Commitment to New Works Remains Integral

Carrying forward the LA Phil’s commitment to contemporary music exemplified in the Centennial season, the 2019/20 season includes premieres of 22 LA Phil commissions and ramps up the Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program.


Already this season at Walt Disney Concert Hall, two extraordinary pieces have had world premieres:

From October 10-13, Dudamel led the Music of the Americas concert featuring works from Carlos Chávez and Aaron Copland, along with the LA Phil commission of Argentine composer Esteban Benzecry’s Piano Concerto, “Universos infinitos” played by acclaimed Argentine virtuoso Sergio Tiempo. This was Benzecry’s LA Phil debut.

Benzecry first came to international attention in 2010, when his pre-Columbian tryptic Rituales Amerindios, commissioned by the Gothenburg Symphony, was premiered by Dudamel in Gothenburg and then performed on tour with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra at Carnegie Hall of New York, Royal Festival Hall of London, and the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.

In Benzecry's words:

"Composed during Autumn 2011, [“Universos infinitos”] has a title that has to do with humans and their connections with their internal and external universes, in a world before our civilization, where times were governed by planetary and agricultural cycles. I do not pretend to make something ethnomusicological, but if not, to take roots, rhythms, melodies, and mythology of indigenous America as a fount of inspiration to develop in my own style, nourished by those roots and by contemporary Western music, thus creating a language full of imaginary folklore where the presence of nature also predominates through sounds where mineral, vegetable, aquatic, and aerial elements are perceived, as an ecological painted mural."

[translated by John Henken]

On October 18 and 19, Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen premiered his latest orchestral work Castor—a 12-minute LA Phil commission with generous support from Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting.

In Salonen’s words:

"During the composition process of Pollux, I encountered a strange problem: my material seemed to want to grow in two completely opposite directions. Finally, I realized that these very different musical identities (I had referred to them as brothers in my sketches) would not fit into one cohesive formal unit, a single piece. They simply couldn’t coexist.

This made me think of the myth of the non-identical twins Castor and Pollux who share half of their DNA, but have some extreme phenotype differences, and experience dramatically different fates.

In the Greco-Roman mythology, Pollux was immortal, as he was fathered by Zeus. Castor was mortal, as he was sired by Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, although his status changed post-mortem.

The mother of both was Leda, who while being already pregnant by her husband had a tryst with Zeus, who seduced her in the form of a swan. (There’s something intriguing in the idea of this famed beauty having a penchant for large water birds.)

My solution was to write two independent but genetically linked orchestral works. Pollux, slow and quite dark in expression, was the first of them. Castor, extroverted and mostly fast, has now followed."

On October 24—the LA Phil’s 100th birthday—Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason’s From Space I saw Earth, an LA Phil commission with generous support from the Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg Fund, will have its world premiere under the helm of our three living conductors—Conductor Emeritus Zubin Mehta, Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel.

And the season is only beginning!

The Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program

This season, the LA Phil continues its successful model for the Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program (CFP), accepting students split into three leveled cohorts studying music composition for solo, duo, or trio; chamber ensemble; or orchestral ensemble/full orchestra.

The 2019-2020 class of 18 Fellows began its programming on September 7. For the first time, a Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) student, Fariyan Alam, is participating. The LA Phil has been working with CFP Program Director Andrew Norman to gain insight into the current music theory landscape within YOLA, as well as learning how to generate more YOLA students applying to CFP.

Fellows will have regular composition lessons with mentors including Norman, and faculty Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff, as well as frequent visits with LA Phil musicians for instrument demonstrations and chamber music reading sessions. They will also have the rare opportunity to hear their pieces performed by LA Phil musicians at rehearsals, as in-concert premieres, and on recordings.

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