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Visions and Voices: LA Phil & Dudamel present Music from the Americas

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the LA Phil in a vibrant program of music from North and South America, including John Williams’s Soundings, Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Concerto no. 1, a world premiere by Andrew Norman, and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

John Williams: Soundings

Celebrated composer and conductor John Williams (b. 1932) wrote Soundings for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003, "as an experimental piece [...] in which a collection of colorful sonorities could be sampled in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's new environment."  The piece is one elongated movement in five sections:

  1. The Hall Awakens
  2. The Hall Glistens
  3. The Hall Responds
  4. The Hall Sings
  5. The Hall Rejoices

You can hear an excerpt of the piece at http://www.laphil.com/philpedia/music/soundings-world-premiere-john-williams and watch various video recordings on YouTube; unfortunately, USC does not currently own an official copy (but we will soon!). Mark Swed's LA Times review of the debut performance can also be accessed at http://articles.latimes.com/2003/oct/26/entertainment/et-review26.

Ginastera Piano Concerto No. 1

Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) has been considered one of the most important twentieth-century classical composers of the Americas, dividing his own career into three stylistic periods: "objective nationalism" (1934-47), featuring the Argentine landscape and an appropriation of national elements in a primarily tonal manner; "subjective nationalism" (1947 -57), continuing to use Argentine tonal or polytonal language but with refined vernacular elements; and "neo-Expressionism" (1958-83), where he experimented with more aesthetic techniques (dodecaphony, serialism, and magic surrealism) while limiting nationalism in his compositions.  (The aforementioned has been paraphrased from Deborah Schwartz-Kates' article in Grove Music Online.)

The Piano Concerto No. 1 hails from the third period, having been completed and premiered in 1961 in Washington, D.C. by João Carlos Martins and the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Howard Mitchell.  The Boosey & Hawkes website includes descriptions of the movements at http://www.boosey.com/cr/music/Alberto-Ginastera-Piano-Concerto-No-1/5963.

Below is an official YouTube recording from 1961 by Oscar Tarrago with the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México, conducted by Enrique Bátiz:

Copland: Appalachian Spring

Appalachian Spring is one of Aaron Copland's (1900-1990) most well-known compositions and one could argue a similar status for North American works as well. Originally written as a ballet in 1944 on commission from the choreographer and dancer Martha Graham and premiered by her at the Library of Congress (for which Copland later won the Pulitzer Prize), the orchestral suite version has endured as a favorite of audience and performer alike.

The ending variations of the piece are built upon the Shaker song "Simple Gifts", which has been used in other musical works from Judy Collins to R.E.M. to Weezer. On an interesting (but perhaps not coincidental) side-note, John Williams also composed Air and Simple Gifts for the 2009 presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

Myriad recordings of Appalachian Spring exist, here's just one: