Editor: Marc Bridle

 

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

 

 

                    

Google

WWW MusicWeb


Search Music Web with FreeFind




Any Review or Article


 

 

 

Seen and Heard International Concert Review

 

MacMillan Premier and Zarathustra Give Disney Hall's New Organ a Workout in Los Angeles: Wayne Marshall (organ), Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, Oct 8, 2004 (HS)

 

Walt Disney Concert Hall, the fantastical Frank Gehry-designed building that is fast becoming the icon structure of Los Angeles, celebrated the completion of its new organ with a series of concerts this past week. As striking in appearance as the curved, flowing lines of the hall itself, where right angles are virtually nonexistent, the organ pipes resemble a sheaf of gigantic kindling about to tumble apart. The largest pipes are placed most prominently, directly in back of the stage, framing the space where the organist sits. They make a mighty sound in the live but remarkably clean acoustical space. There is richness to the timbre, but the predominant effect is a bright, resonant presence.

 

The two pieces on the concert heard Friday Oct 8 showed off virtually everything this organ can do. The world premiere of A Scotch Bestiary, James MacMillan's concerto commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and by the BBC for the BBC Philharmonic, brought the organ front and center -- literally so, a satellite console present on stage next to the conductor. Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra cast the organ in a supporting role. Wayne Marshall proved an exciting soloist with a flair for the dramatic. MacMillan's densest, most complex paragraphs posed no challenge for him, and balances with the orchestra were near ideal in the Strauss.

 

Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen took a direct approach to both works, pushing the music forward with tremendous energy. This made for an exhilarating evening, even if one could have wanted more delicacy in some moments in Zarathustra to contrast with the big, loud ones.

 

This overt approach served the new MacMillan piece well. The Scottish composer took his inspiration from medieval bestiaries, which are illustrated books of fantastical animals. In this case, however, the fantastical animals comment on modern human archetypes, including a pompous, off-key march for "Scottish Patriots" and an annoying clarinet cuckoo leading a band of raucous woodwinds for "The Reverend Cuckoo and his Parroting Chorus." In both cases, the organ intones solemn commentary. In other movements, the organ takes the lead, as in "Her Serene and Ubiquitous Majesty, Queen Bee." It starts with the lowest notes, showing off a clean presence in the bass register, and buzzes ever upward, the orchestra interjecting brief commentary.

 

After a brief introduction, eight of these individual portraits are linked together by recurring variations, titled "a page is turned," on that introduction. It's the same idea as the Promenade in Mussorgsky's "A Pictures at an Exhibition," only MacMillan jumps right in with dense harmonies rather than letting it start simply with a melody alone. Clearly, Elgar's "Enigma" Variations and Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals are also antecedents, and sharp ears can also catch snatches of music reminiscent of Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons. MacMillan's musical language and style are all his own, however, and it's rich, complex and colorful. Some of it assaults the ears with garish dissonances. Other moments can be serenely beautiful. At times, it's laugh-out-loud funny, as when a galloping phrase, à la Ride of the Valkyries, interrupts.

 

All that is just part one, subtitled "The Menagerie, Caged." After a brief respite on a tentative chord, part two begins. "The Menagerie, Uncaged" unleashes a fantasy built on all the themes from part one. This is even denser, more complex music, and it demonstrates what an assured composer MacMillan is. The energy never flags and there's always something new coming around the next corner. The piece's debut with the BBC orchestra should be something to hear.

 

Salonen took a carefully detailed, aggressive approach to Zarathustra, drawing out every dynamic shading to an extreme, playing with the resonances among the sections of the orchestra. The organ's broad, transparent sound enveloped the orchestra’s in the massive opening fanfare, and enriched it in the later hymn-like sections. The conductor pushed tempos, which made the performance propulsive, paying special attention to entrances and balances, leaving it to the Philharmonic's players to fill in any subtleties of interpretation. The result was a strong, nuanced performance.

 

Harvey Steiman

 



Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page


 





   

 

 

 

MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here




EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Past and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.