Colorado St., Glendale, December 10—
HERE WE ARE IN Glendale, on one of our semi-annual visits for theatergoing. We usually arrive the first weekend of December and another weekend in mid- or late April: in that way we can see all but one of the (usually) seven productions given each year by A Noise Within, a professional repertory company that's rewarded us more often than not.
This time we're staying a week, the only way to see three plays. Scheduling these things must be tough, and my hat's off to whoever does it, but I do rather wish we didn't have to spend quite so many days here. Still, it gives us a chance to catch up on other things: gardens, restaurants, museums, and, this time, concerts.
Except to mention that this fall's Hamlet was a wonderful production, I'll hold off on comments on the plays. We still have one to see tomorrow night — an adaptation of Oliver Twist — and the other two have closed by the time you read this. Instead, let me report on a couple of concerts of new music.
We'd hoped to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic under its newly announced next music director, Gustavo Dudamel; there was an afternoon performance on Sunday, with György Kurtág's Stélé, Mozart's A Major piano concerto K. 488, and Strauss's Alpine Symphony. I didn't want to hear the Strauss; I heard Herbert Blomstedt conduct this orchestra in it years ago, and having walked across a small part of the mountains myself last summer I knew Strauss's view of the terrain was not mine. In any case the concert had sold out long since: Dudamel is a big draw.
We did however go to a Monday Evening Concert, on Monday naturally, down the street at the Colburn School. On paper it was a fascinating survey of "new music through the ages," juxtaposing 15th-c. music and a Tombeau sur la mort de M. Blancheroche by the 17th-c. Johann Jacob Froberger with new and recent work. In the end the entire concert seemed dead to me, partly because of the relatively unvaried response of its audiencee, enthusiastic about everything it heard, partly because of the monotonous effect if the performances of the 15th-c. selections (which were probably, in fact, the most interesting pieces on the program); mostly because to the ear, if not the eye, the concert program simply didn't make sense — it was a survey, not a composition.
I write the above after having read the review, by Mark Swed, in the Los Angeles Times. I know and like Mark and was saddened by his comments, which seemed to skim the surface of the concert. It's worth noting that the online version of his review is followed by a very thoughtful response by Barbara Moroncini. The Times is in trouble, as are most daily newspapers, and I hope whatever emerges to replace it and them as public media will continue to make such exchanges accessible.
LAST NIGHT WE RETURNED to downtown Los Angeles, this time to the new Frank Gehry Disney Hall, to hear a "Green Umbrella" concert, produced by the new-music wing of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This was a complete success: solid and attractive pieces chosen to illustrate a theme — and, like the Monday Evening Concert, serving to initiate a season. Again, the audience was large and enthusiastic: but in the larger, acoustically persuasive but visually distracting Disney Hall they seemed somehow less automatic, more discerning than they had Monday night. (There was probably considerable overlap.)