Osvaldo Golijov is nothing if not intriguing, and his newest work, Azul, is even more intriguing than usual. It incorporates so many references and so much musical adventuring that it's almost impossible to narrow it down to a simple synopsis. Baroque homage co-exists with surreal, mystical tonalities and elements of Middle Eastern, Latin American and Central European styles in what Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra music director Jeffrey Kahane calls "one of the most beautiful, powerful and thrilling works that has been composed in the last half century." And this weekend, LACO performs Azul with the man for whom it was written, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who's joined by fellow soloists Michael Ward-Bergeman, creator and master of the hyper-accordion, and percussionists Jamey Haddad and Keita Ogawa, all of whom are up to the superhumanly virtuosic challenges of the work. Golijov himself has described Azul as a 21st century baroque adagio; an admirer of the Bbaroque masters' ability to keep the movement going while suspending time in their works, he began Azul as a reworking of his Tenebrae for soprano and string quartet, a piece that had been inspired by Francois Couperin's Lecons de Tenebrae. In Azul, Golijov expands and contracts time, creating different levels of focus for the listener and a "sense of eternal serenity" that evokes the open air and deep blue of the night sky and the lines of Pablo Neruda's mystical poem, "The Heights of Macchu Picchu": "From air to air/like an empty net/ I went wandering between the streets and the atomosphere/ arriving and saying goodbye..." Also on the program: Gabriel Faure's haunting Elegy and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.
Sun., Jan. 11, 7 p.m., 2009