The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays orchestral symphonies for the audience at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday, Oct. 8. The Phil performed two major movements throughout the show with a 15 minute intermission. Photo by Emily Chase
The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra hosted audiences from far and wide for a night of musical escape. The performance ran from Thursday, Oct. 6, to Sunday, Oct. 9, at The Walt Disney Concert Hall. The L.A. Phil performed Gabriela Ortiz’s “Altar de cuerda” and Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 1 in D Major.“
Mathematics Professor David Strong reserved his class two rows of seats located behind the orchestra. The seats faced the composer and the left within the viola section of the orchestra, where Strong’s wife Leticia Oaks Strong played. Strong said he knew this performance was the one he wanted his class to see.
“Wait until you hear it — this might be the best concert of the whole year,” D. Strong said. “The music speaks for itself.”
The Los Angeles Philharmonic
Amateur musician and philanthropist William Andrews Clark Jr. founded The Philharmonic in 1919. The Phil is Los Angeles’ first permanent symphony orchestra, according to the L.A. Phil’s website.
Since the Phil’s beginning in the early 1900s, there have been 11 composers — the 11th is current composer Gustavo Dudamel. Dudamel is the orchestra’s Music and Artistic Director and is pioneering the “Pan-American Music Initiative,” according to Dudamel’s Phil page.
Every week, the Phil’s members have four performances from Thursday to Sunday. The musicians receive the music two weeks in advance and have an ever-changing calendar of new music to perform, Oaks Strong said.
A Night in The Grand Hall
The shining lights and hanging mics surrounded the stage inside the curved, wooded scenery of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. People were packed tightly in the crowd from seats near the 51-foot ceiling down to the front of center stage.
Throughout the duration of the show, some people in the audience chose to close their eyes and nod their heads in time with certain pieces.
During the Saturday night performance, many surprises for the audience took place. Before intermission, composer Gabriela Ortiz, the composer of the first piece, “Altar de cuerda,” came out to the stage.
Dudamel waited for silence so loud a pin could drop before beginning into an eventual explosion of sound. Upon finishing the first piece in the second half, Dudamel’s face was painted with pride for his work and his musicians.
For the first half of the program prior to intermission, the orchestra had a guest soloist, 19-year-old violinist María Dueñas. Dueñas is unmatched in skill and unassuming in appearance and age as she makes waves in the music world, according to her program biography.
Her energy in the performance even took Dueñas as far as accidentally breaking a string mid-performance twice in a row.
Music That Entrances
People pay to see the L.A. Philharmonic play extensive movements of music. “Altar de cuerda,” by Gabriela Ortiz, featuring soloist María Dueñas and “Symphony No. 1 in D major,” by Gustav Mahler, were the featured pieces of the night.
“Altar de cuerda”
The composer showcased the brass section by having them perform a special addition to the piece. At one point, the brass section picked up water glasses and made sounds with their fingers against the rim of the filled glass as part of the piece, which Strong said would elevate the piece’s presentation.
“Symphony No. 1 in D major”
Silence filled the hall as the composer began the 56-minute piece with a bang, washing the hall over completely with a wave of sound. The piece during certain parts resembled similar patterns and characteristics of the traditional Islamic folklore piece, Hashivenu, which utilizes layering of harmonies and instrumental rounds. Continuing with the brass section showcasing in the second act, the piece highlighted the trumpets and bassoons particularly.
There was control between the composer and the musicians as the composer made mirroring movements with the musicians. The program concluded with a festive and celebratory encore, which was unlisted in the program brochure. The piece looped back to kindred themes from the beginning of the show such as similar-sounding melodies and rhythmic patterns.
The Phil on the Inside Through the Lens of Pepperdine’s Strongs
Strong promoted the Saturday night performance to Pepperdine students. Strong said he saw the show Thursday night and couldn’t stay away. His wife, Oaks Strong, who plays viola for the orchestra, said she thrives off of the energy of the performances and music she gets.
“I like to get the music two weeks in advance to start looking and preparing,” Oaks Strong said.
Oaks Strong said she joined the Phil in 1994 straight out of USC’s Thornton School of Music after graduating as “Outstanding Graduate of the School of Music.” Now, in her 29th season, Oaks Strong said the fact that it was once gone keeps her coming back every week.
“During the pandemic, I didn’t have music running through my head, and I didn’t realize until then how much I truly loved that soundtrack I had in my head,” Oaks Strong said. “You don’t realize how much you want it — until it’s gone.”
Strong said he could see a difference in his wife when she wasn’t able to perform with the Phil during the pandemic.
“Music is the soundtrack of her life,” Strong said. “She went crazy without it.”
Oaks Strong said she is a member of the Philharmonic’s Chamber Music group, which is a smaller group of musicians that perform every Tuesday with music they select themselves. These performances are also open to the public, and Oaks Strong said it is a wonderful experience.
“It’s so much fun,” Oaks Strong said. “The orchestra is like a family, and it’s fun performing with family.”
The Strongs said the L.A. Phil is always very excited when an audience of new visitors fills the house.
Strong said it is important for students to be involved with their cities and expose themselves to the world of art and culture. Strong said there is an opportunity for students to visit the Phil at a discounted price with the option Student Rush Tickets.
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