During the time the late Lawrence Morton was its impresario, "Monday Evening Concerts was a great cultural influence in this city, actually, the center of our musical life," says conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.
Tilson Thomas, who grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and '60s, the time that can be regarded as the heyday of the series, may be exaggerating, but not by much.
From 1954-1971, when Morton served as Monday Evening Concerts' executive director, the series captured the attention of an important, if small, segment of the local music public. Morton's influence, acknowledged in the three memorial concerts planned in his honor this week, was far-reaching, and indeed stretched far beyond the city limits.
The musicologist, impresario, program-maker, copyist, rehearsal-scheduler, musical curator, letter-writer, annotator and sometime piano-player died last May.
The program to be given tonight at 8 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which begins the season, with Tilson Thomas leading, is almost an exact repeat of the program he conducted on May 3, 1971. The event signaled Morton's retirement from the helm of the Monday series. The program lists favorite works picked by Morton from a lifetime of listening and discerning, works by Perotin, Bach, Monteverdi, Varese and Stravinsky, among others, played by the ever-changing yet remarkably similar personnel of the Monday Evening Concert ensemble.
A number of these players, headed by veteran bassoonist Don Christlieb, helped organize the Morton tribute to be given in Festival Bowl in Ojai, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. For that event, to be conducted by Robert Craft, another longtime colleague of Morton's, the musicians are donating their services.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic's New Music Group will give a free concert honoring Morton's memory, Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo. Pierre Boulez, a friend and associate of Morton's for more than 30 years, will conduct that event, which will consist of works by Stravinsky, Boulez and Webern.
The two works of Boulez are "Eclat," which had its world premiere, through Morton's ministrations, at the then-new County Museum of Art, in 1965, and "Improvisations sur Mallarme."
Regarding tonight's agenda, Tilson Thomas emphasized that Morton had "a philosophy of programming--every program had to have one bona-fide masterpiece. Well, this one is all masterpieces." The final work, not coincidentally, is one dedicated to Morton by the composer: Stravinsky's Eight Instrumental Miniatures.
In addition to these three concerts honoring Morton's memory, a three-hour program, "Lawrence Morton Remembered," produced by Gail Eichenthal, in association with Lucia DeLisa, will be aired on KUSC-FM today from 2 to 5 p.m.
In this remembrance, containing portions of the 6 1/2-hour program, broadcast on KUSC-FM last Oct. 31 (with the programming done by Morton himself), Eichenthal talks to, among others, Philharmonic executive director Ernest Fleischmann, composer David Raksin (one of Morton's longest-standing friends), Christlieb, Leonard Stein and Heidi Lesemann.