A Solo Flight for Orchestral Harpist Neill

A member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the last five years, Lou Anne Neill, like most orchestral harpists, gets few opportunities to appear in a solo role with her own ensemble.

That happens this week, however, and in a work Neill knows thoroughly, having played it "a lot in the past 15 and more years, since I was a teen-ager." It is Ravel's Introduction and Allegro, in the original chamber version, "not the version with added strings, which needs to be microphoned," according to Neill. Not only will this performance, which opens the program at the orchestra's subscription concerts this week, not be amplified, it will also not be conducted. (Simon Rattle leads the rest of the program.)

Not to worry. Neill considers Ravel's mini-concerto, as she calls it, "an old friend and not that difficult to put together." She will run her own rehearsals, "but in a democratic way."

What remains outstanding about the familiar piece, Neill says, is that "it is so well-written, unlike many other standard works, which are awkward to play. With Ravel, you're not fighting the instrument, you're just making music."

An acknowledged performer of contemporary music, Neill says many composers of today have worked hard to approach Ravel's knowledge of the harp. "Together with a lot of harpists, these composers continue the tradition of working to produce the most expressivity and variety possible from the instrument."

Neill, in addition to being the Philharmonic's principal harp, also teaches the instrument at UCLA, and sometimes works in the television and recording industry. She maintains four instruments for her personal use. Two she keeps at the Pavilion of the Music Center for wintertime concerts there. One remains at home as her practice instrument. The fourth is mobile, and travels with her to studio jobs.

"I keep very busy. Because of the nature of the harp, it isn't really possible to sight-read the music I have to play in the orchestra. Instead, I prepare it well ahead of rehearsals and performances. By the time I get to a first rehearsal, I've probably already memorized my part. And I'm constantly working three or four weeks ahead of the orchestra."

After this set of performances, Neill's next solo engagement locally will be on a Philharmonic Chamber Music Society concert at Gindi Auditorium on Feb. 19, when she plays the Trio by Debussy.

Concluding the orchestral program in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this week is John Adams' "Harmonium," for mixed chorus and orchestra, being heard in its first Los Angeles performances. Conductor Rattle and the Philharmonic will be assisted by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Before intermission, the orchestra will play Mozart's Symphony No. 40.

AND AROUND TOWN: Complementing the exhibition "Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film" at the County Museum of Art, mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani and pianist Leo Smit will present "Red, Hot and Cole," an evening of Cole Porter songs in Bing Theater at the museum Wednesday night at 8. Information: (213) 857-6010. . . . The Chicago Chamber Brass will perform next Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the series Chamber Music in Historic Sites, this event taking place in the lobby of the Wiltern Theatre at Wilshire Boulevard at Western Avenue. Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," in an arrangement for brass quintet, will serve as centerpiece of the program; other works will be by Marcello, Rossini, Dahl, Gershwin and Sousa. Information: (213) 747-9085. . . . Another touring wind ensemble, the Empire Brass Quintet, reaches Southern California this week in a series of performances (check Listings below) culminating Saturday night at 8 in Royce Hall, UCLA. At that time, the quintet will join organist Douglas Majors in a program concentrating on works by J. S. Bach, Louis Vierne and Handel.

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