Tuxedos and glittery ball gowns stored away for a year and half were out in profusion Saturday to celebrate the gala return of Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic to Walt Disney Concert Hall. And even though the orchestra had been performing to capacity audiences at the Hollywood Bowl since July, as Maestro Dudamel pointed out during emotional gathering, “This is our home. We are back.”

There was, however, a tangible sense that the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, as the audience was required to show proof of vaccination and wear masks while inside the auditorium. Many of the musicians also were masked.


The concert began with the World Premiere of Gabriella Ortiz’s Kauyumari — offering a vivid reflection of Ortiz’s Mexican heritage. Its musical/emotional spectrum was ideally suited to the moment, opening with a sense of shadowy foreboding with the funereal rumbling of a bass drum and gong. Distant (off stage) trumpets break through the gloom like shafts of light that grows into a radiant brass fanfare. Then a solo piccolo piping a playful Mexican folk tune summons everyone to celebrate. The entire orchestra joins in to create a joyous dance of life and renewal. It may have only lasted six minutes, but it spoke volumes.

Piano soloist Seong-Jin Cho offered a hard-hitting interpretation of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto that brought the crowd to it feet. But it was the superlative vocal styling of Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo that really shone beginning with her star-bright rendition of “Somewhere” (from “West Side Story”). She then upped the tempo with jazzy interpretations of “How I Feel” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

The climatic musical fireworks came in the form of the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 with the volume cranked up to 11!

With the gala behind them, Dudamel and the orchestra begin the real season Thursday with a program again perfectly attuned to the moment: Arnold Schoenberg’s luminous “Transfigured Night” followed by Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” with soprano Golda Schultz as soloist; concluding with Strauss’ mystical symphonic poem, “Death and Transfiguration.”

In the coming weeks, the orchestra will feature music by the hottest young composer of the moment, Jessie Montgomery, her composition, “Strum”; Steven Mackey’s “Shivaree: Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra” (commissioned by the LA Phil); concluding with Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 4” with soprano Camilla Tilling as vocal soloist.

To echo Gustavo Dudamel’s sentiment, it’s great to be home.

Jim Farber is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

Los Angeles Philharmonic

  • Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles
  • Next: “Dudamel Conducts Strauss,” 8 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
  • Information: laphil.com

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)




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