Gustavo Dudamel | Credit: Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

When the Los Angeles Philharmonic returns to The Granada Theatre on Sunday afternoon, May 28, it will ostensibly be one of the less surprising turns of Santa Barbara’s 2022-23 classical music season, now in its twilight moment. The pact between the venerable orchestra-hosting organization Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) and the L.A. Phil, after all, is one that goes back more than a century.

But the L.A. Phil, as we have come to learn in its past two decades of rising sharply in the ranks of international orchestras, is anything but a predictable SoCal group, or one we should take for granted. Under the care and vision of previous conductor (and composer) Esa-Pekka Salonen, in charge for 17 years, until 2009, L.A.’s primary orchestra experienced great upward mobility in terms of its sense of adventure in programming, ensemble strength, and status on the world stage. Salonen, now head of the San Francisco Symphony, led the L.A. Phil several times at the Granada under the CAMA rubric.

Sunday’s concert has at least two extenuating circumstances making it a special occasion. For one, this will be one of the last chances to hear the sublime orchestra with its current maestro Gustavo Dudamel at the helm, before he heads east to take the music director position with the New York Philharmonic in 2026.

Even more intriguing, the upcoming L.A. Phil program is the freshest and most forward-leaning of the entire season of CAMA concerts (which can tend to be on the conservative side), with not one but two premieres in store. Sunday’s new fare will also have the benefit of the scores having been warmed up by earlier performances in L.A.

While the concert’s second half turns to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, the first half consists of brand-new works by composers who happen to be women — Ellen Reid’s West Coast Sky Eternal, and Lost Coast: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, by the impressive young composer Gabriella Smith. Reid is a composer and sound artist, based in New York and Los Angeles, who won a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for her opera Prism.

Smith, a Bay Area–bred composer with a strong commitment to and interest in environmental issues and influences, was previously commissioned by the L.A. Phil to write her organ concerto, Breathing Forests. She has made a deep impression in the 805 before, as one of the most captivating of the cavalcade of young composers in the 2021 Ojai Music Festival, under artistic director John Adams’s guidance. Her new piece features cellist Gabriel Cabezas, whose connection with the composer can be heard on the 2021 album Lost Coast. Consider it a warm-up to the new concerto.

As it happens, the L.A. Phil has used its Santa Barbara–timed appearances in the service of new music before, notably in 2018, when its Granada/CAMA concert birthed the dynamic new piece Threshold, by L.A. Phil percussionist Joseph Pereira (also connected with the Music Academy).

Kudos go out to SoCal’s world-class orchestra for livening up the orchestral palette in our town.



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