.  I certainly didn’t hear the first one, but Salonen and the modern Phil will make it interesting.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 is orchestrated for a smaller orchestra of strings and only a few winds.  This Beethoven was also performed in the 1930s by Klemperer with pianist Webster Aitken.  Internationally acclaimed soloist and recording artist Emanuel Ax is another close friend of the LA Phil, and this performance may well fall in the category of your “greatest sonic life events.”

Sirens was commissioned by the LA Phil and is dedicated to Esa-Pekka Salonen and in memory of Betty Freeman.  The orchestration is large, and the LA Master Chorale will supply the ethereal and irresistible voices.  Ulysses’ encounter with the Sirens in Homer’s The Odyssey is surely a rich opportunity for dramatic expressions.  Hillborg described the chilling culminating scene in which the “Sirens’ true monstrous identity is revealed, as their powerful singing gradually transforms into horrendous screaming, the mirage/hallucination dissolves and all reverts back to calm sea, as Ulysses’ vessel sails out of danger.”

Culture Spot LA can hardly think of a better way to follow the Thanksgiving holiday, and we hope to find you too resting in calm seas after this drama-drenched program.

Friday, Nov. 25, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 26, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 27, 2 p.m.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 South Grand Avenue, LA

Tickets:  Call (323) 850-2000, or visit www.laphil.com.

Lucinda Carver, pianist, harpsichordist, conductor and professor at the USC Thornton School of Music will host Upbeat Live one hour before each concert.  Listen to Upbeat Live from your phone: dial (605) 475-4333, enter the access code 184648, and listen to the preconcert show at 7 p.m. on your way to the performance.

~Theodore Bell/Culture Spot LA

Culture Spot LA recommends Jim Eninger’s Clickable Chamber Music Newsletter, an extensive calendar of upcoming music events, large and small, happening all around Los Angeles.