May 12, 2014

The Experience with Dudamel, Lang Lang and Prokofiev

Yesterday was a special day.

It was Mother's Day, I was in Los Angeles visiting my dear life long friend, Pat Jimenez and we had tickets to the Disney Concert Hall to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a line up that included pianist legend, Lang Lang. Everything about the day was perfect. The weather was incredible, sunny, breezy and cool, but not cold. It was Mother's Day, Pat and I both celebrated and cherished the memories of our dear Mothers.

Thanks to a GENEROUS GIFT from Lilian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, the idea, vision and dream which began in 1986, became a reality on October 24th, 2003, the official opening day of the hall.

It is considered one of the best concert halls in the world for its acoustic perfection and yesterday we experienced the appreciation of music and silence in ways that are not possible unless you are in a hall that is built with the specific goal and objective of celebrating sound.

And when I say music, I mean, amidst 2000 + people in the audience, when a particular piece began with an instrument solo for example, a clarinet or the violins, you felt the music as though the clarinet player or the violinist were sitting right next to you. When the percussionist played the maracas you could hear that instrument and its whimsical clarity amidst all the instruments. It happened over and over, the purity of sound keep surprising me. It was a delight ! !

When the entire hall was quiet and we experienced the 10 or 15 seconds when the conductor or musical director is getting everyone set and ready to begin a particular movement, the silence was powerful. It was so present in the room it was palpable, I could hear people turning the pages in their programs. And anyone that coughed forget it, you knew exactly who and were the sound was coming from.

I was also deeply moved by the violins - I counted up to 32 violins on the last score that was performed, Le Valse or The Waltz by Maurice Ravel. The violins at times sounded like sophisticated persistent waves pounding a distant shore and then seconds later, the sound resembled a delicate afternoon breeze tickling the grass on a African savannah. It was magical, the fast, slow, fast tempo and volume, like watching an invisible race.

Our seats were perfect. We were above the orchestra parallel to where Gustavo Dudamel stood conducting, we could see the bows of the violins moving back and forth, the march to a fast tempo and the sudden halt to the whisper of music that was absolutely beautiful. When Lang Lang came out to perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto #3 in C Major - that interaction between the piano and the full orchestra was like two lovers flirting, sometimes like a small field battle where neither source of music was giving up. Lang Lang would many times look towards the orchestra and then back to the keyboards, it was a marriage and bond that only they could know and understand. The dependance between pianist and the full orchestra and vice versa to create the magical sounds we heard, a secret code only they understood.

The hall is beautiful, every detail, the light, color, the shapes, the movement, how you enter the hall from the parking garage, everything was carefully thought, considered, executed. I sat back a few times, closed my eyes and imagined all the love, dedication, skill, craft, talent, perseverance, experience, collaboration, leadership, risk and courage it took to imagine, dream, plan for and execute this modern structure that moves hearts and lives in magical ways. I felt honored to be in the presence of all that went into this magnificent concert hall.

We had the great fortune to sit next to a retired couple who have season tickets, they were from Malibu. During intermission the lady gave us so much information about the hall, all the different types of performances, her favorites, the LA Phil rivals, (the snobs from New York) - and her love of classical music since she was a young girl. She talked about composers, favorite concertos, the highlight performances at the Disney Hall by Gustavo Dudamel. She made the experience even more meaningful - her and her husband loved being there.

We also attended "Upbeat Live", a talk given 1 hour before the concert that details each piece that is going to be performed. The person who gave the talk the composer of Azusa Pacific University Symphony. He provided detailed information and context on every score we were going to listen to and experience. It was a great bonus.

What surprised me the most, the precision, the order, the expected customs and behavior of the audience, of the orchestra, when to clap, when not to, the number of bows taken by the conductor, the orchestra - how the musicians moved on and off stage depending on the piece that was being performed. It was perfect ! And we had seats right above the orchestra, the terrace level, our view was perfect. The lady next to us said the performances that involved the organ are not to be missed. She said if you have never experienced this, she said "Come Back" - she gave me the name of a Russian composer to listen to that would give me an idea of what she was describing to us.

If I can, I will come back to the Disney Concert Hall for sure. If you are ever in Los Angeles and can attend a performance, I highly recommend. For me it was a memorable experience, one that I will cherish forever.

Pat I am so glad we were able to go ! ! ! Thanks for your wonderful hospitality.