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CLASSICAL MUSIC

Summer soundtracks

In this slower-tempo season, here's who is catching up on a little not-so-light listening.

June 26, 2005|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Presenters of classical concerts may be worrying about a dwindling audience. The classical recording industry may be in a slump. But somebody is listening.

Indeed, when Britain's BBC Radio 3 made free downloads of the first five Beethoven symphonies available earlier this month, after it had aired performances by the BBC Philharmonic, 700,000 listeners took up the offer. Moreover, what with iPods and increasingly sophisticated car stereos, more and more people are creating soundtracks for their day-to-day lives -- and their vacations.

With that in mind, we asked a random sampling of Angelenos and others what classical selections they were looking forward to hearing this summer.

Here are their answers:

Deborah Borda

President, Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.

What I've been listening to a lot -- I'm addicted to it at this point -- is Esa-Pekka Salonen's recording of "Wing on Wing," which is just fabulous. It encapsulates the whole magical year at Disney Hall and the year leading up to it. Also, the recording of "Die Walkure," with Jessye Norman, James Morris and Christa Ludwig, conducted by James Levine. It's a real desert island piece for me. Two other CDs are Deborah Voigt's "Obsessions" and Susan Graham's "Poemes de l'Amour."

The piece I have on my iPod is "Die Walkure." The rest I actually listen to in the car. Esa-Pekka and I were recently flying back from the orchestra's tour to New York and I realized I didn't know how to turn the iPod on and work it! Esa-Pekka was a master. He taught me.

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Douglas Dutton

Owner of Dutton's Brentwood and Beverly Hills bookstores

I'm reading a new book titled "Evening in the Palace of Reason" by James Gaines that uses as its starting point the legendary meeting of Bach and Frederick the Great in 1747, the meeting that resulted in the "Musical Offering." I'm particularly interested in listening to period instrument versions, and specifically that of Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations.

Earlier this year, I finished Maynard Solomon's latest book, "Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination." The first piece he focuses on is the "Diabelli Variations," something that I confess I've never really warmed to. I'm going to try to absorb a few versions, but in particular the Piotr Anderszewski account, as he'll be playing a recital this season at Disney and seems to me to be an interesting, thinking pianist.

Two modern composers: I heard the Janeki Trio (the Colburn Conservatory group that won the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition) play the Penderecki String Trio, and loved the piece (and the performance), so I'm searching out all the Penderecki chamber music I can get my hands on. Also, I'm intrigued by Thomas Ades, who will be in town next season as pianist, composer and conductor. I've lined up several Ades CDs and am most interested in "Asyla" and some of the "Life Story" and "Arcadiana."

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Zev Yaroslavsky

Los Angeles County supervisor

I'm listening to a lot of Aaron Copland. I love his music, and I have this fantasy of one day performing narrating "A Lincoln Portrait." Schumann's Piano Concerto is one of our all-time favorites. So I always have it in my car. Beethoven's Triple Concerto and Brahms' Double Concerto -- those two I listen to pretty regularly.

I'm a little old-fashioned, but Shostakovich has been growing on me. I have a couple of his symphonies that I'm listening to with more of an open mind and open ear than I did in the past. He's such an interesting individual. To have a whole personal history translated into the music makes it a lot more interesting. That's been on my to-do list: Get to know Shostakovich's symphonies better.

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Placido Domingo

Tenor and general director of Los Angeles Opera and Washington National Opera

Although I listen to recorded classical music throughout the year, I shall pay special attention this summer to the shorter symphonies of Mozart -- in particular his youthful compositions -- because for my upcoming conducting engagements with symphony orchestras I find that these works are as good openers of a program as the ubiquitous overtures from Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Weber and Verdi operas. They will be especially appropriate because in 2006 we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

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Michael Edelstein

An executive producer of "Desperate Housewives"

Here is a short list of what I plan to listen to and why. Oddly enough, the one thing they all have in common is that they were written at the very end of the composers' lives.

Richard Strauss' "Vier letzte Lieder" (Four Last Songs) with Jessye Norman and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. I have been listening to this recording for 20 years. I don't think anyone does it better than Jessye. It's like he wrote this with her in mind.

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