Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s (LACO) virtuosic musicians serve as musical tour guides for In Focus, the Orchestra’s compelling chamber music series curated by Concertmaster Margaret Batjer, which provides insights into the quintessence of some of the great chamber music repertoire through the lens of LACO artists in an intimate setting. This spring LACO offers three In Focus programs, each presented at both the Moss Theater at New Roads School at The Herb Alpert Educational Village in Santa Monica and Rothenberg Hall, The Huntington in San Marino. Batjer leads a LACO-commissioned world premiere by Juan Pablo Contreras; LACO violinists, stand-mates and husband and wife Carrie Kennedy and Joel Pargman are showcased on Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins; and the series concludes with impressionistic gems by Ravel, Debussy and Kodaly.
In Focus opens with the LACO-commissioned world premiere of Juan Pablo Contreras’ piano quintet Musas Mexicanas (Mexican Muses) with back-to-back performances on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, February 14, 7:30 pm, at Moss Theatre in Santa Monica, and Friday, February 15, 2019, 7:30 pm, at Rothenberg Hall, The Huntington in San Marino. The program also features Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, inspired by the sunny Italian city, and Dohnányi’s Serenade for String Trio, notable for its Hungarian folk music influences. With Musas Mexicanas, a collection of musical portraits, Contreras pays homage to several women who have made an indelible impact on Mexico, including artist and icon Frida Kahlo, 17th century poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and La Malinche, the Aztec woman who translated for Hernán Cortés during the Spanish Conquest. Batjer is joined by pianist Hye-Jin Kim and LACO artists Violins Susan Rishik and Maia Jasper White, Associate Principal Viola Victoria Miskolczy, Viola Robert Brophy, Principal Cello Andrew Shulman and Cello Trevor Handy. Contreras, born in Guadalajara, Mexico and currently based in Los Angeles, is recognized as “one of the most prominent young composers of Latin America" (Milenio). His music has been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, the Salta and Cordoba symphonies in Argentina and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela. The recipient of the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award and Mexican Endowment for the Arts and Culture Young Artist Fellowship, Contreras has served as composer-in-residence at the Turtle Bay Music School and the Concerts on the Slope chamber music series in New York.
LACO violinists, stand-mates and real-life husband and wife Carrie Kennedy and Joel Pargman are showcased on Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins on Thursday, March 28, 7:30 pm, at the Moss Theatre in Santa Monica, and Friday, March 29, 2019, 7:30 pm, at Rothenberg Hall, The Huntington in San Marino. Additional works on the program include Barber’s String Quartet in B major, for which the composer arranged the middle movement for string orchestra as the highly recognizable Adagio for Strings; Peter Knell’s tender and delicate string quartet Intimate Voices, premiered in 2016; and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, a three-movement work infusing Hungarian and Romanian dance melodies commissioned by famed American jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman. Other featured LACO artists are Assistant Concertmaster Tereza Stanislav and Violin Sarah Thornblade, Associate Principal Viola Victoria Miskolczy, Cello Giovanna Clayton and Principal Clarinet Joshua Ranz. Pargman and Kennedy, who joined LACO in 2011 and 2012 respectively, also perform with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra and the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and are active in the television, motion pictures and recording industry.
The final In Focus program this season features Batjer leading impressionistic gems by Ravel, Debussy and Kodály on Friday, April 12, 7:30 pm, at Rothenberg Hall, The Huntington in San Marino, and Thursday, April 18, 2019, 7:30 pm, at Moss Theatre in Santa Monica. Ravel’s otherworldly Sonata for Violin and Cello, dedicated to Debussy, which concludes with driving gypsy rhythms, is paired with the work that directly influenced it – Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, noted for its dashing color, rhythmic freshness and Eastern European folk idioms, and Debussy’s beloved String Quartet, filled with textural depth and iridescent beauty. In addition to Batjer, LACO artists performing are Assistant Concertmaster Tereza Stanislav, Violins Josefina Vergara and Tamara Hatwan, Viola Robert Brophy, Principal Cello Andrew Shulman and Assistant Principal Cello Armen Ksajikian.
Tickets, starting at $49, are available online at laco.org, or by calling LACO at 213 622 7001. Single tickets can also be purchased at the venue box office on the night of the concert, if tickets remain. Discounted tickets are available by phone for groups of 12 or more. College students with valid student ID may purchase tickets for $8, subject to availability.
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