Highly Recommended Concert: AN ALPINE SYMPHONY WITH SALONEN (LA Phil at Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on October 25, 2023

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles


I never knew this until researching the upcoming LA Phil program this weekend, but the connection between Nico Muhly and Philip Glass became established in the mid-2000s, when Glass employed Muhly as an assistant! Muhly certainly soaked up minimalism but he has never been constrained by it, and his 22-minute violin concerto Shrink, which receives its U.S. Premiere led by Esa-Pekka Salonen Oct. 27-29 at Disney Hall, while similar in some ways to John Adams’ Shaker Loops (which Camerata Pacifica offered this year), goes well beyond minimalism, incorporating English renaissance, French impressionism and the textures of Ligeti. Shrink (which refers to diminishing intervals) was composed for the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, who will be performing with the LA Phil. He describes it as “Nico’s ferocious concerto for violin and strings… a concerto that not only is a creative peak for him, but also manages to present both an embrace and a challenge for the players.”

Pekka Kuusisto (Bård Gundersen)

Also in the first half of the program is the world premiere of Salonen’s 12-minute LA Phil commission, Tiu, a fanfare Salonen composed in honor of his friend and Walt Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry. Salonen, who was Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for seventeen years (and may be again if he departs SF Symphony when Dudamel departs for the NY Phil — just conjecturing), has offered his own brilliant pieces before with the LA Phil (his newly orchestrated tribute to Frank Gehry, Fog, based on Bach’s Prelude from Partita No. 3 for solo violin was astounding).

Esa-Pekka Salonen and Frank Gehry

No doubt the orchestra will be utilizing an amazing array of instruments for Tiu, so why not add cowbells? In the second half is Richard Strauss’s soaring An Alpine Symphony, one of the greatest tone poems ever written. Being an avid hiker with 318 National Parks under my belt, I always find it remarkable when a composer evokes nature through the scoring of instruments — and when you have a crew as talented as the LA Phil, the effect will be transportive, as every principal gets to strut their stuff. Everything in this rarely performed 45-minute beautiful beast — from buzzing bees and warbling birds to storms — is evoked by wind machine, organ, string quartet, and, yes, the rather obvious use of cowbells. Don’t expect memorable leitmotifs here, just lean back and let the music take you on a meditative journey through nature. Classical KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen examines the work in the video below.

Friday October 27, 2023 at 8pm
Saturday October 28, 2023 at 2pm
Sunday October 29, 2023 at 2pm

An Alpine Symphony with Salonen
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Pekka Kuusisto, violin

Esa-Pekka SALONEN: Tiu (world premiere)
Nico MUHLY: Shrink
STRAUSS: An Alpine Symphony

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