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Music Review (LA): Mendelssohn Bicentennial Concert conducted by James Conlon at Disney Hall

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James Conlon is one busy Maestro. He took time off from conducting L.A. Opera’s first installment of the Ring Cycle to cross the street and conduct Felix Mendelssohn’s Bicentennial Concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Conlon has a special connection with Mendelssohn, not only because he loves the composer’s music, but also, as with the operas he champions for the L.A. Opera Recovered Voices Series, he introduces new audiences to music banned by the Nazis.

Mendelssohn’s compositions were banned by the Fascists, so some of his music is not as widely known as that of other composers. In fact Mendelssohn was one of the leading and most popular composers of the 19th century, and he reintroduced the music of Bach to Baroque audiences.

The program was rich and varied. First was Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Opus 11. It was his first symphony for a full orchestra, composed when he was only fifteen. (He had previously composed thirteen symphonies for strings, but they are often dismissed as childish works). Conlon says the Symphony No. 1 is one of his favorite pieces of music, and he displayed extremely sensitive understanding in conducting this really lovely composition.

Next on the bill was the inimitable and gorgeous Sarah Chang, who is recognized around the world as one of classical music’s most captivating and gifted performers. Formerly a famous prodigy, she has turned into an outstanding violinist. She played the very famous and exciting Violin Concerto E Minor, Opus 64, much to the delight of the sold-out crowd.

The last composition was one of my favorites, music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, specifically the Overture, Scherzo, and the universally known Wedding March. One could only marvel how Mendelssohn was able to capture the essence of Shakespeare’s play. Again Conlon did an outstanding job of interpretation, as did the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

This program was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Feb 26, 27, and 28 in Disney Hall.

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