Tuesday saw the first of three performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in residency at the Barbican. Dudamel led the players in five pieces (four programmed and then surprisingly an encore, which we don’t see that often with British orchestras) that ranged from novel to bizarre and sublime.
The first piece, Soundings by John Williams was a UK premiere and evoked nostalgia the way that listening to a Williams piece always does. His unique style and sound makes you think back to all the great movie scores we have grown up with. The performance was spectacular and the inclusion of a Korg keyboard, two Macbooks and surround sound effects kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
The next piece was a rather demanding piano concerto, composed by Ginastera (no, I hadn’t heard of him either). Sergio Tiempo gave a convincing performance and the energy he delivered was sensational. The audience’s appreciation was shown through his several curtain calls and the rapturous applause offered. After the interval came another UK premiere and a piece that I am sure many Imperial students would enjoy. Based on computer games, Andrew Norman’s Play: Level 1 used an interesting mix of percussion cues to bring in ‘players’ and included an array of tempos, dynamics and instruments playing backwards (think Revolver by the Beatles, but live and with a lot of brass players). The whole performance was unpredictable and exciting, with an ending that left all in no doubt that the piece had finished – a final shriek of strings and brass followed by a flop on percussion meant game over.
The evening’s final programmed piece was Copland’s Appalachian Spring which needs no introduction or explanation. This was my favourite part of the evening, a truly sublime performance that ended with an absolute silence in the hall held by Dudamel for in excess of 20 seconds. Four curtain calls later, Dudamel introduced the encore, a piece taken from the Hitchcock classic Vertigo which gave a fitting end to a spectacular night.
It is a real shame that the L.A. Philharmonic only come once every few years – I’ll certainly be looking out for them the next time.
P.S. for any of you who like your classical music, get the Student Pulse app – cheap tickets and excellent seats!