Los Angeles Music Preview: A NORDIC PROGRAM WITH BOREYKO & HAHN (LA Phil at Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on January 31, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

A SCRUMPTIOUS SCANDINAVIAN FEAST

Russian conductor Andrey Boreyko arrives at Disney Hall this weekend for a contemplative and vivid Nordic program with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The returning conductor will be united with the phenomenal Hilary Hahn, who consistently offers a captivating combination of classiness, élan, ferocity, concentration and shading. She will be playing Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto in its first-ever rendition by the LA Phil. Also on the program are the U.S. premiere of Anders Hillborg’s King Tide and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

Carl NielsenDanish composer Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto continues to loop the boundaries of the repertoire; while it certainly isn’t obscure, the 1911, 35-minute work has not been played quite enough to be considered standard. This isn’t to say that both Nielsen and his Concerto don’t deserve to be heard. Nielsen was fundamentally a Brahmsian Romantic, and you will hear that in the Concerto’s capacious sound, teeming with melodic expression and lyricism. Yet Nielsen, the closest Denmark has come to a standard-repertoire composer, wrote this at a time when composers were well into a new century that was giving rise to radical new sounds; his Concerto was written in the same year as Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka and Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales.

You will wonder yourself why the Concerto isn’t performed more often. Perhaps Nielsen was grudgingly dragging himself into the twentieth century: While romantic sensations and formal classicism can be heard, there are mysterious feelings in the score with elusive shading and meaning, which are not qualities known to appeal to the masses. It’s also an unpredictable work, which can turn sharply from a warm breeze to chilly tempestuousness.

Hilary HahnI have heard Hahn perform this before, and this is definitely something to be heard live. The demanding piece requires virtuoso technical skill from a violinist who must play practically non-stop. Obviously, she has the energy, but her expansive sound will blow you away. Most amazing is her instantaneous transformation from intense to intimate, matching the way that Nielsen seems to simultaneously embrace and thumb his nose at modernism.

Jean SibeliusEqually a praiseworthy successor of the Romantic tradition is Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. As with Shostakovich, scholars consistently take apart his works to deem what political implications were behind his magnificent symphonies. Sibelius repudiated that these works were pure absolute music. We do know that, like Beethoven, he adored nature, and the Finnish landscape often served as inspiration. His 45-minute Second Symphony, which premiered in 1902, contains the colors of the outdoors: The Romantic aspects add the balminess of a summer’s day, but dark and ferocious sections bring to mind the harsh winters of Scandanavia. It’s telling that he began constructing the piece in a sun-drenched seaside town in Italy and completed it in his native land.

Conductor Andrey BoreykoAlso on the program is yet another U.S. premiere from LA Phil. Anders Hillborg (b. 1954) may not be a household name here, but he is one of Sweden’s leading composers. He should also be familiar to LA Phil audiences: Both his Eleven Gates and Sirens premiered at Disney Hall, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonic’s erstwhile music director and now its conductor laureate. A long-time friend and colleague of Hillborg, Salonen noted the characteristic contrasts in Hillborg’s music: “…the static and the hyperactive, the mechanical and the human, the nobly beautiful and the banally brutal, the comic and the moving. Almost never sentimental, but surreal in a way – like Dalí’s melting watches. And when something familiar does return, it is in a ritardando and distorted so far from its original guise that it becomes something quite different.”

Anders HillborgMusicologist Susan Key said, “It was the study of electronic music that convinced him that any sound can be music – but he realizes that mission through acoustical means. In King Tide, for example, Hillborg calls for an orchestra with a large wind section but – somewhat unusually for contemporary works – no percussion. Yet the manipulation of the conventional orchestral forces creates an entirely unconventional soundscape.” The term “king tide” originated in Pacific nations to refer to an especially high tide that occurs only a few times per year. But a premiere only happens once.

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photos courtesy of LA Phil

A Nordic Program with Boreyko & Hahn
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Andrey Boreyko, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin
Anders Hillborg: King Tide (U.S. premiere)
Carl Nielsen: Violin Concerto
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Friday, January 31, 2014 at 8:00pm
Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 8:00pm
Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 2:00pm
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil http://www.laphil.com/

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