Los Angeles Music Review: LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE: 50TH SEASON CELEBRATION (Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on October 5, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

WORDS FAIL TO EXPRESS THE TRIUMPH

When one of the finest chorales in the world offers a musical compendium from their last five decades, one expects a sterling program. Yet the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 50th Season Celebration at Disney Hall went beyond mere expectation. LAMC cleverly compiled signature works heard under the leadership of Roger Wagner (music director 1964-1986), John Currie (1986-1991), Paul Salamunovich (1991-2001) and current leader since 2001, Grant Gershon, and the result was a lavish aural buffet.

Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 50th Season Celebration at Disney Hall, conducted by Music Director Grant Gershon.

Yet with 25 selections, adjectives begin to lose their meaning. While some of the selections were reminiscent of the type of Wagner material which was seemingly created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating tastes (the kitschy “Western Songs”), it is fair to say that they were never sung better. Gershon’s task was to celebrate and pay homage to the chorale’s history, so the schizophrenic mix inadvertently highlighted how much sophistication he has brought to the chorus during his reign. As such, familiar works such as Duruflé’s arrangement of “Ubi Caritas” (conducted by Lesley Leighton) and Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” exposed Gershon’s uncanny ability to blend tone, spirit and panache, a sound that makes LAMC unique. The flawless talent and fluid blend of the singers themselves was emphasized in Tallis’s extraordinarily difficult “Spem in alium,” written in 1570 for eight choirs of five voices each (yes, that’s 40 parts).

Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 50th Season Celebration at Disney Hall, conducted by Music Director Grant Gershon.

Thus, with jazz, spirituals, commissioned works, standards, chants and more, my notebook became a scribbled mess of “glorious,” “succinct,” “dynamic” and other superlatives that attempted to turn an emotionally overwhelming experience and chorale history lesson into words that defined what is nearly undefinable. “Rejoice” from Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil proved that observing the chorale is practically a religious experience and Disney Hall has become their temple. The pinnacle of this transcendent concert occurred during the finale: 100 alumni of the chorale filled the aisles and joined the current members for Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia.”

Fortunately, I don’t need an adjective for this moment; it was an epiphany.

Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 50th Season Celebration at Disney Hall, conducted by Music Director Grant Gershon.

photos by David Johnstone

Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 50th Season Celebration
Walt Disney Concert Hall
for future LAMC events, call 213-972-7282 or visit http://www.lamc.org

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