Music of the Americas at Disney Hall

I’d been having fun all week and had spent the day cutting the hibiscus bushes back to nothing so I was exhausted when Gordon asked me if I wanted to go to a light supper or a glass of wine before the concert at Disney last night. I chose wine (whine): “Do we have to go? I’m tired! WHINE!” We skipped food and booze but we had to go to the concert; we’d paid for it, we had to go. Can’t waste a thing! Boy, am I glad we went. Dudamel conducted a program of music based on the Americas.

Soundings by John Williams was the first piece and explored the acoustics of Disney Hall. The orchestra was huge; there was even a wind group on one side of the far balcony and a brass group on the other side. We couldn’t see the performers but they echoed the music being played on the stage. A single organ note rumbled through the floor. A percussionist used a violin bow on a marimba so it sounded like a theremin (sp?). Every aspect of the acoustics was explored; the piece was quite impressive. Didn’t sound at all like Jaws and I guess that’s a good thing; Williams can write for the concert hall, too. Williams was there to take a bow and the crowd went wild.

Sergio Tiempo, originally from Venezuela, was the soloist for Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Ginastera was originally from Argentina–which fit the Americas theme–and this concerto was a real knuckle-buster. Tiempo was great; think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him.

We had a clank/tinkle piece by Andrew Norman, a kid from Michigan, called Play Level 1. The notes said it interpreted playing pinball and I could hear it. The orchestra was again huge. It was an interesting piece but I’d have to hear it a few more times to really appreciate it. I’m not too good at understanding ‘new’ music the first time I hear it. The kid was there to take his bow. I wonder how he felt being in the same company with John Williams?

The Dude closed the show with Appalachian Spring. I always liked this piece because I always found it assessable–not particularly profound but easy to listen to. Well, Dudamel reinterpreted it for me and it was so beautiful I had tears in my eyes–I had to control myself so I wouldn’t start bawling. According to the notes, Copland wrote it for a Martha Graham ballet in 1943 to show “the pioneer American spirit, with youth and spring, with optimism and hope.” Dudamel gets it. This is America the way I remember it, when people earned and appreciated what they had and worked for the future. The end of the piece ended quietly. I always thought it was a letdown but the way Dudamel presented it I could see the couple at the end of a busy day watching the stars come out (Ping!). And you knew they were ready for whatever the next day brought. After the last ping the audience was silent and breathless for at least 15 seconds. Then the cheering started. I wasn’t tired anymore. Boy, am I glad I didn’t miss this concert. I hope they record it; I’d like to buy a copy and play it over and over and over…

There was so much cheering that Dudamel even did an encore–something I’d never seen the full orchestra do before. The Dude murmured what it was but I couldn’t hear what he said. It sounded like a Hitchcock soundtrack–my guess would be Marnie–but I’m not sure. The crowd went wild again. We got our money’s worth.

Two notes: I’m impressed by the young people coming to the concert. They’re beautiful and stylish; I felt like a slob in my chinos and sweater. It wouldn’t kill me to dress up a little…although my years of showing my midriff in a two-piece evening ensemble are long gone. Apparently, the LA Phil is now a hot ticket for date night. I might actually wear a dress sometime–although I’d have shave my legs. Hmmmmm. Also, Dudamel conducted all the music with a score. It’s a relief knowing he doesn’t have every piece of music in the world memorized. I was starting to feel like a serious under-achiever.



About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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