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Esa-Pekka Salonen Explores A Fabled Era's Revolutionary Musical Culture With The Los Angeles Philharmonic

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Esa-Pekka Salonen Explores A Fabled Era's Revolutionary Musical Culture With The Los Angeles Philharmonic

The Los Angeles Philharmonic's Weimar Republic: Germany 1918-1933, through two wide-ranging and dramatic programs led by Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen, explores the musical culture of Germany's politically charged Weimar era. These concerts are given context by Weimar Variations, a collection of ancillary events curated by Stephanie Barron and Nana Bahlmann.

"I have always been interested in the Weimar era for its aesthetic, its humor and open possibilities, its artistic freedom in blending art forms and genres. But I feel there are also lessons and an urgent relevance in looking at that time today. Eras of rationality, optimism, and growth can give way, quite quickly, to the opposite. Progress is not inevitable, and perhaps we are living through something that is very similar to the Weimar Republic without knowing it," said Salonen.

The Weimar Republic began as a bold German political experiment at the end of the First World War and endured until the rise of Nazism. The era was marked by incredible intellectual productivity, with German artists making lasting contributions in the fields of literature, art, architecture, music, dance, drama and film. This landscape provided a fertile ground for artists, including composers Kurt Weill and Paul Hindemith. On February 7, 8 and 9, Salonen is joined by violinist Carolin Widmann in an exploration of the era's mixture of historic influences and modern style, as heard in Weill's Violin Concerto, Hindemith's Rag Time (On a Theme of J.S. Bach) and Mathis der Maler Symphony, and Schoenberg's masterful orchestral arrangements of two chorale preludes by J.S. Bach.

"When Esa-Pekka approached us about exploring the Weimar period as a lens through which to understand aspects of our contemporary cultural moment, we knew we wanted to create as many points of entry into the conversation as possible," said LA Phil CEO Chad Smith. "In addition to the Weill and Hindemith works you'll see on our stage, we've invested in a series of public programs that mirror the period's diversity of expression, as well as its thematic concerns. These programs are being led by the incomparable Stephanie Barron, LACMA's senior curator for Modern Art and expert in the Weimar era, and include such remarkable offerings as an exhibit of August Sander's photography, new works by Nicole Miller and Susan Philipsz, and an installation designed by Frank Gehry and featuring Oskar Schlemmer's iconic contributions to the Bauhaus ballet. We are fortunate to be able to include this range of creative and curatorial voices in a festival we hope audiences will find especially meaningful at this point in our history."

Salonen and the LA Phil continue to explore this culturally explosive period and its contemporary resonances in the climax of the orchestral programs, February 13 through 16, when he leads full stagings of two of the era's darkly satirical musical-theater works: Weill/Brecht's The Seven Deadly Sins and Hindemith/Kokoschka's Murderer, the Hope of Women. Renowned actor-writer-director Simon McBurney and his equally acclaimed brother, composer-writer-scholar Gerard McBurney, collaborate with Salonen on the productions.

Augmenting the concerts is Weimar Variations, a collection of commissioned installations, exhibitions, performances, cabarets, and a film marathon, which will take place in and around Walt Disney Concert Hall and at other venues throughout Los Angeles. Organized by LACMA Senior Curator and department head of modern art Stephanie Barron and independent curator Nana Bahlmann, Weimar Variations begins on February 6 with Oskar Schlemmer: The Triadic Ballet, a rare display of the Bauhaus pioneer's iconic figurines for dance performance in collaboration with C. Raman Schlemmer, in a setting designed by Walt Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry, and the U.S. premiere of Turner Prize-wining artist Susan Philipsz' Prelude in the Form of a Passacaglia (2019), a 12-channel sound installation that will encompass the length of Walt Disney Concert Hall's Blue Ribbon Garden. By assigning each tone of Hanns Eisler's 12-tone score for Walter Ruttmann's seminal animated film Opus III to one of 12 speakers placed throughout the Garden, Philipsz' work immerses the visitor, giving voice to the movement, separation and displacement experienced by artists of the Weimar era.

The opening of Philipsz' work is followed on February 6 by a performance of Kurt Schwitter's Ursonate directed by Zoe Aja Moore and presented in collaboration with REDCAT. The Dadaist sound poem was first performed by Schwitters and has over time influenced a wide range of visual artists, composers, choreographers and musicians.

"A hundred years ago, the Weimar Republic ushered in a period of unprecedented intersection of art, politics, and modernization that continues to reverberate to this day. Weimar Variations offers a chance to experience important examples in visual art, film, performance, and music from the 1920s together with contemporary works that are inspired by or address many of the same issues," commented Barron and Bahlmann.

On February 8, the world premiere of artist Nicole Miller's Transition offers a live performance and resulting laser light installation in Walt Disney Concert Hall's BP Hall and continues from February 8 through February 16. Together with musical collaborators Jessica McJunkins and Kyshona Armstrong, Miller will offer a synthesis of the transformative, ecstatic aesthetic of Wassily Kandinsky's work during the Weimar period and the African American spiritual tradition.

Also on February 7 as well as February 9, music director Lesley Leighton and members of the Los Robles Master Chorale bring Hanns Eisler's protest songs to the streets, just outside Walt Disney Concert Hall.

On February 11, twin duo Jack and Benny Lipson, known collectively as jackbenny, bring together the area's most inventive cabaret performers for a deep dive into the forbidden songs of the Weimar era and the contemporary songs that echo the era's concerns with gender identities, economic hardship and the politics of the day in Musik! Fantasie! Revolution!, an intimate Weimar-style cabaret at Black Rabbit Rose, featuring vocalists Jonnie Reinhart, DIIMOND and Mikalah Gordon; burlesque artists Jessabelle Thunder and Coco Ono; and magician Rob Zabrecky among others.

Weimar Variations continues on February 15 with August Sander: New Women, New Men, and New Identities, an exhibition that combines the groundbreaking photography of August Sander with original examples of the first gay and lesbian journals ever published. The exhibit is a partnership between the LA Phil and Hauser & Wirth.

The festival concludes on February 29 with a marathon film event presented in collaboration with American Cinematheque. The daytime program features a combination of classic Weimar, pioneering abstract cinema, and films by acclaimed contemporary artists exploring the themes of formal experimentation, queer identities, and sociopolitical commentary. The evening program offers a special screening of the G.W. Pabst masterpiece Pandora's Box with live musical accompaniment by pianist and composer Cathlene Pineda, trumpeter Stephanie Richards and guitarist Jeff Parker.

Tickets for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's 2019/20 season are available for purchase at laphil.com, in person at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Box Office, or by phone at 323 850 2000.


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