I embarked on my freeway flying car trip to The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown L.A. at 2:45 P.M. I was excited for two reasons. I hadn't seen or heard the Los Angeles Master Chorale since last March (see previous post). I also hadn't seen my oldest son's new "digs" "The Orsini" an apartment/condo complex on N. Figueroa. It took me until 4:30 P.M. to actually get there with many a stop and crawl manuever on the I-10. This was on a Sunday afternoon. Where are all these trucks and cars coming from?
The Orsini is quite some place...massive and new. The main door was locked and the call box didn't work so I went through the parking garaged entrance. The attendant had never heard of my son and knew only how to call up a room number. I didn't think to get his room number so I fussed and fumed around there trying to get their "security" to lapse long enough to contact my #1 son and his new wife. No soap! Finally, my son appeared in the lobby looking for me. He had come down previously and left his room number but the attendant "hadn't written it down"? Yeah right! Oh well...I was impressed with the facilities ie. spa, pool, work-out rooms, study rooms, internet rooms, party room and fountains. It had lush interior enclosures and every apt. had a patio. I took pictures and brought them back to share with my better half, his mother/in-law. I noticed the sign pointing to "Chinatown" and "Pueblotown" across the street. My son says it is "walking distance"...lots of fun. It is also walking distance to the "Disney" by taking Temple to Grand. It is very handy to several freeways and "ideal" for his and her "jobs" and future. I wish them well on this "New Embarkation".
This left me about an hour for dinner at the "Patina" cafeteria on the first floor of the "Disney". I had invited my son and wife but they declined. I had a wonderful mushroom ravioli, pesto potatoes, bun and mango juice all for only $20.01! (self-service not included) Then I learned that the "Listen Up" pre-concert lecture was not in the usual place but in the actual auditorium. Boy was I tempted to snap a picture of the organ pipes...but I didn't. The Opening Night Gala was in full swing in the usual area for the "Listen Up"...very plush with green table cloths.
The pre-concert discussion with Grant Gershon and his "interviewer" Alan Chapman (the P.M. Voice of KUSC) was entertaining and informative. I knew very little about Franz Joseph Haydn's "Schopfungsmesse"(Creation Mass) and nothing about "Itaipu" by Philip Glass. Alan had alot of witty and insightful comments about the works and Grant had actual "cuts" from them to play and comment about. I learned that Papa Haydn was Beethovan's teacher and a "very priveledged" court musician for "Maria Theresa" (Marie Antoinette's mother) from the Court in Vienna. He was very prolific and hasn't had all the credit he is due. ie. He wrote the National Anthem for German (...uber alles) He loved the ladies and wrote the "Surprize Symphony" for them. He had a great sense of humor and his music showed it. He may have "invented" the string quartet and symphonic format. (some discussion on that) He was overshadowed by Mozart but he had more "depth" and "volume" (not the hearing kind)
The "Creation Mass" was named that because of one small phrase sung by the Bass soloist in the "Gloria" section (a quote from Adam/Eve) Marie-Theresa wouldn't have it and had him remove that phrasing because it was "too frivolous" and "joyful" for such a "serious subject". He put it back in and we heard "the director's cut" in our concert (10-22-06).
"Itaipu"is one of three works by Glass on Nature Portraits. It refers to a gigantic Hydroelectric Plant (Dam) on the Parana River between Paraguay and Brazil in 1989. It was a massive project 10X more powerful than any other power plant/dam in the world at the time. The problem was it wiped out the homeland of the "Guarani" Tribe. "Itaipu" is "singing stone" and refers to their "Creation Myth". (catch the connection?) Problem being it was sung by the Chorale in "Guarani-ish" and was incomprehensible. (no text included as there was with the "Creation Mass" of Haydn ie. Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benetictus, Agnus Dei...the usual...in Latin-also incomprehensible) So... the chorus is more like "another throbbing instrument" in Glass' magnificently percussive orchestration.
The works were extreme opposites for me but just as facinating. Since I have been taking "Theory" classes I knew more what to listen for and observe. ie. My new seat is on the extreme "stage left" at about stage/floor level. I had ample opportunity to observe the timpany (kettle drums) and the bass viols(violins) and the bass singers. These are my favorites anyway. I noticed right away in the Haydn all of the "Perfect Authentic Cadences" going from the V chords and V7 to the I chords. This is "feel good" music to me. I notice that the "tympanist?"(kettle drmmer) was tuning his drums to those deep bass (root) tones of the cadences. Awesome! I noticed that the bass player had to stand the whole time (they had unused stools) and again were adding "gravity" to the pieces. I noticed the big, bay windows of the the basses on the end.
In the "Itaipu" the bass players had some kind of electronic extensions to give a deeper/louder sound?) First time I had seen that. The first cello-ist? was such a perfect picture of "what you'd expect one to look/act like...very professional with his tails and goatee. The lower strings did alot of short bowing frantically in the Glass work to illustrate the "water flow" You see the setting is one of the river's flow from it's birth springs in the highlands to the Lake which is formed by the dam and then the spillage over the dam and out to sea. What an instrumental journey vividly captured by all the massive percussion (the whole back row) and the chorale itself. This was Smetana's Mouldau" on steroids! There were no forest glades, weddings etc. that this raging river passed by...no...they were able to reproduce the churning, throbbing currents, rapids and the thrummming? of the hydroelectric turbines. It was unnerving at times. Grant's direction was enervating to look at...talk about "keeping the beat"! He had said in the "Listen Up" that there were some challenging meters ie. 13/8 "that's 2 sixes with a limp". I guess this was his primiere conducting challenge with the Chorale 6 years ago at the Dorothy Chandler before they moved to the Disney. The accoustics were unbelievable this time.
I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and "got lost" in the "choral symphony". I was able, this time to stretch out my legs and take copious notes. I was in my "heavenly bliss". Bob!