Leonard Slatkin and the Los Angeles Philharmonic heat up the beat this week with Slatkin Conducts Gershwin and Marsalis, a jazz classics program that includes George Gershwin's An American in Paris, Dmitri Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 1 and Wynton Marsalis' Swing Symphony. Composed in 1928, An American in Paris was Gershwin's attempt to "portray the impression of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city and listens to various street noises and absorbs the French atmosphere." As such, it was an urban tone poem, evocative of the hustle and bustle of both life and art, and bursting with contemporary vibrancy. Shostakovich's Jazz Suite, by contrast, is a curious combination of Slavic melancholy and cabaret that sounds a little like Kurt Weill on a Siberian bender. Among its movements are a satirical little waltz that evokes the Berlin cafes of the 1920s and '30s, its slow-moving melody accentuated by the clangs of a glockenspiel, and a weird fox trot that sounds like a Russian march with a blues tinge. The great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis joins the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for the West Coast premiere of his Swing Symphony, composed as an homage to American music; like an epic, it sweeps through the various eras from ragtime and slow drag to Afro-Latin, Kansas City Swing, Be Bop and all manner of other genres comprising our musical heritage. Lauded by critics as "grand, brave, even heroic," the Swing Symphony is not an easy work to pull off; "it contains all kinds of rhythms and syncopation, which makes it very difficult to play," notes the composer.
Sat., Feb. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 2 p.m., 2011