LA Philharmonic: last three concerts
I'll give one final plug for these concerts. They're incredible, they're free, and they're generally only 30 minutes long.
At first I thought there was something askew - - was the concert really only 11 minutes long? They’re typically 30, which is short to begin with, but 10 minutes? For real.
The program notes quoted 16th-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, from his essay, “On Solitude:” “We must take the soul back and withdraw it into itself.” An entirely French concept.
The first piece was “Dawn” by Thomas Adès. I know Adès as an opera composer, I’ve seen all three of his operas: *Powder Her Face* (a sleezy little affair about the Duchess of Argyll, right up my alley), *The Tempest* (based on the Shakespeare play, I saw it twice and hated it even more the second time), and *The Exterminating Angel* (based on the Luis Buñuel film, fascinating). He’s a very talented composer, always knows what he’s doing if I don’t like what he’s doing. “Dawn” was gentle, quiet, maybe even a little languid. It had a repeating melodic figure, given just enough variation to make it interesting. I bet it’s even more impressive in person. The LA Phil performance was accompanied by many sweeping shots of the empty Hollywood Bowl, adding to the overall feeling of sadness. Thankfully it had a rather active ending, that was welcome.
The second piece was “Solitude” by Duke Ellington, arranged by Morton Gould. Such a priceless song, and the arrangement was swoopy, lush, and fragrant, with shimmering strings straight out of the Percy Faith tradition, some darling tinkles on the celesta, and some strategic strumming on the harp just for you, Mary Ann Grinde! I was covered with chills and yes, I did tear up a little bit. Mission accomplished.
I’d never heard of Chicano Batman, they’re a band based in Los Angeles. They opened with “Color My Life,” a groovy tune. Their sound is sweet, catchy, and a little gritty, like Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 for the new millennium. And we need one of those, am I right? Something interesting was going on with their look - - I would not describe these guys as “attractive,” but they were skinny, they were wearing cool threads, and they were playing in a pop band, so that all adds up to them being irresistibly sexy.
The next song was “Moment of Joy,” darling. The third song was “Manuel’s Story,” more upbeat with some nice playing on the glittery electric guitar. “I Know It” had a different vibe from the other songs, I didn’t like it as much but it didn’t do me any harm.
“Polymetronomic Harmony” started with a solo on the glittery electric guitar (always a good choice). I was disappointed that the song had totally ordinary rhythms, I was looking forward to hearing something polymetronmic (a word they appear to have made up). But it was catchy, I thought I might have it stuck in my head for a few days. The final song was “Invisible People,” another song that didn’t really deliver for me. But playing in the background while I’m cooking lentils - - yes, thank you.
Here they are doing one of those darling NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. Love that they're so glammed up for such a quotidian venue.
The concert opened with a few bits of conversation between Dudamel and Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of *Birdman,* *The Revenant,* *Babel,* *Amores Perros,* so many great movies. I’m sure they’re both comfortable speaking in English, but I loved that their conversation was in Spanish (with subtitles, thank you).
They started by talking about the Hollywood Bowl, what a beautiful space it is and how strange that there are really no concerts happening there, for the first time in nearly a hundred years. Then they moved on to the subject of finales, and how important it is to have a strong ending to any kind of cultural enterprise. Dudamel said that he understands how to manage a finale in music but didn’t know how you do it in a film. Do you come up with the ending first? González Iñárritu said that he almost never knows the ending when he starts a project. To him that would be the difference between being a traveler and being a tourist. He also compared not having an ending in mind to going on a trip with a one-way ticket.
Dudamel said that one of the pieces they were playing was a movement from Ravel’s *La mère l’Oye,* the Mother Goose suite. He said the ending is quite simple, but there’s a crescendo at the end that’s one of the most emotional crescendos in the history of music. To him that’s proof that Ravel didn’t necessarily know what kind of ending he wanted to make, and this was his inspired solution.
We then cut to the concert, with the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, a daytime concert. Dudamel’s entrance onto the stage was touching: he walked out, wearing his mask, walking between the string players, who were also wearing masks. He took his place at the podium, took off his mask, and smiled at the camera.
I hadn’t heard *La mère l’Oye* before, they played the final movement, what a gorgeous piece. Was there ever a more brilliant orchestrator than Ravel? The music itself is glorious, and this piece was originally written for four-hand piano, but wow, the orchestration is so extraordinary.
Next they played the final movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony, which was also a masterpiece of orchestration, in its own way. And so joyous, so ebullient, and full of little surprises.
Dudamel asked González Iñárritu about how he uses music in his movies. González Iñárritu said that he loves music more than he loves movies, that music taps into a deeper place for him than movies do.
The final piece was “Ritual Mind – Corporeous Pulse” from *Corpórea* by Gabriela Ortiz. I’d never heard of Ortiz before, and what a wonderful choice to end their last concert, to have it be by a living composer, a young composer (she’s only 55), a Mexican composer, a female composer. It’s written for a chamber ensemble (another fascinating choice, rather than a piece for full orchestra): violin, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, trumpet, French horn, harp, and percussion. It had an ominous opening, which quickly moved to something lighter and moving through many different moods. Quicksilver!
PS: My recipe for lentils:
One cup of raw lentils (whatever color you like)
Two cups of water
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon thyme
¾ teaspoon cumin
¾ teaspoon oregano
¾ teaspoon basil
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Throw the lentils in a large saucepan. Add the water. Add the spices and the olive oil. Stir. Cook at a high heat until it boils. Turn down to a very low flame, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Do not lift the lid, do not stir, do not press Go. When the 30 minutes are up, remove the pot from the burner (leave it covered, do no lift the lid, etc) and let the lentils sit for another 30 minutes or so. Stir and eat. Perfect on a salad or in a wrap with rice, green olives, and grated cheddar cheese (or cubed swiss, if you prefer).