The Los Angeles Philharmonic's 1999-2000 subscription season, announced Thursday, includes less of music director Esa-Pekka Salonen than anticipated, the addition of jazz and pops programming at the Music Center, and plans for acoustic improvements in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Salonen, who begins a yearlong sabbatical in January 2000, leads the orchestra in only three regular-season concerts in October, before handing the baton over to such familiar faces as former Philharmonic music director Zubin Mehta, early music specialist Roger Norrington, current Philharmonic assistant conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and frequent guest conductors Simon Rattle, Yuri Temirkanov and David Zinman.
Programming will be divided into two main categories: the Legacy series, with traditional repertory from the Classical to late-Romantic periods, and the Signature series, which weaves 20th century works into the mix--a formula for which the Philharmonic and Salonen are well known.
In addition, a new Wednesday night Rendezvous series, aimed at attracting new audiences, features pops and jazz, with performances by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
"It's all about positioning, targeted programming," said Philharmonic managing director Willem Wijnbergen. "We have to take the artistic high ground but be in the shoes of the audience as well. We want to acquaint people with the different kind of music we offer so they can travel with us from one series to another. If some are happy with [only] one particular part of it, that's OK, too."
Among the highlights of the 81st Philharmonic season are world premieres of Rodion Shchedrin's Piano Concerto No. 5, with pianist Olli Mustonen, and Steven Stucky's "American Muse" for baritone and orchestra--a Philharmonic commission featuring Sanford Sylvan. Pianists Arcadi Volodos and Max Levinson, and baritone Matthias Goerne will be making their Philharmonic debuts. On the list of returning guest artists are pianist Andre Watts and home-grown violinist Leila Josefowicz. Other noteworthy programming includes Michael Tippett's antiwar oratorio "A Child of Our Time," paired with gospel choral music ("broadening our reach organically," says Wijnbergen).
The long-standing Celebrity Recital series will include such artists as soprano Sylvia McNair and pianists Mikhail Pletnev, Mitsuko Uchida and Emanuel Ax. Ax will also appear as part of an all-star quartet composed of Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo and Yo-Yo Ma. Guest orchestras include the San Francisco Symphony led by Michael Tilson Thomas.
The Filmharmonic series, in which composers and filmmakers collaborate on a piece of their choosing, is temporarily on hold. "It's a matter of money--and timing," said Wijnbergen. "We have to put our programs in place early on. Planning long-term is much harder in the film world. These projects will land when they will land."
During the 1999-2000 season, the audience will be seated in a reconfigured Dorothy Chandler Pavilion--designed to create better acoustics and a more intimate venue along the lines of the upcoming Disney Hall. Using a stage extension, the orchestra will be raised a foot and positioned 16 feet closer to the audience. A similar move was undertaken in the mid-1980s but abandoned after audience complaints about deteriorating sight lines.
"That failure gave us information," said Wijnbergen. "To avoid that, we conducted extensive tests with the orchestra and audience, bringing the patrons into the process. Though sight lines will change, the improvements will make for a fuller sound and more immediate connection with the orchestra."
In addition to his subscription season appearances, Salonen will conduct the Philharmonic in three special event concerts: an Oct. 3 Peninsula Music Fair performance at the Chadwick School, the Oct. 9 benefit for the orchestra's pension fund and outreach efforts and the Oct. 10 opening ceremonies of the World Festival of Sacred Music at the Hollywood Bowl. He is also expected to conduct his own works in a Green Umbrella series offering.
Salonen's agenda for his sabbatical includes the completion of his first operatic work, a collaboration with Peter Sellars based on Peter Hoeg's "The Woman and the Ape." Commissioned by the Aix-en-Provence Festival, it will premiere there in July 2001. Plans are underway for the U.S. premiere of the piece in L.A. in 2002. Salonen will also be working on an orchestral commission for Tokyo's Suntory Hall that will first be performed in December of that year.
\o7 * For complete Los Angeles Philharmonic 1999-2000 season information: (323) 850-2000.\f7