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Fall Arts Preview | FALL ARTS PREVIEW

The sounds of things to come

A Cadre Of Rising Stars Foretells A Season Of Promise, Passion And Tantalizing Surprise.

September 19, 2004|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Every fall music season quickens the air with hope. Maybe another major -- but little-known -- young talent like soprano Dawn Upshaw or Kiri Te Kanawa will make a local debut and knock our socks off. Maybe an already internationally known conductor like Valery Gergiev will lift the baton here for the first time to let us know what all the excitement has been about.

"As much as I love working with great artists who are well-known and loved," says Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra music director Jeffrey Kahane, "there are very few things I like better than having someone whose name you've never heard of before come onstage and you realize you're in the presence of genius."

Kahane has a record of presenting such relatively unknown talent -- think violinist Hilary Hahn, baritone Thomas Quasthoff and pianist Lang Lang -- and he's about to do it again when he opens the LACO season with Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, one of a number of musical up-and-comers appearing locally over the next several months.

"Henning is not just a great violinist," says Kahane. "He's one of the greatest musicians I've encountered. He combines a phenomenal technical command and discipline with a spontaneity that makes you feel he's literally composing the music on the spot. You feel like he's speaking to you while he's playing."

From his home in Olso, Kraggerud says: "Music should be about what it is to be human in the world. If you are going to play music, it should be some way of communicating something that's not possible to communicate in words."

Born in Oslo in 1973, Kraggerud has received Norway's prestigious Grieg Prize and is artist in residence this year at the Bergen International Festival. He'll play Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the LACO on Oct .1 in San Diego and on Oct. 2 and 3 in Los Angeles. A composer as well as a musician, he will play his own cadenzas in the concerto.


Twenty-THREE-year-old pianist Jonathan Biss, who will make his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut Oct. 29 to 31, also has been building his reputation by playing from the heart and avoiding flashy war-horse repertory.

"I regard myself as having been incredibly lucky in my career so far," Biss says from New York. "I've always played only the music I felt strongly attracted to, with few exceptions. The most important thing an artist can do is to try always to make a statement with what we do."

Born and raised in Bloomington, Ind., Biss is the third generation in a family of professional musicians. His grandmother was Raya Garbousova, for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto. His parents are violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. He will play Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philharmonic, led by James Conlon.

Olga Kern, 29, too comes from a family of musicians. Her great-great-grandmother was a friend of Tchaikovsky, and her great-grandmother sang with Rachmaninoff. But she was a struggling single mother in Russia not so long ago, trying to make a living as a pianist. After she tied for the gold at the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001, however, her life took one of those storybook turns, leading to what the press soon dubbed "Olgamania."

"I never felt I changed personally," Kern says from New York. "I always just lived to play concerts. I played my first, with orchestra, when I was 7. I was always wishing for the life of a real musician. Because I had read so many books of great musicians, how they had 200 concerts a year, I wanted to know how that feels. Now I know. It feels so great. I was born to do this."

Before her Cliburn victory, Kern had competed in the 1997 competition, but she didn't advance past the preliminary round. So she went home to Moscow and reinvented herself -- ending an unhappy marriage (to a fellow Cliburn contestant), changing her name from Pushechnikova to Kern (her mother's maiden name), and dying her brown hair blond. Then she devoted herself only to her son, Vladislav, born in 1989, and endless hours of practice.

Now she's on the road for months at a time, getting back to Moscow and Vladislav whenever possible. She will play Chopin's First Piano Concerto with the Warsaw Philharmonic, led by Antoni Witt, on Nov. 8 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre and on Nov. 11 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.

Saying conductor Daniel Harding, 30, has made a meteoric rise is an understatement. At 20, the young Briton won the Royal Philharmonic Society's Best Debut Award. Just short of his 21st birthday, he led the Berlin Philharmonic, and later that year he became the youngest conductor of the BBC Proms. He led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1998 and again in 2002, the year France awarded him the title Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the equivalent of a knighthood. He will return to lead the Philharmonic on Nov. 18 to 20 in Mahler's Symphony No. 10.

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