By Isabelle Lee

RENÉE AND HENRY SEGERSTROM CONCERT HALL, IRVINE – On the late afternoon of Sunday, November 23rd, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (LA Phil), led by conductor Gustavo Dudamel presented three pieces that featured Cameron Carpenter at the organ and soprano Heidi Stober.

Their two hour repertoire began with the Tocatta Festiva, Op. 36 by Samuel Barber. Contrary to most pieces that were composed in the 1900s, Barber’s piece resembled a Romantic concerto, which was popular in the musical period before his time. The toccata began with a bold introduction that featured the orchestra’s melody and the transfer of the notes to the organ. A slow and expressive theme became prominent within the midsection of the piece where many motives of the music were introduced, and again returned to the energetic theme of the introduction. Cameron Carpenter’s virtuoso playing on the organ awed many of the audience members as he concluded the piece with an extraordinary solo cadenza of the organ pedals. Using his feet to press the pedals, many people held their breath as the effortless running notes were merged with the orchestra into an impactful finish.

Their second piece was Symphony No. 4 by Stephen Hartke. Composed in 2014, this new piece was debuted with the LA Phil three days before. The symphony was subtly divided into three large sections that began with a progression of chords which introduced the series of themes. The serenity of the piece was slightly broken by a stronger second section that gradually intensified the musical dynamics. The tranquility was restored in the third section, in which the soprano Heidi Stober was featured. She sang the “Sleepwalking Ballad”, a calming melody and beautiful poem translated in English by Michael Hartnett. The piece concluded with the tale of bitter sadness that the poem conveyed.

The last piece presented by the LA Phil was the Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 “Organ” by Camille Saint-Saëns. The symphony was sectioned into a four-part piece that resembled the sonata form used widely in the Classical period of music. Saint-Saëns, however, condensed these sections into two movements so that there would not be redundant and repeated musical material. After a short introduction, the organ made its first appearance with a soft entrance which carried the orchestra into a calming theme. A brief scherzo, or humorous dance, was incorporated into the tranquil theme of the symphony. It featured a few phrases of piano melody played by four hands. The organ, after a long period of silence, made its grand entrance once again with a loud C major chord, startling many audience members. This triggered the magnificent coda, or conclusion, of the symphony that included much percussion.

The audience sprang to their feet in an overwhelming standing ovation that lasted for more than five minutes. Gustavo Dudamel’s brilliant, fiery, and expressive conducting amazed the audience, for he did not use any musical score, and conducted from memory.

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County will be presenting concerts such as Jake Shimabukuro with the ukulele and Zakir Hussain with Celtic and South Indian instruments at the Renèe and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

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