Upcoming Music: FOG (premiere); BREATHING FORESTS (premiere); ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA (Esa-Pekka Salonen)

Post image for Upcoming Music: FOG (premiere); BREATHING FORESTS (premiere); ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA (Esa-Pekka Salonen)

by Tony Frankel on February 6, 2022

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles

When architect Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, he took into account how musicians would experience the building. He believed if the sound is good, the musicians would feel more confident and, in turn, would play better. With this in mind, Gehry worked closely with expert acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota and then-Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen to create the perfect instrument for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


This weekend, the brilliant composer and conductor Salonen leads the La Phil in a spectacular program which includes his newly orchestrated tribute to Frank Gehry, Fog, based on Bach’s Prelude from Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 for solo violin, which — played by Gabriela Peña-Kim — opens the program.


Then, the world premiere of an organ concerto by the exceedingly gifted Gabriella Smith, Breathing Forests, played by James McVinnie. The composer wrote, “Breathing Forests is a reflection on the complex relationship between humans, forests, climate change, and fire. The massive sound and architecture of the organ feels something like the grandeur of a forest to me, and its breath reminiscent of the glorious exchange of carbon dioxide to oxygen that forests perform on a massive scale.

“Breathing Forests is in three contiguous movements (“Grow,” “Breathe,” “Burn”) that roughly follow the traditional fast–slow–fast concerto form. The piece is a sonic forest, growing, breathing, burning, and regenerating, containing both sadness for the losses we can never get back, and joy — a celebration of forest ecosystems and their vital role in the fight against climate change, a celebration of all those participating in the fight for our future, and an invitation to get to work.”

For the second half, you’ll want to buckle in for Richard Strauss’s whirlwind of a tone poem that begins with that awesome fanfare to end all fanfares, Sunrise. Stanley Kubrick’s decision to use the first section of the exquisite Also Sprach Zarathustra, Opus 30 (1896) to underscore the opening sequence of his classic 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey may have been a master stroke; but the average moviegoer was, and still is, unfamiliar with the entire symphonic poem. Could Thus Spake Zarathustra (or “Spoke” depending on the translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s same-titled philosophical 1883–1885 novel) suffer the same ignoble fate as the William Tell Overture, which is still known to a generation of Baby Boomers as the title music of The Lone Ranger television show of the 1950s? Not to worry. Strauss’s self-selected favorite symphonic composition offers many more treasures than its instantly recognizable opening fanfare.

Friday February 11 at 8pm
(Casual Friday: enjoy a Q&A with the artists and a complimentary drink with members of the orchestra at the post-concert party)
Saturday February 12 at 2pm

Strauss, Smith, and Salonen
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
James McVinnie, organ
Gabriela Peña-Kim, violin

BACH  Prelude from Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
Esa-Pekka SALONEN  Fog (U.S. premiere of orchestral version)
Gabriella SMITH  Breathing Forests (world premiere, LA Phil commission)
STRAUSS  Also sprach Zarathustra

Leave a Comment