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Classical Music

A fruitful autumn harvest Highlights from the season's stage, dance, architecture, books, art, classical and pop.

September 07, 2008

'Bernstein: The Best

of All Possible Worlds'

This two-month festival in New York, jointly sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic, will open with an all-Bernstein program in Carnegie by the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and featuring Dawn Upshaw and Yo-Yo Ma. The West Coast will get a preview when the San Franciscans perform the program a week earlier as part of their hometown concert series. But from then on, New Yorkers are the lucky ones, with concerts, films and educational events at Carnegie and Lincoln Center focusing on the many facets of America's greatest musician. Included will be a performance of Bernstein's once-controversial, hippie-ish, antiwar, presciently postmodern, angst-ridden, orgiastic, multi-stylistic "Mass," involving middle and high school students, the Baltimore Symphony and conductor Marin Alsop.

Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, Sept. 17-19,, and various New York venues, Sept. 24-Dec. 13,

Segerstrom Concert Hall's new Fisk organ

The organ is often hailed as the king of instruments. Kings must have coronations, and coronations must be big deals. So here's the big deal in Orange County: When the most recent addition to the Orange County Performing Arts Center opened in 2006, one of its visual highlights was the series of towering tin and aluminum leaf organ pipes. But they were just for looks. It has taken two years to install and tune the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall's new Fisk organ, and now it's ready. The coronation will take the form of the Pacific Symphony's opening program of the new season, led by music director Carl St.Clair with New York organist Paul Jacobs as soloist. The program will be all mighty, all organ, all the time, with solo works by Marcel Dupre and Bach, the premiere of Christopher Theofanidis' "Rex Tremendae Majestatis" for organ, brass and percussion, and Saint-Saens' regal "Organ" Symphony.

Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, Sept. 18,

Steven Stucky

On Sept. 18, Stucky -- a fond figure at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he has been a composer in residence in one way or another for 20 years -- will need to be in two places at the same time. The Dallas Symphony will be premiering his "August 4, 1964," while the New York Philharmonic offers the first U.S. performance of his "Rhapsodies." The first score is an evening-length civil rights drama for singers and orchestra with a libretto by Gene Scheer, commissioned by the Texas orchestra as part of the opening festivities for its new music director, Jaap van Zweden, and in commemoration of President Lyndon B. Johnson's 100th birthday. Four soloists in the oratorio represent the mothers of slain civil rights workers, LBJ and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. "Rhapsodies" is a co-commission by the New York Philharmonic and the Proms in London, where it had its world premiere last month.

Meyer Symphony Center, Dallas, Sept. 18,, and Avery Fisher Hall, New York, Sept. 18,

The Los Angeles

Chamber Orchestra

Forty is the new who-knows-what age -- no longer young, but these days no longer old either. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at 40 is in fine fettle, and it will begin its round-number season with a birthday present to itself. Forty players will gather at their old stamping ground, the Ambassador Auditorium, with their founding conductor, British maestro Neville Marriner, who is 84 and apparently going strong. Certainly he has chosen an exuberant program, which includes Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 with a special soloist -- Jeffrey Kahane, the ensemble's music director, who has done much to keep it sounding fresh. Local composer Paul Chihara has arranged some Schumann for the occasion. Stravinsky and Kodaly at their most lively complete the bill.

Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, Sept. 27,

'Doctor Atomic'

John Adams' opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb in New Mexico during World War II is coming to the Metropolitan Opera, and look out. It will receive a new production by Penny Woolcock, a British filmmaker fascinated by urban rough edges. Her cinematic version of Adams' "The Death of Klinghoffer" certainly pulled no punches. The "Doctor Atomic" production, which will reach movie theaters Nov. 8 as part of the Met's HD broadcasts, is something of a slap in the face of the brilliant original by Peter Sellars, who also compiled the libretto from historical sources. Still, Sellars will have his say as well: A DVD of his production will be released on Opus Arte this month. And you can read all about the making of the opera in Adams' memoirs, "Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life," to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux this month.

Metropolitan Opera House, New York, Oct. 13,

Gustavo Dudamel

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