Philharmonic Convergence

Gustavo Dudamel

GRANADA SURF REPORT, CONT’D: This weekend, prognosticators, pundits, and music-minded citizens will hear the answer to a burning musical question: Will the Granada Theatre be all we hope for as Santa Barbara’s new home to orchestral culture? It is entirely fitting, poetically and sonically, to have the newly reopened and retooled Granada broken in for orchestra music by the great Los Angeles Philharmonic. Saturday night’s gala comes courtesy of Community Arts Music Association (CAMA), a local host to this orchestra going back to the early 20th century.

Saturday’s L.A. Phil appearance, significant as a new beginning at the Granada, also has a bittersweet aspect, as it will be the final appearance here of the L.A. Phil under maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen, who ends his long tenure with the Philharmonic after next season. By all accounts, Salonen has turned this orchestra into one of the greatest in the nation, and the world. The Finn-in-L.A. passes the baton to the twenty-something Venezuelan sensation Gustavo Dudamel, a maestro who promises to continue mixing tradition with innovation-Salonen’s specialty. As it happens, Salonen is not only a great and illuminating conductor, but one of the most fascinating composers on the current scene, and he plans to explore that side of his musicality more.

Salonen’s music-especially when it taps his orchestral imagination and savvy-manages to cross the line separating the intellectual from the visceral, making contemporary music something alive and accessible in the process, and without pandering to conservative tastes. We’ll have the opportunity to hear his music next season at Disney Hall. Meanwhile, at the Granada, Salonen leads the charge to the tune of Wagner‘s “Gtterd¤mmerung” (excerpts) and Brahms‘s Second Piano Concerto, featuring luminous Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist.

OTHER SOUTHLAND NOTES: Los Angeles’s cultural/media life got a bit duller this week. After 16 years as a faithful, witty, and erudite-without-airs writer, Alan Rich and his wonderful “A Lot of Night Music” column in the L.A. Weekly has been axed by corporate higher-ups, to the chagrin of many. Rich, brother of Frank and a veteran who started writing in 1944, is one of America’s finer classical critics, whose discernment-without priggish snobbery-is a rare treat. Rich, 84 and still youthful in outlook, soldiers on, as a blogger and contributor in various media ports and portals.

SONG TREE, INTERRUPTED: One of the rustic fine charmers on the periphery of Santa Barbara’s musical landscape, the Song Tree Concert Series is coming to a long break in the action. Musician and series domo Tom Lee has been steering the series for six years, in the idyllic setting of the Live Oak Universalist Unitarian Church out on Fairview-near the point at which Goletan suburbia yields to a non-tract, agrarian life in the “Good Land.” As the church goes into construction mode, the series takes an extended breather, possibly for a year or so. This Saturday night’s shindig, featuring the San Luis Obispo-based bluegrass-and-beyond group Rhythm Brothers, is a last hurrah : for the moment.

JAZZ SOCIETAL SONGSPIEL: In other musical and S.L.O. county news, this Sunday afternoon’s congregation of the Santa Barbara Jazz Society, at SOhO, features a special jazz vocalist, Inga Swearingen, a stellar local once removed (for those who cling to the notion of a geo-cultural connection in the tri-counties). As heard on her fine 2005 album Reverie (Rhythome), recorded with the Bill Peterson Trio, Swearingen is a fine and flexible singer. On a song set moving seamlessly from freshly served standards to originals and a visit to Joni Mitchell’s songbook (“Black Crow”), Swearingen sports an easy command of tone and phraseology, and sure skill in the delicate art of scat singing. She also has an impressive resume, including appearances on “Prairie Home Companion” and studies with-and praises from-the acclaimed ECM recording artist, Swiss singer Susan Abbuehl. She has also worked with the wonderful and unsung piano hero Art Lande. At SOhO, Swearingen appears with pianist Ian Bernard‘s trio.


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