Almost two years ago, while watching a YouTube video of Mohammed Fairouz’s “Tahrir for Clarinet and Orchestra,” Neal Brostoff, a visiting lecturer in Jewish music history at UCLA, had an idea. The concerto sounded “surprisingly Jewish,” he thought, and not just because the soloist was the eminent klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer.
Opera director Barrie Kosky didn’t like Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” when he first saw it at age 10. Mozart’s Singspiel — a genre of opera characterized by spoken dialogue, along with singing — was a big hit in 1791, and the composer himself goofed around on stage during some of the performances. Ideally, given its broad comedy and fantastical characters, the opera should be able to engage kids.
On Nov. 9, music by Samuel Adler, Steve Reich, Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl will observe the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht as part of the enterprising Jacaranda concert series.
When the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) performs Vivaldi’s evergreen “The Four Seasons” at a benefit at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Oct. 30, the orchestra won’t be made up of its 100-plus players.
The 1976 premiere of “Einstein on the Beach” shook audiences up, recalling the shock at Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in 1913. There was something incomprehensible, even infuriating, about Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s “Einstein,” but in spite of that — or perhaps, in part, because of it — the work became a landmark, challenging and enlarging traditional ideas and conventions of opera, theater and dance.
In 1920, Paul Frankenburger was 23 and an up-and-coming German conductor and composer. For the next four years, he assisted two of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, Bruno Walter and Hans Knappertsbusch, but by 1933, the Nazis had forced him to immigrate to Palestine. At 36, he had to start over.
“Energy is eternal delight,” the poet William Blake said, and klezmer music proves his point. For centuries throughout Jewish Eastern Europe, rhythmically high-strung klezmer bands, which often featured a virtuoso violinist and clarinetist trading licks, were a provocation to dance. They could also make brides weep at the drop of a yarmulke.
Ernest Bloch, the renowned 20th century Swiss-born American composer, wrote just one opera, “Macbeth,” and it has rarely been produced in the United States since its 1910 Paris premiere.
Speaking by phone from Montreal, Israeli-born cellist Matt Haimovitz revealed that he’s a great admirer of the American singer Nina Simone. Looking at his life and career, one can easily see why. Like Simone, Haimovitz is admired for his solid classical grounding, eclecticism, improvisatory brilliance and the fact that he defies easy classification.
Gil Shaham does his most eloquent speaking with his violin, but as a recent interview by phone from his home in New York revealed, he’s not a bad singer either.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein grew up in a thriving Jewish community in Cleveland, where before she became a bat mitzvah, she had already made her debut at age 13 with the Cleveland Orchestra.
The old theater saying that there are no small parts, only small actors, can also be said for opera. Just ask Australian bass Joshua Bloom, who was in town last month to begin rehearsals as Masetto for the Los Angeles Opera production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The opera’s seven performances run Sept. 22 through Oct. 14 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Film composers who venture into the hallowed domain of the concert hall are sometimes greeted with raised eyebrows. Maybe that’s why film-music scholar Jon Burlingame called movie scores a “much-maligned stepchild of 20th-century composition.” Yet for English composer and conductor Benjamin Wallfisch, the differentiation has never been a problem.
When Yefim Bronfman performs Brahms' Second Piano Concerto with conductor Lionel Bringuier and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on July 31, he will be tackling what is known as a real "finger buster," a term used for a work that is awkwardly conceived for a pianist's hands or physically demanding. The Brahms concerto is both.
Among the pleasures of the summer music season is the annual iPalpiti Festival of International Laureates, now in its 15th year. iPalpiti (the name translates loosely as "the heartbeats") is a string orchestra of 28 young professionals from Israel, Tatarstan, Azerbaijan, Norway and 14 other countries. Thirteen concerts are being performed in the Los Angeles area through July 29, but the grand finale at Walt Disney Concert Hall (July 28) has, over the years, become a much-anticipated gala-style affair.
Maybe it was his heart attack during a concert in Rotterdam in 2009, or perhaps it’s just a matter of aging, but conductor Leonard Slatkin, a venerable fixture with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl for many years, is now thinking about summer as vacation time.
It may seem a sign of overconfidence for someone to tell you he’s rewriting a major work by Beethoven, but for David Lang, who reconceived Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” for his Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy Award-winning 2008 opera, “The Little Match Girl Passion,” it’s just business as usual.
Avi Avital plays the mandolin sitting center stage in a hard-back chair. He curls into himself, his face turned downward, and nestles the small stringed instrument on his lap. His intense concentration draws a listener in, whether he’s performing a piece composed by mandolin virtuoso Yasuo Kuwahara or by Israeli composer Avner Dorman.
Who was Akhnaten? For composer Philip Glass, this mysterious Egyptian pharaoh, said to be Queen Nefertiti’s husband and the father of King Tutankhamen, was a rebel-hero. In the 14th century B.C.E., Akhnaten defied tradition by attempting to forge a monotheistic religion, and even tried to change Egyptian artistic culture by moving the capital city and building a new one, Amarna, now a ruin.
Ethan Bortnick was just 6 when he first appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” playing snippets of piano works by Bach, Mozart and Scott Joplin. He even performed his own composition, “The Tiger Ran Away at the Zoo.” By that age, he had already raised $12 million for Miami Children’s Hospital. Since then, he has performed for the Chabad Telethon and the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, among other charities.
The pianist François Chouchan has nothing against contemporary music, but for the first season of the monthly chamber music series Le Salon de Musiques, he and co-artistic director violinist Phillip Levy have filled all eight concerts with masterpieces of the Western classical canon.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, soprano Shira Renee Thomas was drawn to the music played during services at Northridge’s Reform Temple Ahavat Shalom, where her father, Rabbi Jerry Brown, presided. She especially loved Kol Nidrei, and when she finally got to sing that touching piece in a recital for Center Stage Opera, she fulfilled part of a larger dream that includes one day singing at The Metropolitan Opera and London’s Covent Garden.
“Amoral, hedonistic, selfish, virulently racist, arrogant, filled with gospels of the superman ... and the superiority of the German race, he stands for all that is unpleasant in human character,” The New York Times music critic Harold Schonberg wrote about Richard Wagner in “The Lives of the Great Composers.”
If you ask 35-year-old violinist Daniel Hope about his Jewish heritage, make sure you have time. It’s a complicated question.
“On my mother’s side was an incredibly Orthodox Jewish family that goes back to the first rabbi of Potsdam,” he said during a recent late-night cell phone call while in transit to Hamburg, Germany, for a concert the next day.
Itzhak Perlman left his native Tel Aviv in 1958, as a 13-year-old, to perform on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and kept on going. In a career spanning more than 50 years, the violinist has performed with almost every major conductor and orchestra in the world. Awarded a Kennedy Center honor in 2003, Perlman was also invited to perform in January at President Obama’s inauguration. Speaking by phone from New York, Perlman called the inauguration experience “chilling” and said he brought an inferior violin so his priceless Stradivarius wouldn’t be damaged in the cold. He also said the music had been prerecorded.
Remember the classic line from the 1987 hit movie, “Dirty Dancing,” when the lower-class Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) walks up to the cosseted Jewish girl, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey), and in front of her parents says, “My Baby belongs to me. Is this clear?”
L.A. Opera to perform its first full cycle of “The Ring,” the German composer’s 15-hour masterpiece.
Critics have called the Long Beach Opera (LBO) "daring," "unconventional" and "innovative." While all those are accurate, another word that perhaps better describes the company is "playful."