In their first concerts of the new year, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic spotlight Schoenberg’s symphonic poem, Pelleas and Melisande, and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, the latter work featuring French pianist Hélène Grimaud. Performances take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Friday, January 11 at 1 p.m; Saturday, January 12 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, January 13 at 2:30 p.m. Upbeat Live, the free pre-concert event that takes place in the Grand Hall one hour prior to each performance, will feature a panel discussion on Symbolism, Romanticism and Schoenberg with a panel of literary, musical, and visual art experts; Christopher Hailey, moderator.
This is the third of four programs comprising the “Schoenberg Prism,” a city-wide celebration of the composer’s music in honor of the 50th anniversary of his death. The “Prism” places Schoenberg’s works alongside those of other great composers, revealing his debt to the towering figures of the past, as well as his own stature as a revolutionary and visionary.
The program on January 11-13 features two large, youthful masterworks that challenged their initial audiences. Pelleas and Melisande shows Schoenberg at his most romantic. Richard Strauss, the most famous composer in Europe at the time, suggested to the young Schoenberg that he should write an opera based on Maeterlinck’s poetic drama of 1892, the tale of a tragic love triangle that also inspired major works by Debussy, Fauré and Sibelius. But Schoenberg, more boldly, used it as the basis of a symphonic poem, the form in which Strauss reigned supreme. He composed the work in the period of July 1902 to the end of February 1903, ultimately producing a massive score fully on the scale of Strauss’ largest tone poems.
Schoenberg conducted Pelleas and Mélisande in its Vienna premiere on January 23, 1905, sharing the program with his brother-in-law and mentor, Alexander Zemlinsky, who was introducing his own symphonic poem, Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid). Though its premiere could not be described as a popular success, Pelleas and Melisande enhanced Schoenberg’s growing reputation at the time and has since taken its place in the repertoire as one of the supreme expressions of late musical Romanticism.
In January 1859, Brahms premiered his most ambitious composition to date, the massive Piano Concerto, Op. 15. Four years earlier, the young composer had started out to write a symphony. Realizing that he was not yet ready to tackle symphonic composition, Brahms turned to his exceptional skills as pianist and composer for piano to complete the work as a concerto. Audiences expected a virtuoso showpiece rather than this work in which the soloist is fully integrated into the orchestral effect. At the premiere in Hanover with the 25-year-old composer as soloist, the concerto was received with polite response. Just five days later, a Leipzig audience greeted the same work with scorn and hisses. Brahms reported the disastrous event to violinist-friend Joseph Joachim: “My Concerto has had here a brilliant and decisive failure. . . At the conclusion three pairs of hands were brought together very slowly, whereupon a perfectly distinct hissing from all sides forbade any such demonstration. There is nothing more to say about this episode, for not a soul has said a word to me about the work!” Thanks to such devoted champions as Clara Schumann, and to Brahms' own persistence, the First Concerto gradually won acceptance, until at last even Leipzig admitted that it was a masterwork.
Tickets ($12-$78) are available at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office, all Ticketmaster outlets (Robinsons-May, Tower Records, Ritmo Latino, Tu Música, and selected Wherehouse locations), and by credit card phone order at 213/365-3500. Tickets are also available on-line at laphil.com. Groups of 10 or more may be eligible for a 20% discount; call 323/850-2050. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available 2 hours prior to the performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person. Groups of 10 or more may be eligible for special discounts. For further information, please call 323/850-2000.
ESA-PEKKA SALONEN, the tenth conductor to head the Los Angeles Philharmonic, began his tenure as Music Director in October, 1992. Salonen made his American debut conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in November 1984, and he has conducted the Orchestra every season since. Among the many highlights of Salonen’s activities with the Philharmonic have been world premieres of new works by composers John Adams, Bernard Rands, Rodion Shchedrin, Steven Stucky, and Salonen himself, well-received Ligeti and Stravinsky Festivals, appearances at the Ojai Festival, seven critically acclaimed international tours since 1992, and his extensive discography with the Orchestra for Sony Classical. Salonen was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1958. He made his conducting debut with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1979, and he has been one of the world’s most sought-after conductors since his debut in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra in September 1983. He served as principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia of London from 1985 to 1994 and as principal conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 1995.
Born in Aix en Provence in 1969, pianist HÉLÈNE GRIMAUD was accepted by the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris at age 13, where she won the first prize in Jacques Rouvier's class in 1985. The year 1987 marked a decisive turning point in her career with appearances at MIDEM in Cannes and at the piano festival La Roque d'Anthéron, her first solo recital in Paris and an invitation to perform with the Orchestre de Paris under Daniel Barenboim. Grimaud has since performed with many of the world's major orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and the Royal Philharmonic, among others. In North America, she has worked with the orchestras of Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, Cleveland, New York, and Los Angeles. She has collaborated with conductors including Abbado, Blomstedt, Davis, Dutoit, Hogwood, Ashkenazy, Salonen, and Zinman. She has recorded exclusively for Teldec since 1999. In her most recent Los Angeles Philharmonic engagement (August 2001), Grimaud performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 at the Hollywood Bowl.
EDITORS - PLEASE NOTE:
Friday, January 11, 1 PM
Saturday, January 12, 8 PM
Sunday, January 13, 2:30 PM
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Los Angeles Philharmonic
ESA-PEKKA SALONEN, conductor
HELENE GRIMAUD, pianist
Schoenberg: Pelleas and Melisande
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1
Upbeat Live, a free pre-concert discussion that takes place one hour prior to performances, will feature a discussion on Symbolism, Romanticism and Schoenberg with a panel of literary, musical, and visual art experts; Christopher Hailey, moderator..
Single tickets ($12-$78) are available at the Philharmonic’s Music Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets (Robinsons-May, Tower Records, Ritmo Latino, Tu Música, and selected Wherehouse locations), and by credit card phone order at 213/365-3500. Tickets are also available on-line at www.laphil.com. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available 2 hours prior to the performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person. Groups of 10 or more may be eligible for special discounts. For further information, please call 323/850-2000.
Elizabeth Hinckley, (323) 850-2047; Rachelle Roe, (323) 850-2032