Deutsche Grammophon Releases Two Concerts with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

World-Premiere Performance of Arvo Pärt’s "Symphony No. 4" and works by De Falla, Debussy and Ravel

The very first Los Angeles Philharmonic release in the DG Concerts series featured Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa, surely one of the great works of the twentieth-century. During Esa-Pekka Salonen’s final season as music director he presented the world-premiere of Pärt’s Symphony No. 4, “Los Angeles.” Salonen long desired a new work by Pärt and at the time of commission the composer was working with ancient canon in Church Slavonic and with a prayer to a guardian angel – “the connection to Los Angeles was irresistible,” as a note in the score indicates.

Working with simplicity as a guiding principle, Pärt builds his music “with the most primitive materials – with the triad, with one specific tonality.” Yet, Pärt remains simple in only spirit and texture (the work is scored for strings and percussion only) as he quickly expands upon this musical language with the use of modal and chromatic harmony, ever-present suspensions and tonal ambiguity. From shimmering string chords to small moments of calm sorrow, “Los Angeles” is both a much-welcomed addition to the orchestral repertory and an emblematic moment in Esa-Pekka Salonen’s time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, demonstrating both his and the orchestra’s support of new music and conviction to place these works on equal footing with those of acknowledged masters.

Pärt: Symphony No. 4, “ Los Angeles ”
Esa-Pekka Salonen / Los Angeles Philharmonic
Performed live in Walt Disney Concert Hall
January 9–11, 2009
Available at iTunes September 22, 2009

The second CD in the DG Concert series was recorded live last October. This concert is a virtuoso performance of technique and orchestral color. The three composers represented were all contemporaries and even knew each other. Manuel de Falla, though of Spanish origins, spent time in Paris and learned from both Debussy and Ravel. After traveling back to Spain, Falla focused on capturing the uniquely Spanish sound (as opposed to that of the famous French and Russian “Spanish scores”) and succeeded by drawing inspiration from Andalusian folk songs (though he did not quote any actual songs). El amor brujo, like most of his works, was for the stage. This suite of three dances captures the earthy and native impulses of the region and is given a rousing performance.

Debussy long had a fond relationship with the sea and for his great work, La mer, he drew inspiration from as varied sources as the paintings of Joseph Turner and prints of Katsushika Hokusai (whose “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” print was the composer’s choice to adorn the title page of the score). In three movements Debussy paints the dual nature of the sea: ever-changing on the surface with an underlying eternal and static quality.

The final work of the concert is the complete ballet score of Ravel’s Mother Goose. Originally a charming and delightful work for piano four-hands (composed for children), the work was eventually expanded and orchestrated into a complete ballet. At once both sophisticated and child-like (much like the composer himself) the work is another virtuoso composition testing the talents of the orchestra. It bears noting that Ravel was simultaneously working on Daphnis et Chloé, his longest and possibly most ambitious work, as both scores share similar sounds and colors.

Falla: Three Dances from El amor brujo
Debussy: La mer
Ravel: Mother Goose (complete ballet)
Esa-Pekka Salonen / Los Angeles Philharmonic
Performed live in Walt Disney Concert Hall
October 3–5, 2008
Available at iTunes August 25, 2009

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