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Mussorgsky, Ravel and Walt Disney Concert Hall

February 25th, 2018 · No Comments · Los Angeles, tourism

What a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles!

A great piece of piano music, arranged for orchestra by another classical-music great, played by modern virtuosos led by an inspired director in the finest venue in the western half of the United States.

It was so powerful it almost knocked me over. So grand, it nearly made me weep.

Modest Mussorgsky‘s Pictures at an Exhibition, arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel, directed by James Conlon and played by the well-regarded L.A. Philharmonic at the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concern Hall with all its acoustic brilliance.

“Pictures” made up about a third of the music played, but it was the star of the show, and when it was over an appreciative crowd of mostly older (OK, geriatric) folks stood and applauded louder than younger people might have thought possible, five minutes, at the least — or until the director pointed out every soloist in the orchestra.

First, some links.

Here is the original piece of music from Mussorgsky, a tortured, 19th-century genius who drank himself to death at 42, but not before he had done Pictures at an Exhibition on piano, a piece meant to celebrate a painting exhibition, by his best friend, who had died at 39.

Inspired, Mussorgsky apparently told a colleague that the “Pictures” music came easily to him. He wrote: “Ideas, melodies come to me of their own accord. … I can hardly manage to put it down on paper fast enough.”

Well, that’s what you get from a genius when all the synapses are firing.

We, however, got the orchestral version, the one arranged by Frenchman Maurice Ravel, in 1922 (40 years after the death of Mussorgski) and it brings all the dynamics of the orchestra, the delicate bits from the woodwinds as well as the blow-your-socks-off conclusion (The Great Gate of Kiev), with all the brass and percussionists on deck.

I suggest playing the piano version first, then listening to the orchestral.

The youtube bits linked (above) do a fine enough job of conveying the piece, but in person it is even more dramatic.

The Disney Hall did a star turn of its own, which we appreciated. One of us had never heard a concert there; the other had seen only a children’s show. It was our goal to hear a concert there during our visit to California.

The Disney is such a fine place to hear great music, with renowned acoustics. It is cunningly designed to be both modern and functional, and when music is not being played, you find yourself looking at the multiple layers of seating.

I was borderline euphoric, as we left; classical and canonical music often have that effect on me.

We were grateful to our daughter and son-in-law, who gifted us the tickets perched in a prominent location.

After, our party of 10 had a drink at the Noe Hotel and then dinner at Vespaio, and as we drove away I was grateful for the whole of the experience.



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