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Symphonic music is at the heart of the legacy of the Hollywood Bowl.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic first played at the Hollywood Bowl at an Easter Sunrise Service in 1921 and inaugurated the first official Hollywood Bowl season, called "Symphonies Under the Stars," in July of 1922. The Hollywood Bowl has been the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic ever since.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic was founded in 1919 by William Andrews Clark, Jr. The Philharmonic has risen to international prominence under the guidance of ten distinguished musical directors, the most recent of whom is Gustavo Dudamel. Virtually every classical soloist and conductor has appeared at the Hollywood Bowl. Violinist Jascha Heifetz made his debut at the Bowl in 1931, conductor Zubin Mehta in 1961, and Gustavo Dudamel made his U.S. debut at the Bowl in 2005.
Among the highlights of symphonic music at the Bowl are Sergei Rachmaninoff performing his own Piano Concerto No. 2 (1942), the West Coast premiere of Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8 conducted by Eugene Ormandy (1948), and a celebration of Stravinsky's 80th birthday (1962).
I remember sitting in a light drizzle on one Friday evening in one of the seats in the very front rows, where the boxes are now, when Bruno Walter conducted… Nobody moved in that drizzle; we were all entranced…— Sylvia Tansey, audience member
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, established in 1991, is a completely separate orchestra. Under its founding conductor, John Mauceri, the orchestra performed well over 200 concerts at the Bowl and made a number of best-selling CDs. There were earlier incarnations of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, under slightly different names such as Hollywood Bowl Symphony, that were also featured on many LP recordings in the 1950s and 60s, and for two years in the mid-1940s the orchestra was led by the renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski.
The very first opera presented at the Bowl was a production of Carmen in 1922. Proceeds from the opera paid for the benches in the brand-new amphitheater. Among the opera highlights of the Bowl's early days is a 1938 production Wagner's Die Walküre, starring Maria Jeritza as Brünnhilde. It was an incredibly lavish production featuring dazzling lighting effects, genuine fire and smoke, and costumed Valkyries riding white horses down the hillsides during the famous Act III opening "Ride of the Valkyries." In 1946 French coloratura Lily Pons set the attendance record for the Hollywood Bowl with 26,410 tickets sold for a single concert. The record will never be broken because the capacity of the Bowl has been reduced over the years and fire regulations prevent people from sitting in the aisles and on the hillsides. Many famous opera stars have made their Hollywood Bowl debut from superstar coloratura Amelita Galli-Curci in 1924 to Renée Fleming in 2004. Since the mid-nineties, the Bowl has presented a full-length opera in concert format nearly every year, with such favorites as Madame Butterfly (2000), La Traviata (2003), Turandot (2004), Porgy & Bess (2009), and Carmen (2010).
MUSIC DIRECTORS OF THE LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC
- 1919–1927 Walter Henry Rothwell
- 1927–1929 Georg Schneevoight
- 1929–1933 Artur Rodzinski
- 1933–1939 Otto Klemperer
- 1943–1956 Alfred Wallenstein
- 1956–1959 Eduard van Beinum
- 1962–1978 Zubin Mehta
- 1978–1984 Carlo Maria Giulini
- 1985–1989 André Previn
- 1992–2009 Esa-Pekka Salonen
- 2009– Gustavo Dudamel
SYMPHONIC MUSIC HOLLYWOOD BOWL DEBUTS
1928 composer/pianist Aaron Copland
1931 violinist Jascha Heifetz
1939 pianist/conductor Lorin Maazel, age 9
1941 pianist Arthur Rubinstein, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, pianist Vladimir Horowitz, violinist Yehudi Menuhin
1943 pianist Claudio Arrau
1944 conductor Leonard Bernstein
1945 violinist Isaac Stern
1948 pianist André Previn, age 19
1954 conductor Georg Solti
1955 pianist Walter Gieseking
1958 pianists Van Cliburn, Rudolf Serkin
1959 conductor Herbert von Karajan
1961 conductor Zubin Mehta
1966 violinist Itzhak Perlman
1968 cellist Jacqueline Du Pré, conductor Daniel Barenboim
1969 pianist Alicia de Larrocha
1971 pianist Alfred Brendel, conductor James Levine
1973 flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal
1974 conductor Michael Tilson Thomas
1975 pianist Emanuel Ax
1976 conductor Simon Rattle
1977 conductor James Conlon
1978 flutist James Galway, cellist Yo-Yo Ma
1985 conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen
1986 violinist Joshua Bell
1987 violinist Midori
1988 conductor Yuri Temirkanov
1989 pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet
1992 violinist Sarah Chang, age 11
1997 conductor Marin Alsop
2000 pianist Lang Lang
2005 conductor Gustavo Dudamel (U.S. debut)
Video: Archival Footage 1932–1958
Philip Kahgan, principal viola of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1921-1941, shot silent film footage during morning rehearsals at the Hollywood Bowl. Included are glimpses of conductors Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, William Steinberg, Alfred Wallenstein, Artur Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner, José Iturbi, Alfred Hertz, Carlos Chavez, Otto Klemperer, Pierre Monteux, Bruno Walter; soloists Jascha Heifetz, Roland Hayes, Josef Lhevinne, Lotte Lehmann, Ruggiero Ricci. The complete footage is at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The video is underscored and concludes with a clip of violinist Mischa Elman from the 1958 Colgate Comedy Hour, a live television broadcast from the Hollywood Bowl.
Video: Great Artists of Symphonic Music & Opera
This video features appearances at the Hollywood Bowl by conductors Leonard Bernstein, Carlo-Maria Giulini, Leonard Slatkin, Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, John Williams, Thomas Wilkins, Alexander Mickelthwaite, and David Alan Miller; instrumental soloists Alicia Delarrocha, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Sarah Chang, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Ingrid Fliter, and Yo-Yo Ma; opera stars Luciano Pavarotti, Anna Moffo, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Beverly Sills, Renée Fleming, and Marilyn Horne; as well as the former and current presidents of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ernest Fleischmann and Deborah Borda.
The video begins and ends with an impassioned performance of Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Hollywood Bowl Opening Night Gala in 2002.
Video production by Shelley Baruch.