5. Cage 2012
Southwest Chamber Music, Japanese American National Museum, March 3-4
Hey L.A., where's the love for your native son, John Cage? It's the 100th anniversary of his birth next year, and the only party in town is being thrown by Southwest Chamber Music. The opening Cage 2012 concert showcases violinist Shalini Vijayan playing two late opuses while sharing the stage with sound art by Mineko Grimmer. Melting chunks of ice slowly release embedded pebbles above wires and rods, creating an unpredictable, jangly, splashing counterpoint to the long but sparse notes of the violin part. This is as Zen as it gets in a concert hall.
4. Jacaranda: Calder Quartet plays Christopher Rouse
First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, March 17-18
So many young string quartets play with such precision, energy, and musicality that we don't know what the hell to write about them — repeated praise soon becomes meaningless. How does an up-and-coming group distinguish themselves from the competition?
The Calder Quartet finagled a new work from Christopher Rouse, a man notorious for not composing chamber music. Rouse responded with a devilishly difficult piece that he describes as “something akin to a schizophrenic having a grand mal seizure.”
3. Ojai Festival
Plenty of reasons to spend the weekend at Ojai next year: pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin playing Ives, Berg, and Bartók; pianist Leif Oves Andsnes performing Beethoven, Mozart, Kurtág, and the U.S. premiere of a Bent Sørensen concerto; both pianists coming together to play Stravinsky's two-piano arrangement of his Rite of Spring. Not many Americans have heard the brilliant Swedish clarinetist Martin Frost in concert, which is another excuse to attend.
Since Cage's death, John Luther Adams has slowly but clearly emerged as the greatest living exponent of the American experimentalist tradition. The West Coast premiere of his primal outdoor composition, Inuksuit, for 48 percussion and piccolo players, is the reason we'll be there.
2. L.A. Philharmonic: Dudamel conducts Mahler 8
Shrine Auditorium, February 4
Pretty ballsy of young conductor Gustavo Dudamel to program 10 Mahler Symphonies in three weeks. Orchestra mavens worldwide will watch to see if he can pull it off. (We predict some snags; Dudamel's too new at the L.A. Phil, and there ain't enough rehearsal time to do Mahler justice).
The must-see concert is Mahler's Eighth: with climax after climax after climax, it's the closest most guys ever get to having multiple orgasms. Featuring eight vocal soloists, 14 choirs, and two orchestras, it's so damned expensive to produce that Angelenos might not hear it again for decades.
1. L.A. Philharmonic Green Umbrella Concert: Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich
Disney Hall, January 17
Once upon a time all the composition teachers in the world wrote logical music that made sense when they explained it, but sounded like pulseless beeps and farts. Steve Reich showed up and wrote intellectually rigorous music that had a beat and sounded pretty. When professors declared that Steve Reich was an evil man, an entire generation of composers realized their teachers were full of shit and stopped writing beep-fart music.
Go hear his greatest work and give the man your love. He'll be the happy dude in the baseball cap.