One of the hardest tickets to find in Los Angeles (after Katy Perry) is a ticket to the Lost Angeles Philharmonic. The magnificent Walt Disney Hall is filled every performance to hear the incredible orchestra and see one of the greatest conductors in the world, Gustavo Dudamel.
Amy and I were so lucky to have a friend call us with two tickets for last Friday’s performance of “The Rite of Spring.” It was the finest musical performance I have ever heard, and I’ve heard many. I stopped counting, but I think there were five “curtain-calls” for Dudamel at the conclusion. The clapping and shouting lasted about 15 minutes.
Dudamel is starting his 4th season as conductor and he has taken the orchestra to an unprecedented level. The prestigious “New Yorker” (they usually hate the left coast) has recently made two statements concerning the hall and the orchestra. Quoting the New Yorker,” …a sensational place to hear music…in richness of sound, it has few rivals on the international scene, and in terms of visual drama it may have no rival at all.” Also quoting the New Yorker; “…not only has the L.A. Philharmonic become the most creative orchestra but also the finest orchestra in America today.”
Maybe that was why the four folks sitting next to me flew in from New York just to hear the Friday performance. They were so excited, as I was, at the conclusion and told me it was well worth the trip and they were amazed at how humble Mr. Dudamel was. They were planning to fly back next season for another concert.
Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” has become a signature piece of the L.A. Phil, and Dudamel is the perfect conductor to bring out the orchestra balance and tone of every note.
Stravinsky completed this music for ballet in 1913, and premiered the work two months later in Paris. The audience had never encountered such tonal concepts or seen such a weirdly choreographed ballet before. The people were slugging each other in the audience and there were screams and cat-calls. The dancers couldn’t hear the numbers and had to duck the stuff being thrown on stage. The management kept flicking the lights on and off to try to calm the people down, but to no avail. Half the audience was scandalized and the other half was electrified by what they had heard. Yes, it was far worse than Elvis on Ed Sullivan or rock and roll scandalizing my parents. It was written for a huge orchestra of over 100 musicians and the wild, unchecked power of the score was something wholly new to anyone’s ears.
Now we historically see that this piece was the start of the cycle of Modern Classical as we left behind the Romantic Period of Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.
I love this 30+ minutes of awesome sounds, power and sometimes, cacophony.
Here’s a ‘you-tube’ version that is strictly audio but it is the complete score. It starts with a haunting bassoon playing in the highest register transporting the listener to a primeval past. To Stravinsky it was a “pagan cry.” Soon the entire orchestra becomes a drum. I doubt if any of you will sit still for 32 minutes to listen but if you have time someday, check it out. Your ears will love you for it.