Prince of Clouds West Coast Premiere
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We’d like to thank the Academy
Brava to Anna Clyne for herGrammy nomination in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category. Congrats as well to our colleagues Jennifer Koh, Jaime Laredo, Vinay Parameswaran and the Curtis Institute’s 20/21 Ensemble for their nom-worthy performance on Cedille Records. LACO is proud of having co-commissioned this brilliant work, and we’ll be rooting for you come January!
“We all have our blood family, but in the arts, we also have our musical family, a sense of musical lineage through our teachers, and as students of them, the hope that we will then pass that information on to younger musicians and composers, and among ourselves as colleagues.” – Anna Clyne
For an orchestra premiering a work it has commissioned, there’s no substitute for having the composer on site to collaborate with the conductor and players. Bringing her together with the ensemble is the best way to ensure that the music she has imagined for months in her head is what listeners hear when it finally comes to life. Granted, by the time Anna Clyne and the stellar violinists who inspired her double concerto Prince of Clouds arrived in Los Angeles this past March, they had one – or three, actually – up on their LA collaborators. Clyne and soloists Jennifer Koh and Jamie Laredo were plenty familiar with the finished work from previous performances by co-commissioners IRIS Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and Curtis Institute’s 20/21 Ensemble. But LA Chamber Orchestra musicians and conductor James Feddeck were fresh to the score and grateful for face-time with Clyne, made possible by a New Music USA grant that supported the composer’s travel expenses.
The West Coast premiere of Prince of Clouds played to nearly 2,000 listeners in weekend evening concerts at the grand old Alex Theatre in Glendale and UCLA’s Royce Hall. Almost 700 local elementary students got a sneak preview the Friday morning prior, when the composer introduced her music to audiences of LACO’s Meet the Music program. One child later wrote to tell us that Prince of Clouds had been her favorite piece on the program, “because it made me dream that I am at a place full of flowers.” Appropriately, the lesson plan accompanying that unit of MTM focused on the idea of homage, encouraging students to think about their own heroes and how they could pay tribute to them in words, music or other art forms.
About 100 kids from local youth music programs were given comp tickets for the Saturday and Sunday night concerts so that they could hear some of their heroes in action. As Clyne told Concert Preludes attendees at those performances, the title came to her as a line from a Baudelaire poem, “The Albatross,” which coincidentally turned out to be one of Koh’s favorites. Clyne was inspired by the poet’s description of a bird clumsy on land, but which soars majestically among the clouds. “That’s just the perfect image,” she said, “our goal as a teacher is to give the tools to our students that they can then be free to soar.”
LACO’s performance at Royce Hall, an auditorium where strings especially shimmer, was recorded and will be broadcast/streamed this fall on Classical KUSC radio in Southern and Central California. Fingers crossed, it will get picked up for national distribution on American Public Media’s SymphonyCast or Performance Today this summer or fall as well. As they say, check your local listings.
For now, enjoy a brief taste of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s March 23, 2014 performance of Anna Clyne’s Prince of Clouds, featuring violinists Jennifer Koh and Jamie Laredo. In this concluding segment, you can hear how the piece plays out as a dialogue among generations.
“a wondrous new piece for string ensemble. It hinted of Britten with its far-off wistfulness sounding in long lines – only to churn with agitation later and contrast with the orchestra’s splintering harmonies, before turning meditative.” – Donna Perlmutter, LA Observed
All involved in Saturday night’s Prince of Clouds premiere received a warm ovation from the audience at the Alex Theatre.
photo courtesy Jamie Pham
LA Times review
Mark Swed’s review in the Los Angeles Times described Prince of Clouds this way: “It is lovely music, slightly too lovely and thus interrupted by harshness. Brutal, raspy percussive interludes appear suddenly, like slashes of the knife on the music, but sweet melody always returns, swooping with ever more determination. There is never resolution. Balance is gained, lost and regained, never maintained.”
The composer’s marking for the last section of Prince of Clouds reads, “Spilling into tender light.” And that’s exactly what the audience has experienced in each of the four performances by the LA Chamber Orchestra and soloists Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo (all led by wunderkind James Feddeck) this weekend. LACO is extremely proud to have given the final set of performances – among the consortium of commissioners, anyway – of this stunning work. Here’s hoping that many other ensembles have the good sense to present this work in the future!
Tomorrow: we’ll see what the Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed has to say.
meet the music
The very first performance of Prince of Clouds on the West Coast happened at this morning’s 10:00 am Meet the Music concert at Zipper Hall. Teacher and student playing for teachers and students. Said Jaime Laredo, “It used to be that I told Jenny what to do, and now I do what she tells me.”
with (l-r) conductor James Feddeck, Anna Clyne, Jaime Laredo and Jennifer Koh.
composer & commissioner
LACO’s First Chair donor event last night gave a taste of this weekend’s concerts, with Jenny playing the stuffin’ out of a solo Bach partita. Afterward, general manager Andrea Laguni did an impromptu interview with Anna and Jenny. Not surprisingly, they had the room in their thrall.
Anna Clyne: “I never thought I would become a composer.”
When London-born Anna Clyne was 7, friends of her parents gave her family a piano with randomly missing keys. Undeterred, Clyne not only played that piano but by age 11 had written a few little songs for herself and a flute-playing friend.
She had fun doing it, she remembers, but “I never thought I would become a composer.”
Jennifer Koh podcast
Jenny talks Bach with KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen and the evolution of musical tradition from one generation to the next, via Anna Clyne’s new work: “I was so grateful and thrilled and happy when I first got the score for Prince of Clouds.”
It’s an honor for this project to be among the inaugural class of grantees!
And speaking of classes, LACO’s volunteer Meet the Music docents will be making classroom visits soon to introduce students to the music of Anna Clyne and JS Bach. In fact, the lesson plan for this unit is all about music that pays homage to historical figures, kind of like the way Anna’s Prince of Clouds was written as a companion piece to Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins. I love that the audio sampler our education specialist Christine Gengaro put together for the docent presentations includes Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and Westside Rhymeslingers’ version of “Changes.”
As a co-commissioner of Prince of Clouds, LACO is the only West Coast partner in Two x Four, a project launched in 2012 by violinists Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo, two of today’s most acclaimed concert, recording and teaching artists. Through this initiative, the pair are collaborating with four groups (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, LACO, IRIS Orchestra and the Curtis Institute) to commission a work from Anna Clyne to complement Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins.
Clyne was inspired by Laredo’s mentorship of Koh, which began during Koh’s student days at Curtis. “When writing Prince of Clouds I was contemplating the presence of musical lineage – a family-tree of sorts that passes from generation to generation,” says Clyne. Her 13-minute companion piece echoes Baroque style in its canonical writing, expressed as a series of dialogues between the soloists. The result sees Koh and Laredo “trading and meshing phrases like champion relay runners…It’s the first concerto she’s ever composed, and it’s a winner.” (Chicago Tribune)
From March 20-23, 2014, Clyne will collaborate with conductor James Feddeck and the Orchestra in preparation for the West Coast premiere; participate in pre-concert discussions (including audience Q&A) with the soloists and/or conductor; and engage with LA Unified elementary students. Feddeck, the fast-rising assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, will lead the concert sets on March 22 and 23 at Glendale’s Alex Theatre and Royce Hall, UCLA. The second performance will be recorded for broadcast on Classical KUSC FM and its four Southern California affiliates in fall 2014, and we hope to feature Clyne in a preview podcast.
On the Friday morning prior to the weekend concerts, Clyne will share her experiences as a composer with children participating in our Meet the Music education program. Offered free of charge, MTM supplements age-appropriate concerts in Zipper Hall at The Colburn School with standards-based curriculum guides and classroom docent visits. Prince of Clouds’ theme of student-teacher lineage is especially apt for our education program, and Clyne will be on hand to introduce her work and answer student questions. Students experience something special when composers talk with them about their lives and work. “I have been playing piano for about a year now, and I am in love with the concept of creating my own musical compositions,” said sixth-grader after a composer spoke at Meet the Music in 2012. “The orchestra really opened a door for me in the world of music.”
We expect the project to reach a live audience of approximately 3,000 (including 800 students via two Meet the Music concerts) and about 70,000 radio listeners. Collaboration is central to the Orchestra’s strategic plan. Participating in the Two x Four consortium has given LACO a viable way to commission more music, partner with a gifted young composer and highly-renowned soloists, and provide wider visibility for Clyne’s work and the Koh-Laredo initiative. LACO seeks funding from New Music USA to help bring the composer to Los Angeles for the premiere and community engagement activities.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performed Clyne’s music for the first time on its 2012-13 season finale concerts. Like Prince of Clouds, Within Her Arms is a work for string orchestra. This excerpt from LACO’s May 2013 performance, conducted by Jeffrey Kahane, illustrates the transparent and distinctive sound produced by LACO’s string players, as well as the ensemble’s fluidity and command of contemporary repertoire. Please listen to the full excerpt, which runs 2:30.
This video documents the genesis of Anna Clyne’s involvement in the Two x Four initiative, featuring interviews with Clyne and violinist Jennifer Koh. Please view from start of video through 1:27.
Start and End Dates
03/20/2014 — 03/23/2014
Los Angeles, California