The Best Classical Concerts to See in L.A. This Fall

Sat. Oct. 20

Jacaranda: Different Islands

First Presbyterian Santa Monica

Herman Melville's prose is nearly impossible to transmute into music (George Rochberg and Jake Heggie failed the challenge), but in The Encantadas, Tobias Picker conjures an appropriate accompaniment to depict "the special curse" of the Galapagos Islands. In City Life, Steve Reich samples street talk by New Yorkers, intermingling it with urban noises such as car horns, brakes, and sirens to weave an energetic sonic tapestry. Bonus: Gloria Cheng plays the big piano work that Esa-Pekka Salonen composed for her--Dichotomie; her recording of which helped win her a Grammy in 2008.

Tue Oct. 30

Piano Spheres: A Tribute to Nancarrow

Zipper Concert Hall, The Colburn School

Conlon Nancarrow didn't have Ableton Live in 1948, so he punched out piano rolls to hear his complex rhythms realized. Pianists Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams perform these complicated player piano pieces as a duo! Nine recently discovered early piano works by Nancarrow will be given their L.A. premieres on October 30. One of Nancarrow's biggest fans was Gyorgy Ligeti (aka the guy who wrote the monolith music in 2001: A Space Odyssey); Ligeti's Three Pieces for Two Pianos is a phantasmagorical exploration of stuttering rhythms, mechanical patterns falling apart, and virtuosic unison passagework that will blow your mind, that is, if Nancarrow's music doesn't unhinge your lower jaw.

Thu-Sat Nov. 8-10

Los Angeles Philharmonic

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Manuel de Falla combined early 20th-century opera with Gypsy music in La Vida Breve. While it receives the occasional production in Europe and Mexico, it's very rare to hear it live in the U.S. Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos is one of the great Falla conductors, and a flamenco singer, guitarist, and dancer (seen above) will spice up the orchestra. Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Maddalena in the Hollywood Bowl's Rigoletto, should be an enticing Salud in this concert performance.


Fri-Sun Dec. 7-9

Los Angeles Philharmonic

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Sure, we miss Esa Pekka Salonen on the podium, and we love it when he returns to conduct. But we're even more excited that he's composing. He's bringing his recent piece, Nyx, to L.A. in an intriguing program that also features a song cycle by Lutoslawski, another composer/conductor whose L.A. performances were always well attended. In between, to lighten the mood, will be the most graceful piano concerto of the 19th century, Robert Schumann's. The concert ends with Tchaikovsky's musical descent into Hell and back again, Francesca da Rimini.

Sat-Sun Dec. 8-9

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Alex Theatre (8)/Royce Hall (9)

Rhapsody in Blue -- probably the most frequently performed and recorded orchestral work by an American composer -- was actually written for Paul Whiteman's orchestra, a jazz band with a string section. Jeffrey Kahane will conduct and play piano in this infrequently heard version. Copland's Appalachian Spring may not be as popular as Rhapsody in Blue, but it's not far behind it in frequency of performances. John Adams' high-spirited and inventive Son of Chamber Symphony is a kinky -- and most welcome -- addition to this fun program.

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