Monday, December 26, 2022

"Salute To Vienna" Returns to LA and Costa Mesa

PREVIEW: “Salute To Vienna” New Year's Concert

Glatz Concert Productions
Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

With Nutcracker and Messiah performances popping back like Yuletide poinsettias for Christmas 2022 after the long Covid shutdown, can that other holiday classic, the “Salute to Vienna” New Year's Concert, be far behind?

Conductor Nir Kabaretti.
Patterned by promoters Attila and Marion Glatz after the cherished Viennese “Neujahrskonzert,” simultaneous productions of “Salute to Vienna” have for a quarter of a century toured North American cities between late December and early January.

A fixture in southern California for the last decade or thereabouts, this echt-Viennese music-cum-dance extravaganza (that does not require air tickets to Austria!) comes to Costa Mesa’s Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on the afternoon of January 1, and then LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall the following afternoon, January 2.

Soprano Juliet Petrus.
The celebrated Israeli-born conductor Nir Kabaretti will lead the Strauss Symphony of America, with British soprano Juliet Petrus, Mexican tenor Jorge Garza, champion ballroom dancers, and members of the San Diego Ballet. The musical program weaves select solos from The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, and The Gypsy Princess with high energy overtures and favourite waltzes and polka from the golden age of Vienna’s musical history.

Tenor Jorge Garza.
Joining the full orchestral forces of the Strauss Symphony of America, the star-studded cast of singers and dancers (costumed in both ballroom and ballet styles) will whisk the audience through a journey of romantic vignettes that, by faithful tradition, always include Johann Strauss II's "Blue Danube" waltz and his father Johann Strauss I's "Radetzky March."

We are so pleased to be able to return this remarkable production to nine U.S. cities this year,” said producer Attila Glatz. “It brings us such joy to see how these performances can uplift and inspire audiences, and we hope that families of all ages will be able to enjoy ringing in the new year in such an iconic space as Walt Disney Concert Hall!

For a flavor of the kind of show in store, catch the video trailer of the televised "Salute to Vienna" performance at Vienna’s Konzerthaus in 2013,. After a couple of years filled with challenges, you may be ready for a little escapism to kick 2023 off like it’s 1899 all over again!


Sunday, January 1, 2023, at 2:30 pm Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.
Tickets from $49.50 available here or here, or phone 714-556-2787.

Monday, January 2, 2023, at 3:00 pm The LA Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Tickets from $49.50 available here or here, or phone 323-850-2000.

Photos: Performers: Chris Lee, courtesy Glatz Concert Productions; Nir Kabaretti, Juliet Petrus, Jorge Garza: artist websites.

Attila Glatz Concert Productions, founded in 1987, produces, promotes, and manages classical, jazz, folk, country, movie, and video game music performances worldwide. For more information, click here.

Friday, December 16, 2022

LACO’S Lucha Libre Folk Dance Party in Pasadena

LACO Music Director Jaime Martín and guest violinist Gil Shaham perform Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A minor at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena.


Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena

Any mid-December concert that includes no specific holiday/Christmas-themed items, and in which the most well-known work is a 19th century violin concerto that’s not one of the Big Three Bs—Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch—deserves all the support it can get, and it was most gratifying to see, after a day of rain and on a (for southern California!) very chilly evening, a near-capacity audience in Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s final concert of 2022.

l-r: Martinez Ciana, Deputy Consul General Minister,
Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles; composer Juan
Pablo Contreras; Cynthia Prida, Cultural Attaché,
Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles; Jaime Martín.
But in fact it was a festive and special occasion. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of diplomatic and cultural relations between Mexico and the United States, the Mexican Consulate was honoring Juan Pablo Contreras (b.1987), a participant in LACO’s Sound Investment program for commissioning new works, for his "significant binational artistic contributions," and to crown the occasion, the LACO and its Music Director Jaime Martín gave the premiere of his latest work, Lucha Libre!

In an engaging chat before the performance, Sr. Contreras said that the inspiration for the piece had lain in his appreciation of teamwork, both between members of the symphony orchestra and amongst the tag-teams of combatants in the iconic Mexican masked wrestling that gives the work its title. To celebrate this in his Lucha Libre!, therefore, he pits two groups of solo players against each other—three rudos (villains) versus three técnicos (heroes).

Alongside each soloist was a luchador mask (left), designed by Contreras’ wife Marisa, to identify them: the rudos were Don Diavlo (“The Devil”—Andrew Shulman, principal cello), Astro Tapatio (“The Star of Jalisco”—David Washburn, principal trumpet), and La Kalva (“The Skull”—Wade Culbreath, principal timpanist), all pitted against the técnicos San Silver (“Saint Silver”—Margaret Batjer, Concertmaster), Volátigo (“Chameleon”—Sandy Hughes, principal flute), and Dominus (“The Master”—Robert Thies, piano).

Matching the choreographed, almost balletic action of a real Lucha Libre wrestling match, Contreras’ six combatants exhibit far more of nimble interaction than the sort of blunt confrontation that takes place between the two timpanists in their battle royal during the finale of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4. The brief, pithy, themes associated with each of the rudos and técnicos thread in and out of Lucha Libre!’s constantly changing rhythmic and textural web—punctuated to mark the wrestling action by smacks from the slapstick and bass drum thumps.

Fanfares from the French horn announced the match’s start and its end, and in between Contreras maintained interest with his highly resourceful deployment of the LACO’s relatively small forces, amongst which much of the aural variety comes from the two percussionists, each playing a wide range of instruments. Lucha Libre! proved to be a tangy and flavorful occasional piece, much appreciated by the audience, though for this listener the referee might have called a halt a couple of minutes earlier.

Antonin Dvořák in 1879, the year
he first drafted his Violin Concerto.
From this relatively recent Mexican cultural phenomenon, the focus of the remainder of the concert moved half-way across the globe to central Europe and its much older and diverse folk-music traditions. In his major symphonic-scaled works, Antonin Dvořák was no less influenced by Czech folk song and dance than the smaller pieces that directly quoted or reworked this heritage, and his Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 53 B.96/108 is no exception.

Perhaps in response to the work’s troubled gestation, involving extensive and repeated revisions under the influence of the great violinist Joseph Joachim, Dvořák unusually qualifies each movement’s initial tempo indication—Allegro, Adagio, Allegro giocoso—with ma non troppo (not too much). If this injunction is emphasized it can turn the opening tutti, especially with a full-sized orchestra, into an over-portentous harbinger of drama that the nature of the work doesn’t really fulfill, but Maestro Martín and the relatively small LACO forces (strings 8-7-4-4-3) made it instead a crisp, even peremptory, call to action, to which guest soloist Gil Shaham responded with an easeful, lovingly-shaped opening solo.

Gil Shaham.
This set the tone for the whole performance, replete with a freshness and joy as of new discovery on the part of all concerned, visible constantly in the delighted expressions and body language of both Shaham and Martín, the former’s slight form often swaying close in response to the upper strings, while Martín energetically pointed orchestral detail after detail. Apparently one of them said to the other in rehearsal “Let’s dance,” and it was easy to believe!

The first movement segued seamlessly as ever into an account of the Adagio that was as heartfelt and eloquent, with some exquisite duetting between soloist and woodwinds, as the furiant finale was ebullient and piquant. The whole performance, enthusiastically cheered, made one wonder, far from the first time, why this marvelous concerto isn’t performed as frequently as those Big Three Bs? For his encore, Shaham played the Gavotte en rondeau third movement from J. S. Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006.

Margaret Batjer pays tribute to Julie Gigante
on the occasion of her retirement.
After the interval, and following touching tributes (right) to retiring violinist Julie Gigante from Concertmaster Margaret Batjer as well as the conductor, the second half was devoted entirely to further exploration of that central European folk-music tradition through three works that explicitly celebrated it by three 20th century masters, the Romanian-born György Ligeti (1923-2006) and the Hungarians Béla Bartók (1881-1945) and Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967).

György Ligeti.
Any concerns that all the brief folk-dance movements that make up these works (no less than 15 of them across the three pieces) might get a bit samey were rapidly dispelled by the strong contrasts between them.

Firstly, the slow-fast-slow-fast succession that comprises Ligeti’s slightly edgy and exploratory Concert Românesc (1951)—its highlight being the brooding call-and-response between one French horn in the orchestra and another up in the balcony in its Adagio ma non troppo third movement—formed a very different response to their source material than that of the blunt, plain-spoken brevity of Bartók’s six Romanian Folk Dances BB 76 (1915, orch 1917), all over and done in as many minutes.

And then both of these were in turn perfectly complemented by the smiling gaiety and indelible melodies of Kodály’s Dances of Galánta (1933), performed with all the requisite warmth and precision by Maestro Martín and his splendid players—an ideal finale with which to send the audience back out into that unfamiliarly chilly southern Californian night.


Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, Saturday, December 11, 2022, 7 p.m.
Photos: The performance: Brian Feinzimer; Gil Shaham: Chris Lee; Dvořák & Ligeti: Wikimedia Commons; Bartók & Kodály:

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Philharmonia Fantastique: Bates Meets Disney and Britten


Mason Bates
Photo: Todd Rosenberg

MUSIC FILM REVIEW: Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra

San Francisco


“In order to show you how a big symphony orchestra is put together, Benjamin Britten has written a big piece of music…Which is made up of smaller pieces…That show you all the separate parts of the orchestra,” says the narrator of the composer’s 1945 work, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

An admirable feat, but filmmaker Walt Disney beat Britten to the punch with his iconic 1940 animated 
masterpiece, Fantasia. Subtitled an “animated musical anthology,” more than showing the instruments of the orchestra, the film uses well-known classical pieces to stimulate the imagination of both young people and grownups.

Bay Area composer Mason Bates has brought this concept into the 21st century with brilliance and aplomb in his new animated film released by Platoon, Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra. The film was produced by Alex D. da Silva & Mason Bates, executive producers Jody Allen, Rocky Collins, Ruth Johnston & Mary Pat Buerkle, and recorded at Orchestra Hall with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Mason Bates, Skywalker Sound

The creative unit supporting Bates is dazzling. Multi-Oscar and BAFTA-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom of LucasFilm and Skywalker Sound directed and co-wrote the story with Bates. They collaborated with Oscar-nominated animation writer and director Jim Capobianco. The soundtrack is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the top five in the US, conducted by Edwin Outwater. Definitely an A-team. 

Bates, Rydstrom, Capobianco

The film combines animation and live action and literally glows from within and without; and, not surprisingly, has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Classical Album.

“Creating a new 'guide to the orchestra' was an incredibly inspiring and challenging project,” says Bates, whose goal was to “showcase the magical wonders of the orchestra” in an innovative way: a “marriage of technology and art,” states Rydstrom.

The film has accomplished its mission in spades. It is groundbreaking; a state-of-the-art, pioneering, inventive, and thoroughly modern piece of musical and technological filmmaking. Hinted at by an initial animated display of color, the categories of instruments are illustrated with eye-opening, Scriabin-like color-coding: green for strings, blue for woodwinds, red for percussion, yellow for brass. A charming, animated magical Sprite, created with brightly colored components representing different parts of instruments, interacts à la Mickey Mouse with the conductor and onstage musicians and, Mickey-like, tries its hand at conducting.

The many-hued character serves as a guide, pointing out the names and appearances of the orchestral instruments, playing lush examples of their sounds and treating viewers to startling visuals of these apparatuses from the inside out. High-definition special effects cameras with high-tech probe lenses follow the Sprite, peeking inside a flute and cello, and demonstrating the mechanics of the keys and valves of the bassoon and the brass. 

Even Disney didn’t show the workings of instruments from this perspective. It is a technique that mesmerizes and is sure to bring smiles to the faces of young and old alike. (An interactive guide can be found at

Bates has created music that melds classical with jazz and electronic elements: melodically spirited and rhythmically fascinating. Especially winning is the combination of woodwinds and percussion that positively sparkles, utilizing the best, most appealing characteristics of the individual instruments. “Chicago’s Best” perform the piece with an astounding level of virtuosity, both individually and as an ensemble.

Mason Bates, Courtney Wise
The list of other renowned orchestras that will perform the work over the coming months reads like a Who’s Who of the greatest ensembles in the US and in Europe. There’s no doubt that Fantastique fervor will catch on in a big way to gain a huge following among classical music and film aficionados, and rightly so.

“The integration of so much engineering into one giant instrument is a real model of 'unity from diversity,' says Bates. “All these different materials and technologies—and people—syncing together to make beautiful music is a real model for how we should all behave as people.”

Bates and his cohorts have created a metaphor for the best, most inspiring aspects of life as we would like to live it. An example of the finest that music and film have to offer, Philharmonia Fantastique is sure to become a classic, worthy of many repeated viewings; a work that will last well into our century and beyond. 

Photo credits: Todd Rosenberg; Philharmonia Fantastique: The Making of the Orchestra (2022) 


Erica can be reached at: [email protected]