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A Glorious Celebration (and Tribute) at the Hollywood Bowl

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The "Lacrymosa" from Mozart's Requiem was performed last week at the Hollywood Bowl. Last Tuesday at the Hollywood Bowl was a night of many firsts. The first of the Classical music concerts for the 2010 season, the first without Ernest Fleischmann (or Flora Thornton), the first opening concert with Grant Gershon at the helm (as Music Director of the LAMC), and the first summer season with Gustavo Dudamel as the conductor for the LA Phil.

The concert opened with a tribute to the recently deceased Ernest Fleischmann, who was largely responsible for the modern summer concert series that the Hollywood Bowl has become famous for: jazz concerts, fireworks shows, film music nights, and emerging young artists headlining the shows. He was very passionate about the music, often yelling out advice to the orchestra (or at air traffic controllers for allowing helicopters to fly overhead during performances) and was also partially responsible for bringing Salonen and Dudamel to LA, who were at that time two relatively young up-and-comers that are now considered global icons (like the Bowl itself). The orchestra proceeded to perform the "Lacrymosa" from Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor, in memory of Fleischmann and all of his accomplishments.

The "te deum" (an early Christian hymn) by Haydn is a seldom heard piece, written as a tribute to a celebrated war hero during Haydn's time. The piece allowed for Gershon (an underrated conductor) to highlight the strengths of the LAMC, and really shows how much they have improved during his tenure as the Music Director (now in his 10th season). The first half finished with a relatively subdued rendition of Vivaldi's "Gloria", as close to a HIP (Historically informed performance) as possible in the Bowl.

The orchestra picked up the pace in the second half, with Poulenc's "Gloria", and Jessica Rivera overcame the freezing temperatures and less-than-ideal acoustics, with a particularly memorable moment when a far-off ambulance lingered on a high F and Gb at the same time as the soprano. The "Hallelujah" chorus, often a throwaway piece, set the choreography for the fireworks show (which I might add is also often performed with little thought or care), with each refrain finishing with louder and stronger fireworks.

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All in all it was a memorable night, filled with memorable performances and personalities (Frank Gehry, Jerry Buss, and a few other celebrities were in attendance). As if out of respect to Fleischmann, no helicopters flew over the Bowl during the concert. A fitting tribute, indeed.