There are ballet weeks, opera weeks and chamber music weeks. The week beginning today is an orchestra week, one in which our own Los Angeles Philharmonic is on display--with an important guest conductor leading its Music Center concerts--and two other major symphonic ensembles pass through our neighborhood.
Tuesday, beginning a three-concert visit to Pasadena, Westwood and Costa Mesa, the Orchestre National de France arrives at Ambassador Auditorium. Led by its principal guest conductor, the American musician Lorin Maazel, the 113-member instrumental ensemble, 51 years old this season, opens its visit with a Berlioz-Tchaikovsky-Ravel agenda.
The "Benvenuto Cellini" Overture opens the program, to be followed by Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" Symphony. Then, with Regis Pasquier, the French violinist, as soloist in "Tzigane," this program offers two pieces by Ravel, concluding with "La Valse."
Reached by telephone in Florida last week, Maazel recounted his 30-year association with the Orchestre National.
"I remember the first time very clearly. I even remember the program: the 'Symphonie Fantastique' of Berlioz and Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring.' " Coincidentally, that year of 1957 was the year Maazel began other long associations with the philharmonics of both Berlin and Vienna.
"When I was in Berlin, just a few weeks ago, I found out that there are still three players from the old days. That's more than in Paris, where there has been a complete turnover in the personnel at the Orchestre National de France."
The Orchestre National de France gave its inaugural concert, under founder D. E. Ingelbrecht, on March 13, 1936, at the Salle du Conservatoire in Paris. Within two years, it played its 500th concert.
Over the years, the ensemble became more and more involved in playing concerts over the radio, Maazel says. A complete reorganization came in 1975, shortly after which Maazel became principal guest conductor. The current tour is his third with the orchestra.
"I find it great fun for an American conductor to bring a foreign orchestra to the States," Maazel confesses. "It gives our audiences a chance to compare what they know of that conductor with the experience of hearing an unfamiliar symphonic band. I've done this a lot."
After four years of being more or less a free-lancer--"For 20 years, I was connected with great institutions: the Berlin Opera, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna Opera"--Maazel in 1988 takes on the music directorship of the Pittsburgh Symphony. His association with the Pittsburgh orchestra goes back even farther than his other international connections. In 1948, as a teen-ager, he joined the Pittsburgh Symphony as a violinist.
"My contract in Pittsburgh," the 57-year-old musician explains, "is not very demanding. I will be there only a few weeks a year, plus a small amount of touring. At this stage in my life, I want to spend more time on myself, on composing, goofing off, spending time with my kids. . . .
"But I may end up spending more time in Pittsburgh than promised, because I love that town, and they've been very sweet to me."
VISITORS: After its Ambassador concert, the Orchestre National de France moves to UCLA for a Royce Hall appearance, Thursday (see music listings for program). Then, Friday, it plays a program combining music from its earlier Southland concerts, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.
And, speaking of the Vienna Philharmonic, that celebrated symphonic ensemble plays at Pasadena Civic Auditorium, next Sunday night at 8. Under Claudio Abbado, the orchestra will play Beethoven symphonies: Nos. 1 and 3 ("Eroica").
In the meantime, another international visitor, composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, concludes his latest Southern California engagements with appearances with the L.A. Philharmonic and the Philharmonic's New Music Group (see listings).
MORE NEW MUSIC: The second and final week of the New Music Los Angeles '87 Festival begins today with the closing events at the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival on the Valencia campus. At 3 p.m., "Six Pianos in Search of a Player" will receive its world premiere. At 4, oboist Han de Vries and percussionist Arthur Jarvinen play a program of music by Dorati, Ludewig, LaVista, Stockhausen, Maderna and others. Composer John Cage, appearing in person, will be the subject of a forum to be held at 6 p.m. And the festival within a festival closes at 8 p.m. with a 75th birthday tribute to Cage with a concert of his music: "Credo in US," "Theatre Piece" and "Etcetera," along with an appearance by Cage and an exhibit of lithographs and manuscripts.
The festival resumes at the Monday Evening Concert, Monday night at 8 at the County Museum of Art, when the program promises two works by Hans Werner Henze and two by Kenneth Rouse.