Each year since its founding in 1919, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been hailed as Southern California’s leading performing arts institution. Today, under the dynamic leadership of young Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, who in 2009 became the orchestra’s eleventh music director, the Philharmonic is still recognized as one of the world’s outstanding orchestras. When he inaugurated his Philharmonic tenure at the Hollywood Bowl, a crowd of eighteen thousand people greeted him with a hollering and stamping pop-star ovation.
There are three main elements behind Gustavo Dudamel’s appeal. The first is his astonishing natural command of the art of conducting. Advance notice of his talent spread not through public relations departments but in awestruck reports from such illustrious colleagues as Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle, who encountered him on visits to Venezuela. Second, Maestro Dudamel has an infectious emotional energy that tends to win over jaded souls in audiences and orchestras alike. He does not have the stone-faced mask of seriousness; his bright eyes and wriggling features suggest that he revels in what he does. Finally, his Latino background puts a new face on an art that is widely viewed as an all-white affair. He is a product of El Sistema, Venezuela’s legendary network of youth orchestras, which draws talent from the poorest sections of the country, and his perspective is bracingly different from that of the staid conservatory graduate.
The Orchestra’s involvement with Los Angeles extends far beyond regular symphony concerts in a concert hall. It embraces the schools, churches, and neighborhood centers of a huge and vastly diverse community. In fact, the Los Angeles Philharmonic devotes much of its energy and resources to ensuring that its presence is felt in every corner of Los Angeles. Each year, there is a 30-week winter subscription season at the extraordinary Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a 12-week summer festival at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl, where “Music Under the Stars” has been a popular tradition since 1922.
The Philharmonic owes its birth to William Andrews Clark, Jr., a multi-millionaire and amateur musician, who established the city’s first permanent symphony orchestra in 1919. The 94 musicians of the new ensemble met for their first rehearsal Monday morning, October 13 of that year, under the direction of Walter Henry Rothwell, whom Clark had brought from the St. Paul (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestra. Eleven days later, Rothwell conducted the Orchestra’s premiere performance before a capacity audience of 2,400 at Trinity Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. Following its opening season in 1919-1920, the Orchestra made Philharmonic Auditorium, on the northeast corner of Fifth and Olive, its home for the next 44 years. Mr. Rothwell remained the Orchestra’s music director until his death in 1927. Since then, ten renowned conductors have served in that capacity:
- George Schnéevoigt (1927-1929)
- Artur Rodzinski (1929-1933)
- Otto Klemperer (1933-1939)
- Alfred Wallenstein (1943-1956)
- Eduard van Beinum (1956-1959)
- Zubin Mehta (1962-1978)
- Carlo Maria Giulini (1978-1984)
- André Previn (1985-1989)
- Esa-Pekka Salonen (1992-2009)
- Gustavo Dudamel (2009-present)
Since its first season, the Philharmonic has made downtown Los Angeles its winter home. It was in December 1964 that it began its residency at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, and in the fall of 2003, the Philharmonic took up residence in the acoustically superb, stunning Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall – the fourth performing venue in the Music Center complex. At the same time, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association vastly increased the number of concerts it presents during the winter season, which now includes jazz, world music, organ recitals, Baroque concerts, holiday programs and much more.
The 2016 radio series consists of 13 concerts from the 2015-16 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall, including:
- Six concerts conducted by Gustavo Dudamel including Beethoven’s 5th and 6th Symphonies, from the orchestra’s Beethoven Unbound festival; Stravinsky’s groundbreaking ballet The Rite of Spring, Mahler’s epic 3rd Symphony, as well as music by Mozart, Bartók, Andriessen, Ligeti, Kodály, and a world premiere by Arvo Pärt.
- Ludovic Morlot conducting the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition Become Ocean, by John Luther Adams
- Dudamel conducting Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
- Performances conducted by the LA Phil’s conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen and highly-touted Assistant Conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
- LA Phil Creative Chair conducting the West Coast premiere of his Scheherazade.2, with violin soloist Leila Josefowicz