Louisiana Philharmonic's Carnegie Hall debut in Glass series
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
Feb. 26, 2018
Tuesday night's concert includes two pieces by Glass, one by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas and a lot of percussion.
"This concert is an aural spectacle but it is also a visual spectacle," said conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto.
The Louisiana Philharmonic was one of two orchestras invited to participate in the series of concerts. The Pacific Symphony , from Orange County, California, will make its Carnegie Hall debut in April.
Orchestras from across the country were invited to submit programs placing important works by Glass "in illuminating contexts," according to a news release from the Carnegie Hall Corp. About 20 submitted proposals and Glass helped judge the final round, spokeswoman Samantha Nemeth said in an email.
Prieto said he got the idea for his program from a conversation after he had conducted the Youth Orchestra of the Americas at Carnegie Hall in a program including a piece by Revueltas. He and Glass talked afterward about the Mexican composer, "and I remember him saying good things."
He said the program compares "an iconic living composer, Philip Glass, who is known everywhere, with an iconic Mexican composer of the 20th century who is admired by anyone who plays his music but is not very well known."
As well as celebrating Glass, the Carnegie Hall debut also celebrates the orchestra's resiliency, Prieto said. When the New Orleans Symphony went broke after 55 years, many of its musicians banded together in 1991 to create the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Hurricane Katrina flooded its home, the Orpheum Theater, and dispersed its musicians. The orchestra performed in churches and other venues around the metro area until the Orpheum reopened in September 2015.
"Not only did we hold onto our subscriber base but almost tripled it," Prieto said.
He said the New Orleans Symphony had played at Carnegie Hall, but the musician-owned LPO has not.
The first piece, by Revueltas, is a suite taken from the score of a 1939 movie titled "La noche de los Mayas." Its final movement has 15 percussionists playing about 30 instruments — "about as much percussion as you can fit in a stage," Prieto said.
The first Glass piece, "Days and Nights in Rocinha" is a melancholic tribute to Brazil's largest favela, or slum.
"People who go to Rio normally avoid at all costs getting even near a slum. Their slums are deemed to be very, very dangerous. They're also very, very vibrant. They have their own Carnival," Prieto said.
The piece repeats one theme "with a different color each time," Prieto said.
Rather than evoking Brazilian rhythms, Prieto said, he feels that it evokes saudade — "a bittersweet melancholy which is a complete Brazilian state of mind: Longing and sad, but loving it."
The finale, also by Glass, brings 14 kettledrums and two players to the front of the stage for "Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra." The Louisiana Philharmonic's Jim Atwood and Paul Yancich of the Cleveland Orchestra are the soloists.
"It's a big showy piece that, if people don't clap, it's because maybe they're just not there," Prieto said.