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Ten Who Care

MaryAnn Bonino‘s Chamber Music in Historic Sites brings in superb small entertainments from around the world -- chamber music, early music, solo recitals -- and plunks them down in enhancing architectural settings -- churches, mansions, classic lobbies. You hear a Haydn quartet in the music room of, say, a Pasadena Greene & Greene, and you’re finally hearing that music restored to its proper venue: a classy class act if ever one was.

Robert Cauer sells and repairs fine instruments in his shop around the corner from the Hollywood Bowl; visit as he places a precious old violin in the hands of a shiny-eyed teenager, and you‘ll know what it is to be in love with music. Cauer’s own love affair leads him to produce and publish a yearly ”Cauer Calendar“ that gathers together an entire musical season in an intelligently compiled and accurate listing of great and unique value. By doing so, he accomplishes what the rest of you all hanker for: He tells the critics where they can go.

Dean Corey took over the Philharmonic Society in sleepy, conservative, well-heeled Orange County, and invented ”Eclectic Orange,“ a few weeks of challenging musical and theatrical events from all over. The range this season, for example, is amazing, from a Mark Morris staging of a baroque opera, to the Berlin Philharmonic playing Beethoven, to the Italian pianist Marino Formenti performing Jean Barraque‘s Sonata, the Great White Shark of piano music.

Ernest Fleischmann, in 29 years as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s executive director, reinvented the place of an orchestra in its community, as a guardian of masterpieces, a cultural force reaching out to a new audience, and a champion of new-music invention and presentation. Currently he heads the Ojai Festival, but his name is still in fine print at the Music Center, which is tantamount to burying a bomb on the premises. Strong-willed and phenomenally inventive, he proved such a hard act to follow at the Philharmonic that his successor lasted only 15 months.

Betty Freeman, a model of enlightened arts patronage, is enamored with the very act of creativity and uses her family fortune to make sure it keeps on happening, with a list of recipients (John Cage, John Adams, Virgil Thomson, you name ‘em) that stands for the thriving center of new-music activity. Uncommon among even the most enlightened patrons, she works hard to keep her name off the things she so handsomely supports.

Michael Milenski’s Long Beach Opera metamorphosed, some 20 years ago, from ordinary to extraordinary, taking on 400 years of operatic repertory and restaging each work -- respectfully but with madcap originality -- into something new and stimulating. Among his innovations: Monteverdi gone Mafioso and Richard Strauss‘ Elektra in a beachside motel. What’s more, they worked!

Dorrance Stalvey runs the concert programs at the County Museum with next to no budget but with a roster of participants that represents the elite of contemporary performance -- including the resident California EAR Unit and major ensembles from the East Coast and beyond. His recent programming, which has included an extensive ”Focus on California“ series and the discovery of the incredible Italian pianist Marino Formenti, provides a valuable leavening to the local new-music scene.

Leonard Stein has been in on the creation of Los Angeles‘ new-music life since the 1930s: onetime assistant to Arnold Schoenberg and evangelist for his music, organizer and participant in the enterprising Piano Spheres concert series. A walking history of new-music awareness in Southern California, he can still -- in his late 80s -- perform Schoenberg’s piano music with an eloquence that few newcomers can match.

Steven Stucky is a composer, faculty member at Cornell, but also a frequent participant in Los Angeles musical life as the Philharmonic‘s new-music adviser and an organizer of the excellent Green Umbrella series. He sits in on the Philharmonic’s new-music planning, conducts pre-concert chats before each Umbrella concert and concocts program notes of cherishable wisdom. After all, with a name like Stucky, he has to be good.

Jim Svejda is planner and host (eloquent, controversial) of the evening classical-music programs on KUSC and, in that sea of blandness, an island of awareness that music can be listened to for intellectual pleasure, not merely as a branch of the wallpaper industry. Driven by deep but interesting prejudices, especially in favor of his Czech countrymen, his is one of the last radio voices around that make one believe he really loves the stuff.

--A.R.


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