Los Angeles Music Preview: ALL-RACHMANINOFF (Cristian Măcelaru and Kirill Gerstein with the LA Phil)

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by Tony Frankel on December 14, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


I can think of nothing better to do this holiday season then something that has nothing to do with the holidays. It’s not easy to find, but in the midst of the Messiah morass, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is offering an All-Rachmaninoff program this weekend that is sure to bring you peace and joy. Conducted by Cristian Măcelaru, the 3 pieces, a spectrum of the best that Rachmaninoff created, are gifts that would outshine any stocking stuffers (unless one of your early gifts is a ticket for your peeps to see this concert!).

Cristian Măcelaru

For romance, there is, rightfully, one of the most popular pieces in the repertoire: the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 (1901). For reflection, we have the haunting “Vocalise,” the last of Rachmaninoff’s Fourteen Songs (1915). For traditional elements mixed with modern rhythm, there is Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940), his final work.

Kirill gersteinThis is also your chance to catch Kirill Gerstein performing the Second. From early studies in jazz to performing at the classical music world’s most prestigious venues; from student to teacher; and from country to country, this Russian/ Jewish-American pianist is one of the most multifaceted and in-demand keyboardists on the globe. Born in Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, Gerstein became, at 14, the youngest student ever admitted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied jazz. By 20, he had earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s in classical piano at the Manhattan School of Music, and by 27 he was a professor at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, Germany. In January 2010, Mr. Gerstein was announced as the sixth recipient of the $300,000 Gilmore Artist Award.

He has also worked quite a bit with LA Phil’s own Gustavo Dudamel (the clips here are of Dudamel and Gerstein performing Rachmaninoff): “My friendship with Gustavo began several years ago, relatively near the beginning of our careers,” Gerstein said in an interview. “I have had a great time playing with him in various cities in the U.S. and Europe. Very special for me are the times I have visited Venezuela to work with his youth orchestra, and feel the passion of the young people both in the orchestra and, most importantly, in the audience. I really get the feeling there that people (young and old) feel that classical music is a living, exciting, ‘cool’ thing. In addition to the pride and enthusiasm they naturally have for Gustavo, the orchestra, and the music education system, I have felt true enthusiasm and gratitude for hearing the classical repertoire played live. And of course, there are the after-concert parties where we play Latin music and jazz until the crack of dawn… I can’t forget playing tangos with Gustavo at 4am and then meeting at a matinee concert the following morning and doing Bernstein’s ‘Age of Anxiety’.”

A year ago this week, Maestro Măcelaru (resident conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra) made his LA Phil debut in a program including Elgar’s Enigma Variations and the West Coast premiere of Penderecki’s Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos. When the originally scheduled Charles Dutoit cancelled (due to shoulder injury), I was so bummed that I almost cancelled my tickets. But the young Romanian conductor blew me away. His gift for concurrent boldness and sensitivity aroused unique phrasing from the players. While the press refers to him as “up-and-coming” and “a rising star,” I can safely say that this passionate conductor has arrived.

Kirill Gerstein.

photos courtesy of LA Phil

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Kirill Gerstein, piano
Piano Concerto No. 2 & Symphonic Dances
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Friday, December 18, at 11 am
Saturday, December 19, at 8 pm
Sunday, December 20, at 2 pm
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil

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