Recommended Music Concert: AMERICAN YOUTH SYMPHONY (Sounds About Town at Disney Concert Hall, March 6, 2022)

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by Connor McCormick on January 27, 2022

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-Los Angeles

The American Youth Symphony (AYS), led by Music Director Carlos Izcaray, returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall on the LA Phil’s “Sounds About Town” series on Sunday, March 6, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. Works by Brian Raphael Nabors, Jennifer Higdon, Unsuk Chin, Jimmy Lopez, Tchaikovsky and Izcaray complete a program that celebrates cultural diversity through the unifying force of symphonic music. Tickets (starting at $16) are available here.

The west coast premiere performance of Izcaray’s Under the Shadows, An Immigrant’s Journey embodies the inclusive theme of the evening’s program. “An Immigrant’s Journey is a very personal orchestral overture written during a period of deep reflection,” said Izcaray. “I have migrated 4 times in my life, and I am also part of the 4th continuous generation of immigrants in my family’s history. I thus felt a special desire to highlight the role immigrants have played in the history of our world. The road to a new land is a unique one for each person, with some choosing their journey with an adventurous spirit, yet others finding themselves forced to flee due to perilous circumstances. In any case, there is that magical moment we all feel when arriving at a new land. My piece is structured as a journey from darkness to light, from one single note to a full multilayered harmonic sound world that could be viewed as representing our plural contemporary society.”

Izcaray continued, “An Immigrant´s Journey is also a love letter to the orchestra, a migrating entity itself, and in my case a vessel that has taken me on a wild ride across 5 continents.”

Nabors’ Pulse, is an “episodic rhapsody that explores several phases and colorful variants of rhythm all held together by an unwavering pulse.” The composer explains, “Pulse began as a long contemplation of daily life, combined with thoughts of life in nature. The universe seems to have this natural rhythm to it. It is as if every living and moving thing we are aware and unaware of is being held together by a mysterious, resolute force. Each episode is meant to symbolize a different scenario of life for the listener, be it a buzzing modern metropolis, a deep wilderness abundant with animalia, or the scenic endless abyss of the ocean. All of these worlds and their philosophical meanings are then brought together in a contemplative theme of “unification” in the strings that symbolizes our deep connection as living beings to everything within, over, under, and around us.”

The program also includes Higdon’s Pulitzer prize-winning Violin Concerto, featuring soloist Tessa Lark. “I believe that one of the most rewarding aspects of life is exploring and discovering the magic and mysteries held within our universe. For a composer this thrill often takes place in the writing of a concerto,” said Lark. “It is the exploration of an instrument’s world, a journey of the imagination, confronting and stretching an instrument’s limits, and discovering a particular performer’s gifts.” This work was originally written for violinist Hilary Hahn, who premiered the work with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on February 6, 2009.

The title of the first movement, “1726,” is the street address of The Curtis Institute of Music, where Higdon first met Hahn as a student in her 20th Century Music Class. To tie into this title, Higdon makes extensive use the intervals of unisons, 7ths, and 2nds, throughout this movement. The excitement of the first movement’s intensity is followed by the calm and pensive relaxation of the 2nd movement, “Chaconni,” from the word “chaconne,” a chord progression that repeats throughout a section of music. In this particular case, there are several chaconnes, which create the stage for a dialog between the soloist and various members of the orchestra. The beauty of the violin’s tone and the artist’s gifts are on display here. “The third movement, “Fly Forward,” seemed like such a compelling image, that I could not resist the idea of having the soloist do exactly that,” said Higdon. “Concerti throughout history have always allowed the soloist to delight the audience with feats of great virtuosity, and when a composer is confronted with a real gift in the soloist’s ability to do so, well, it would be foolhardy not to allow that dream to become a reality.”

Unsuk Chin’s Beethoven-inspired subito con forza is a compact, five-minute work that draws inspiration from the iconic composer’s conversation books, particularly the line: “Dur und Moll. Ich bin ein Gewinner.” (“Major and minor. I am a winner.”) In an interview with writer Thea Derks, Chin explained, “What particularly appeals to me are the enormous contrasts: from volcanic eruptions to extreme serenity.” subito con forza plays with these contrasts, erupting into a first chord with the full force of the orchestra, then subsiding into a hushed string section. Following the UK premiere of the piece at the 2021 BBC Proms, The Times described it as “effective and eerie, with plenty happening in five teeming minutes. Chin’s ear for colour is her greatest weapon.”

Composer Jimmy López has created works performed by leading orchestras around the world. América Salvaje originated as a commission from the Minister of Education of Peru, Javier Sota Nadal, on the occasion of the inauguration of the National Library in March 2006.

“I was convinced that the occasion called for the use of a musical genre with strong links to literature, thus I decided to base my piece upon the poem “Blasón” by José Santos Chocano,” said Lopez. “The result is a symphonic poem that aims at reflecting Peru’s multicultural roots with the same clarity and strength as the original text.” América Salvaje travels across several sonic landscapes of diverse origin in which Andean and European instruments are used. Each section surpasses the previous one in energy and so the whole piece constitutes a permanent crescendo whose culmination is achieved in the very last section. This piece – in which millenary Andean instruments, contemporary techniques, Afro-Peruvian folklore and modal/tonal harmonies converge – is an ambitious attempt to reflect the richness and complexity of Peruvian musical heritage.

Tchaikovsky’s Marche slave (Slavonic March) was composed because of the endless conflicts in the Balkans and, by extension, Russia and Turkey. In 1876, Tchaikovsky (1840-93) was commissioned for a work to be played at a benefit concert for the Slavonic Charity Committee, an organization whose double task was to raise money to buy equipment for Russian volunteer soldiers and to provide relief for war victims. Tchaikovsky used parts of several Serbian folk songs in his Marche slave. For the climax, just as he would again in the 1812 Overture, he brings in Alexey Fyodorovich Lvov’s grand hymn “God Save the Tsar.”
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