By John Lydon
Among the musicians thronging Paris in the 1830s were two foreigners who had a lot in common. Both were Eastern European, pianists and composers. Though they represented different musical ideals and one was frail, the other the picture of health, the two became close. Frédéric Chopin was born in 1810; Franz Liszt in 1811.
Last season, the La Jolla Music Society celebrated Chopin’s 200th anniversary in grand style. But the year isn’t over yet, and 2011 brings a new bicentennial.
“This year, it’s two words: Chopin and Liszt,” said Christopher Beach, president and artistic director of the La Jolla Music Society.
The LJMS opens its season Oct. 22 with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott playing an all-Chopin recital. Two more will follow before the new year; one by the young Russian pianist Gleb Ivanov on Nov. 14, the other by Melvyn Tan on Dec. 10.
Then, “we begin January with Chopin’s dear friend Franz Liszt,” Beach said.
First comes pianist Louis Lortie on Jan. 30, then Liszt expert André Watts in March.
Is it coincidence that what could be the most enticing concerts of these converging bicentennials are the closing performance of one and the opening of the other?
The Taiwanese piano virtuoso, Tan, is known for his delicate touch – “He plays like a butterfly,” said Beach – promising a memorable evening of Chopin subtlety.
And Lortie plans to launch the Liszt celebration with a plan worthy of the first rock star of classical music himself. Lortie will perform Liszt’s “Années de pèlerinage,” the complete three sets.
“To hear pieces from them is normal,” Beach said. “To hear [one set] is rare. To hear all three … Never in my career have I heard of anyone doing it.”
The concert begins on a Sunday afternoon. After the first set comes an intermission, after the second a dinner break.
“We have an arrangement with local restaurants in La Jolla so people can go for a pre-fixed dinner and then they come back for the finale,” Beach said.
Beach has a lot more than piano recitals planned.
In the Celebrity Orchestra Series, what could follow last season’s concert by Russia’s venerable Mariinsky Orchestra, which has been around since Mozart wrote “The Marriage of Figaro?”
The Staatskapelle Dresden, of course, which in its 470-year history has consistently been among Europe’s finest orchestras. And in March, a legendary orchestra, one that performed the premieres of music by Brahms and Bruckner and that counts Gustav Mahler among its conducting alumni: the Vienna Philharmonic.
In April, the China Philharmonic Orchestra will arrive with conductor Long Yu, whom LJMS audiences may remember for his stellar performance with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra last season.
“You say Long Yu in China and it’s like saying Leonard Bernstein. He is China’s maestro,” Beach said.
Violinists will be well-represented, too. The Japanese superstar Midori, arguably the world’s most famous violinist, will give a recital in December with music by Ravel, Beethoven, Bach and Saint-Saëns. Not yet 40-years-old, Midori has 30 years of performing experience. In 2007, she was named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.