The fall music season will begin with dissent. Petitions have been circulated calling for companies that employ Russian artists, such as the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera, to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin’s human rights policies, especially those that deny rights to gays and lesbians. Good luck. Most administrators in today’s classical music world fear taking a strong stand lest they bite the hands of the private donors, corporations or governments that feed them.
But many artists will, as they always have, speak out about issues of the day. Violinist Nigel Kennedy, for instance, told a Proms audience in London last month after leading a Palestinian youth group in a jazzily pulsating version of “The Four Seasons” that the infectiously animated performance shows that “getting rid of apartheid gives a chance for amazing things to happen.” The BBC, not surprisingly, cut the speech from its Proms television broadcast.
A glance at the fall’s highlights, locally and beyond, demonstrates just how inescapable politics can be in the arts.
Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach” reminds us of the great physicist’s stance against nuclear weapons. Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” is an unblinking antiwar statement. George Crumb’s “Black Angels” became an early ‘70s string-quartet anthem of Vietnam War dissent. Mohammed Fairouz’s “Symphonic Prayers and Poems” is a symphony meant to stand for Jewish-Arab reconciliation. Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” does its best to offend everyone.
But the fall concert that will no doubt stand out as the most politically courageous is “To Russia With Love” in Berlin on Oct. 7. Organized by the great Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, it features some of today’s classical music legends, including pianist Martha Argerich, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and composer Giya Kancheli.
Kremer selected the date because it is the seventh anniversary of the slaying of the Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya. Also citing oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Pussy Riot punk group and other journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and musicians, Kremer writes that over the last decade, “the death toll and list of dubiously convicted people in Russia have grown exponentially.”
The violinist calls on musicians not to remain indifferent to other people’s suffering. “Compassion is the basis of all morality,” he asserts. “Many great artists of the past upheld these principles,” and Kremer asks that musicians today walk in the footsteps of Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Bernstein and Yehudi Menuhin.
“It is naive to believe that our joint action can dramatically change something and justice will prevail,” Kremer concludes, “but we do choose idealism and do believe in miracles.”
Philharmonie, Berlin; https://www.to-russia-with-love.org
Sept. 30-Oct. 23
Walt Disney Concert Hall 10th Anniversary Celebration
The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s celebration of its decade in Frank Gehry’s multifaceted masterpiece will include its season-opening gala on Sept. 30, with a fancy-schmancy dinner afterward, and on the actual anniversary, Oct. 23, a serving of something more akin to lumpy gravy (as Frank Zappa titled a Mothers of Invention album). Music director Gustavo Dudamel will open the gala with John Cage’s silent piece, “4'33,” in order to take in the ambience of the hall, before Yo-Yo Ma plays Tchaikovsky. Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen’s choice for the anniversary, which will be a Green Umbrella concert, is none other than Zappa’s “200 Motels,” originally commissioned by the L.A. Philharmonic in 1970 as a concerto for the Mothers and orchestra.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.,$110-$165 (gala), $39-$89 (“200 Motels”); www.laphil.com
Oct. 9, 16 and 20
Bach Keyboard Cycle
András Schiff’s two-year Bach project, which has resulted in revelatory performances by the Hungarian pianist, particularly of “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” concludes with programs of the English Suites, Partitas and “Goldberg” Variations. It’s just Schiff, Bach and the listener in sensitive Disney Hall, leaving you with the sense that this is your brain on Bach.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave, $10 - $105.; www.laphil.com
‘Einstein on the Beach’
‘Lecture on Nothing’
The most important opera company in America never to have produced an opera by America’s leading opera composer, Los Angeles Opera will begin at the beginning by presenting the first of Philip Glass’ 27 operas, “Einstein on the Beach,” his groundbreaking 1976 collaboration with Robert Wilson. But L.A. Opera will also be the last to present this incomparable spectacle. The gorgeous Glass/Wilson revival finishes its two-year tour at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and its creators, both in their 70s and who will oversee the L.A. premiere, say they will not themselves mount it again. Wilson, by the way, stays in L.A. to perform at UCLA’s Royce Hall in his movingly personal one-man show based on John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing.”
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., $24-$357; www.laopera.com
Royce Hall, UCLA, $20-$60; cap.ucla.edu
Oct. 19-Nov. 18
Last year, the Industry, L.A.'s seriously alternative opera company, premiered Anne LeBaron’s resourcefully apocalyptic hyperopera, “Crescent City,” in an Atwater alternative space. For its second season, the company takes the hyperoperatic urban theme a dimension further with what it calls an “invisible opera for headphones.” Based on Italo Calvino’s fantastical tale of Marco Polo bewitching Kublai Khan with visions of impossible cities, Christopher Cerrone’s “Invisible Cities” will have its premiere in Union Station with each member of the audience provided a pair of Sennheisers through which to hear the Brooklyn-based composer’s score while skirting commuters. Yuval Sharon directs in collaboration with Los Angeles Dance Project.
Union Station, $25-$150; invisiblecitiesopera.com
Oct. 26 and 27
As a singer with the Philip Glass Ensemble and leader of the chorus in “Einstein on the Beach,” Lisa Bielawa has obviously been busy. But she’s also a composer, and she hasn’t been so busy that she couldn’t take on a little project of her own, say organizing a piece for 800 musicians to be given in the Presidio in San Francisco, at the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge. The performers will come from all walks of musical life — professional, amateur and student. The piece is an hour of barely controlled extravagance to be given three times.
Crissy Field, The Presidio, San Francisco, free; www.airfieldbroadcasts.org/en/crissy
Boasting its first new music director in almost three decades, the Pasadena Symphony will open its season with David Lockington leading Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Among the British conductor’s previous posts was music director of the New Mexico Symphony, having succeeded Neal Stulberg, who also landed in L.A. to head UCLA’s conducting program. Another coincidence is that of the only two CDs the Pasadena Symphony has made — both under Lockington’s predecessor, Jorge Mester — one is an audiophile doozy of the “Rite.”
Ambassador Auditorium, 131 S. St. John Ave., Pasadena, $35-$105; www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org
Nov. 23–Dec. 15
‘The Magic Flute’
Barrie Kosky’s production, which will be given its U.S. premiere by Los Angeles Opera, does not promise to be quite as cartoony cute as the company’s previous productions of Mozart’s beloved singspiel. Rather, the staging has been likened to the off-kilter style of David Lynch, Berlin cabaret and sexy Weimar Republic silent film. Then again, the animation of Paul Barritt, which is clearly the highlight of the production, is, based on the video examples online, adorable.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave.; www.laopera.com
Nov. 24 and 25
The Britten 100 festival taking place throughout L.A. this year to celebrate the British composer’s centenary has but one big event this fall. The “War Requiem,” Britten’s grandest pacifist statement, juxtaposes liturgical texts with “doomed youth” war poetry by Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action a week before the end of World War I. Los Angeles Opera music director and Britten 100-catalyst James Conlon leads performances with members of the Colburn Orchestra and the USC Thornton Symphony, along with university choruses, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and three notable soloists (soprano Tamara Wilson, tenor Joseph Kaiser and baritone Phillip Addis).
Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, $20 - $150; www.philharmonicsociety.org
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.; www.laphil.com
Nov. 30 and Dec. 1
‘Dum Dee Tweedle’
Thanks to the Detroit Symphony and conductor Leonard Slatkin, David Del Tredici’s only opera and the final and most over-the-top of his obsessively elaborate “Alice in Wonderland” scores will finally get a full performance. The composer wrote this about the work: “Don’t look for a normal plot or a cast of characters consistently sung. Everything, opera-wise, is askew.” Then again, Del Tredici happens to be modern music’s wizard of the askew.
Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit, $15-$100; www.dso.org
Kronos 40th Birthday Concert
It feels as if the Kronos Quartet hasn’t stopped for a second during the past 40 years. And the group certainly hasn’t stopped for a second during this birthday year, with concerts around the world, endless collaborations and premieres and premieres and more premieres. But the Bay Area has been home to the quartet for most of its long life, and Berkeley is where the celebration will end with the premiere of a new work by Terry Riley, the composer with whom the ensemble has been closest out of the several hundred with which it has worked. Kronos also will play George Crumb’s “Black Angels.” Written to protest the Vietnam War, this is the piece that inspired the quartet’s formation. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, $40-$98; calperformances.org
‘Symphonic Prayers and Poems’
The third of Mohammed Fairouz’s four symphonies, “Symphonic Prayers and Poems,” takes on world issues. The 28-year-old, astonishingly prolific Arab American composer seems to have some of Kremer’s and Kennedy’s idealism in this work for vocal soloists and chorus, which combines Jewish and Palestinian texts. Also on the program led by Neal Stulberg and featuring the UCLA Philharmonia and University Chorus will be another timely Fairouz work, “Tahrir,” a concerto written for and played by the avant-klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer.
Royce Hall, UCLA; $15-$30; cap.ucla.edu