Courtesy of the LA Philharmonic

Seasons’ farewells: The LA Phil summer season comes to a close with conductor Gemma New

By Charlize Althea Garcia, September, 5, 2023

The LA Phil neared the end of its seasons at the Hollywood Bowl on Aug. 31, performing works from Jessie Montgomery, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi.

As conductor Gemma New took the stage, a bulb of flashing light streamed across the sky. A shooting star against the long-anticipated “supermoon” made for an enchanting start to the evening.

“Shift, Change, Turn” composed by Montgomery was the first piece played and was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons.” Its inspiration for the piece inspired me. Montgomery said that it is supposed to emulate the change within ourselves and the world around us, that change abides by our own individualized body clock. Personally, listening to the piece, I do not see any resemblance to Tchaikovsky. This piece deserves to stand alone.

The composition begins with the full orchestra repeating a two-note passage for the first minute. This made for a cinematic entrance while also evoking a curiosity within the audience. Its sonorous sound compensated for the simplicity in music. Although, the simplicity does not make it any less than another’s composition. These pieces feel like an abstract painting. The long tones give the listener time for the ear and mind to speak to each other, trying to make sense of the composer’s message and what it means to oneself. This piece is personalized to each individual who decides to really listen.

“The Four Seasons,” alongside Vivaldi, was a literal approach to the periods of time. The orchestra played selections from the composition: “January,” “February,” “April,” “June,” “July” and “September.” To start, “January: By the Hearth,” evoked just that feeling: a blanket of pure jollity from the jaunty melody wrapped around the audience in the summer night.

“June: Barcarolle,” known as a boating song usually sung by Venetian gondoliers, was the selection that stood out to me the most. The beginning of summer usually calls for a saccharine tune, conjuring up an image of the bright sun and pristine weather. But this piece exemplified no image relating to that whilst seeming different from the rest. It was melancholic and exuded an overpowering tone of sentimentalism.

New, the conductor of the evening, led the program with such animated passion that it made me question whether a secret profession of wizardry was under her sleeve. Her conducting was albeit spirited, too theatrical for some parts of the program.

The most popular piece of Baroque music elicited audience members to perk up from their chairs and lean in to hear Nathan Cole, first associate concertmaster and solo violinist, lead the LA Phil strings in Vivaldi’s . The introduction of Spring is the most quintessential tune of referencing classical music and the upper class. Though, within seconds, it leads the ear into an unexpected conversation among the upper strings, which I believe to be one of the most beautiful passages to have been written in its time.

Like Tchaikovsky’s execution of “June,” there is a uniqueness in that passage that sets it apart from the rest of the composition. The contrasting rhythms that work against each other create a sound so captivating that one can find themselves in a trance of some sorts.

I can feel the camaraderie and support in the air as Cole takes on the laborious runs in “Autumn” and “Winter.” Though not faultless, his execution of the whole 40-minute piece demanded only celebratory praises and bravos.

“Winter” was the last piece played, which is a piece that I believe has the power to attract any nonclassical music listener. Vivaldi encapsulated both the intensity and sweetness of the season into his composition. I did wish that the symphonic orchestra better emulated that, but due to their somewhat quiet sound, it made for a middling reaction from me that I hoped was later intensified.

Cole, however, ended the night with a triumphant finish with the orchestra that led the audience to bolt from their seats and give him a standing ovation.

This evening was all about the phenomenon of change. Each work was intended to evoke or exemplify the art of what was and what will be. Whether it is within ourselves or the outside world, each composer reminds us that change is an interdependent relationship in which we all must endure.

Feature image courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

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