Mark Swed, Music Critic

Pianist Murray Perahia scales the Everest of Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' in a momentous performance

Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' poses a superhuman challenge for most pianists. Murray Perahia rose to the occasion

'JFK' is a surreal spin on president's last night in Texas

Forth Worth Opera marks its 70th anniversary with its most elaborate production ever, enlisting the talents of the hot creative team of David T. Little and Royce Vavrek.

Hear Now Music Festival reveals the essence of Los Angeles new music -- we do as we please

The Hear Now festival of Los Angeles composers begins with a focus on orchestral works. Ingenuity flows.

Los Angeles Philharmonic pays tribute to its late new-music mentor Steven Stucky

Los Angeles Philharmonic pays tribute to new-music mentor Steven Stucky

Beth Morrison's '21C Liederabend. Op. LA' at Disney Hall was a good idea (but next time, rethink the presentation, please)

Beth Morrison creates "21C Liederabend. Op. LA" for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella series at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Kanye meets Beethoven: How young musicians are mixing classical with pop

Along with a chamber orchestra taking on new music, the sounds of Beethoven and Kanye West also share a stage in L.A.

L.A. Master Chorale's 'Alexander's Feast' is a treat for the ears and eyes

"Alexander's Feast" is an ideal starting place for the Los Angeles Master Chorale's "Hidden Handel" series. Mark Swed review.

Suzan Hanson brings immediacy, authenticity to Long Beach Opera's 'La Voix Humaine'

With a setting and a work that challenge, Suzan Hanson excels with Long Beach Opera's 'La Voix Humaine.'

How John Cage made performance the true heart of Black Mountain College

John Cage and Merce Cunningham made performance the heart of Black Mountain College, the subject of "Leap Before You Look" at the Hammer.

Violinist Leila Josefowicz is a powerful storyteller in John Adams' 'Scheherazade.2'

John Adams wrote 'Scheherazade.2' for Leila Josefowicz. The two of them rivetingly perform it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The proof is in: The pipe organ is still the king of instruments

Organ recitals in the Los Angeles area by Richard Valitutto in Pasadena and Thomas Trotter in Los Angeles Philharmonic organ series at Disney Hall show the instrument is still impressive and grand.

To introduce a newly discovered John Cage work, CalArts makes much of 'Minimalism means'

A snippet of John Cage music, newly discovered, is introduced by the Ensemble at CalArts in "Minimalism means."

Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner play in the transforming spirit of Beethoven

A bridge constructed by Jennifer Koh, Shai Wosner and composer Andrew Norman is in the spirit of Beethoven. Review.

Expect the unexpected on recordings of Kent Nagano and Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

The imaginative Kent Nagano leads Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal on a serious of outstanding classical music recordings.

Musco Center's sound decisions might make it the best opera house in the West

Impressive sonics at opening gala make the Chapman University facility's use of Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota of Disney Hall fame seem wise.

Kent Nagano and Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal prove gripping in Santa Barbara

Kent Nagano leads Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, with piano soloist Daniil Trifonov, in a blazing concert in Santa Barbara.

Long Beach Opera's 'Fallujah' tackles the Iraq war with authentic anguish

'Fallujah' is Long Beach Opera at its distinct best in almost every way.

As for Los Angeles Opera's 'Madame Butterfly,' go for the music

Ana Maria Martinez is a commanding Cio-Cio-San in Los Angeles Opera's "Madame Butterfly." Go for the music, a critic suggests.

Is 'The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer' even opera? Why nearly 50 years later it stands apart

There's still nothing quite like Robert Ashley's avant-garde opera "The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer,' performed at 356 Mission.

A ballerina of the boardroom and activist for the arts -- say hello to the new Music Center CEO

With her ABT performance background and an MBA on the wall, Rachel Moore is perfectly suited to head the Music Center

West Coast premiere of 'Anthracite Fields' by L.A. Master Chorale mines the depths of American music

Julia Wolfe's 'Anthracite Fields' provides the L.A. Master Chorale a work of magnificence and gripping feeling

Gustavo Dudamel brings out the full force and awe of Mahler's Third Symphony

Gustavo Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic through the awe-inspiring Mahler's Third Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

As the Los Angeles Philharmonic tours, Gustavo Dudamel seems determined to shake up his audiences

As the Los Angeles Philharmonic prepares to tour, it previews a rousing concert of Ginastera, Williams and Norman.

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla takes the lead in an inspired women's night with the L.A. Phil

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, pianist twins Christina and Michelle Naughton and women composers put the L.A. Phil through its paces

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov creates a sensation in his L.A. recital debut at Disney Hall

Angels, devils and sonic realms are all part of the world Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov created at Disney Hall.

Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov fittingly honors the woman who insulted Stalin to his face

Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov honors Maria Veniaminovna Yudina in a Monday Evening Concert performance at Colburn School.

L.A. Opera again casts an enchanting spell with its silent-movie-styled ' Magic Flute'

Even though L.A. Opera performed it just two years ago, its silent-film-styled 'Magic Flute' was enchanting

A great first date for the L.A. Chamber Orchestra and Matthias Pintscher. Will there be a second?

Although it may appear a mismatch, L.A. Chamber Orchestra and conductor Matthias Pintscher sound like they're made for each other at Royce Hall

Asian inspiration as L.A. Philharmonic tackles 'Pelléas'; Pacific Symphony 'Turandot'

The ambitious, orchestra-centric, semi-staged performances come away with mixed results at Disney Hall and Segerstrom, respectively.

'The Reef' concert had a chance to catch a new wave of fans by pairing surf sounds and scenes

For 'The Reef' concert, Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra performed mostly good musical pieces to accompany a cliched surfing film at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

In a tumultuous world, conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen is focusing more on the present

Conductor-composer Esa-Peka Salonen examines French music this weekend with the L.A. Phil.

The L.A. Phil's mesmerizing Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla leaps to the Birmingham orchestra

The stakes are high for L.A. Phil's Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, the next music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The natural elements prove a breeze for Vicki Ray's Piano Spheres recital at REDCAT

Earth, wind, fire, water and keyboards mix in a naturally magical recital of Vicki Ray's Piano Spheres at REDCAT

How unlikely Steven Stucky proved indispensable to the L.A. Philharmonic's rise

Steven Stucky, a Pulitzer Prize winner who died Sunday, had an indispensable role in the rise of the L.A. Philharmonic.

Messiaen's ode to Utah's national parks is a multimedia wonder at Disney Hall

The St. Louis Symphony and photographer Deborah O'Grady give Messiaen's 'Des Canyons aux Étoiles …' an elegant turn at Disney Hall.

Cloud Gate's 'Rice' is a timeless puzzle

The dance troupe from Taiwan is undeniably skilled, yet the life-cycle piece remains shrouded in mystery as the 70-minute performance plays out.

Gustavo Dudamel and Youth Orchestra L.A.'s Super Bowl halftime show will be a win for the arts

Gustavo Dudamel and Youth Orchestra L.A.'s planned Super Bowl halftime performance could be a game changer for classical music, the arts and culture.

Esa-Pekka Salonen-led L.A. Phil explores revolutionary nostalgia in French program

As part of the 'City of Light' festival, Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the L.A. Philharmonic in a magnificent program of Henri Dutilleux and Ravel. Unfortunately, digital projections by Ars Electronica Futurelab were less than illuminating.

Pierre Boulez reveled in challenging music's status quo

The French composer-conductor, who died Tuesday at 90, grew to become the most influential European musician of the latter 20th century.

A hero's welcome for Esa-Pekka Salonen at Disney Hall

Conductor and players merge into an individual musical organism as Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the L.A. Phil in a singular performance of Mahler's First Symphony.

A fresh recording of 'Long Christmas Dinner' serves plenty to be thankful for

Leon Botstein conducts a crisp new recording of the Hindemith and Wilder opera "The Long Christmas Dinner." A review by Mark Swed.

Itzhak Perlman revisits moments of early greatness with pianist Emanuel Ax

With Emanuel Ax at the piano, violinist Itzhak Perlman give a glimpse of greatness at Disney Hall

Cristian Macelaru gets a big sound from the L.A. Phil as it plays Rachmaninoff

Cristian Macelaru leads the L.A. Philharmonic as it plays Rachmaninoff, and the sound is big. Review.

Mark Swed hits the road for a weekend of SoCal orchestra listening

The L.A. Times' Mark Swed visits Pacific, Pasadena and San Diego symphonies, L.A. Philharmonic, OC Youth Symphony, Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra.

Liminar makes Mexico's Carrillo look like the next great rediscovery

The ensemble Liminar offers ear-opening programs on Julian Carrillo, a Mexican composer who fit no mold. Mark Swed review.

Classical music 2015 highlights: Female conductors, 'Hopscotch,' Dudamel — but about those parking fees

Gustavo Dudamel shines in conducting Beethoven and Stravinksy. Karina Canellakis impresses with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla shows why she's moving up in latest L.A. Phil show at Disney Hall

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla brings a little-known score by Mieczyslaw Weinberg to life with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Classical music's soothing powers in troubled times can help open minds and inspire dialogue

Music's power is in helping bring people together, for the right reasons in the right hands.

A quirky thread runs through L.A. Phil Green Umbrella quartet program

A full triple-quartet love-in is just part of the evening in an L.A. Phil Green Umbrella program involving the Calder, Lyris and Formalist ensembles at Disney Hall.

Monday Evening Concerts is back with a bang, whimper, whistle, click and clang in 'Sideshow'

Monday Evening Concerts returns with Steven Kazuo Takasugi's "Sideshow," an amazing display of weird sound and performance

Conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla lights up the San Diego Symphony with sparkling sonics

Rising star conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla shows why she's so sought-after during her San Diego Symphony debut

Generous renditions of Mendelssohn and Bach balance youth and experience

Gustavo Dudamel, Gil Shaham and the L.A. Phil leaven Mendelssohn's early explorations with Bach's violin concertos

Gustavo Dudamel, L.A. Philharmonic focus on Apollo

Stravinsky's ballet 'Apollo' with American Ballet Theatre' is featured with Benjamin Britten's 'Young Apollo' and Shostakovich's apollonian Fifth Symphony.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja shows her astonishing artistry on 'Take Two' and 'Chiaroscuro'

Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja shows her astonishing artistry on "Take Two" and "Chiaroscuro."

Hip harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani goes for Baroque but is unfortunately hard to hear

At Zipper Hall, Mahan Esfahani may have been stellar on the harpsichord, but the acoustics made his playing virtually inaudible

'Norma' and 'La Clemenza di Tito' make for a Roman feast

Two marvelous operas that concern the Roman Empire — "Norma" and "La Clemenza di Tito" — hit L.A. stages. Review.

'Hopscotch' moves around L.A. and sometimes transports

"Hopscotch: A Mobile Opera for 24 Cars" seems to herald a transformative moment for an art form, but not the one the hype is about.

Weekend concerts across L.A. provide solace in a world gone wrong amid Paris attacks

Performances by the L.A Phil and Master Chorale at Disney Hall and a music-dance piece at UCLA paid tribute to victims in Paris

The brave -- and complex -- new world of digital music

Sonically compressed music is standard today. But to hear it in high-res is a revelation. Could it become the new norm? Maybe, if U.S. technology, labels and websites catch up to rest of the world.

It's nice to have L.A. Phil 'family' like Yuja Wang, Salonen

Los Angeles Philharmonic proudly wields its "family" ties: Yuja Wang playing Mozart, Lionel Bringuier conducting Salonen. Review.

L.A. Phil and Semyon Bychkov achieve a musical summit with 'Alpine Symphony'

Richard Strauss' 'Alpine Symphony' revealed nature's glory as played by the L.A. Phil with Semyon Bychkov

'The Poet in Exile' at the Wallis lacks full picture of Walter Arlen

'The Poet in Exile' at the Wallis, though a welcome tribute to Walter Arlen, could have used more context on the émigré composer.

With L.A. Opera's 'Moby-Dick,' call it a success

Los Angeles Opera tackles "Moby-Dick," Herman Melville's classic that Jake Heggie made into an opera.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra explores Mozart by way of Sacred Harp, Haydn by way of flamenco

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra pairs recent works with Mozart and Haydn, with mixed results. A review.

András Schiff and the L.A. Philharmonic join Haydn for a look at war

András Schiff leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a subtle reading of Haydn's "Mass in Time of War." A review.

Pianist Andras Schiff mesmerizes with last sonatas of 4 composers

The last sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert were illuminated by Andras Schiff in Santa Barbara performance

Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan's impeccable taste shows at Disney Hall

Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan make rare forays into Vivaldi and Handel at Disney Hall, and it's all in impeccable taste.

'Steel Hammer' bangs out a spectacularly inventive social message at UCLA's Royce Hall

'Steel Hammer' uses the folk song 'John Henry' to examine the African American experience and more in a potent production featuring Bang on a Can All-Stars and the SITI Company.

An expressive slowness to Jacaranda, Sankai Juku performances

Jacaranda kicks off its new season with two expressive, in-the-moment pieces — David Lang's 'darker' and Julia Wolfe's 'LAD.' In the same vein is Sankai Juku's moving 'Umusuna — Memories Before History.'

Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic deliver a riotous 'Spring'

L.A. Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel leave a Disney Hall audience reeling with a powerful 'Rite of Spring' and more.

Music ensembles Hocket and Sakura bathe Monk Space in an acoustical glow

Monk Space plays host to L.A. music ensembles Hocket and Sakura, with brilliant and entertaining results.

Mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer overcomes all challenges in 'Song From the Uproar'

Mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer brightens Missy Mazzoli's "Song From the Uproar," part of Los Angeles Opera's Off Grand series.

Bill T. Jones tests the limits of his own comfort zone in 'Story/Time'

Choreographer Bill T. Jones is center stage as members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company illustrate his tales in a response/homage to John Cage and Merce Cunningham.

Isango Ensemble's 'uCarmen' exerts overwhelming feminine power and vibrant musicality

'uCarmen' by Isango Ensemble at the Broad Stage is a unique, arresting interpretation of Bizet's opera

The orchestral worlds of Los Angeles and Venezuela collide for Beethoven's Ninth at Disney Concert Hall

Review: The orchestral worlds of Los Angeles and Venezuela collide and coalesce for Beethoven's Ninth

Gustavo Dudamel and Bolivar symphony bring Beethoven's revolutionary conviction out in force

L.A. Philharmonic and Simón Bolívar Symphony join forces to tackle Beethoven cycle under the liberating baton of Gustavo Dudamel.

L.A. Phil digs into early Beethoven, explores what is immortal

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel, launches "Immortal Beethoven," a cycle of all nine symphonies. A review.

Diplomatic Dudamel leads a fervent Beethoven charge at Disney Hall

Although Gustavo Dudamel avoids political sides, he did justice with revolutionary Beethoven's radical music at Disney Hall

Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado turns on the charm at Hollywood Bowl

Pablo Heras-Casado conducts an illuminating concert at the Bowl; L.A. Phil's first violin Barry Socher gets a rousing farewell.

The Philharmonic dances through Bach and bluegrass at the Bowl

Nicholas McGegan conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic and bassist Edgar Meyer in a program linking Bach and bluegrass.

Spectacular start to Piano Spheres' 21st season

Gloria Cheng and Thomas Adès find modernist composers' groundbreaking voices in a knock-your-socks-off duo piano recital at the Colburn School's Zipper Concert Hall.

Conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla brings her magic back to the Bowl

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla wowed a Hollywood Bowl audience with her conducting of Mahler last summer, and she repeated her sorcery with the baton Thursday.

Pacific Opera Project's Forest Lawn 'Falstaff' has an offbeat charm

Pacific Opera Project performs an al fresco 'Falstaff' at Forest Lawn with mixed yet enjoyable result

Substitutes shine in 'Traviata' at the Hollywood Bowl

Filling in at the Bowl's 'La Traviata' were conductor Diego Matheuz, who brought an immediacy, and tenor Stephen Costello, solidly convincing

Is streaming a threat to music? Not if musicians have anything to do with it

Bad sound quality is just one of several knocks against streaming, but it's here to stay and musicians are finding ways to adjust.

New York Philharmonic sticks with American classics at Santa Barbara Bowl

The New York Philharmonic's all-American concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl offers little sense of the phil, but much good cheer.

At the Lucerne Festival, even hip-hop skateboarders love Pierre Boulez

The Lucerne Festival pays homage to French composer Pierre Boulez and his influence on 20th century music and the Swiss city, with a day of music that entrances everybody from the well-heeled to skateboarders.