LA Scene: LA Phil's Importance of Being Earnest by Ades and Barry

The review from the professional (LA Times Mark Swed) was positive.

The reviews from the comment's section of Mark Swed's report were mixed.

The fact that the concert hall was no where near full meant that many had voted with their feet by either not showing up for their subscription concert, trading out of it or not buying this show in particular.

We went with some trepidation. But as a subscriber since 1999, I had been exposed to some contemporary musical programs and had more often than not enjoyed them. Thus, we went with an open mind to see the show.

It was awful.

Imagine the sound of singers trying to sound like roaring lions? Or was that cats coughing? Or dogs choking? Imagine watching two musicians cracking plates in garbage cans and cranking wind machines. I had to wonder what the singers and musicians thought when they first got the music score? Do they actually like to do these kinds of programs? Or do they figure, well its a paycheck?

Below is the letter I am sending to the LA Phil.

April 9, 2011

Los Angeles Philharmonic
111 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear LA Phil,

I have been a subscriber since 1999 and my ticket package (currently FR3) has usually included one concert a season devoted to contemporary music. Over the years, more often than not, I've enjoyed those concerts. Thus, I'm not reflexively opposed to contemporary music. I have admired the astute judgement of your program planners that resulted in musical choices that “pushed the edge” without going over the edge.

However, last evening, the Ades-Barry project The Importance of Being Earnest was well over the edge. I recognize that when an organization commissions a work they must permit the artists considerable freedom to pursue their ideas. However, it should be noted that the “customers” can vote with their feet by leaving the performance or not showing up.

I did not know what to expect and came with an open mind. But within 5 to 10 minutes, a number of people started to leave the concert. We would have left as well except for the fact we didn't want to climb over a half-dozen people to get to the aisle. Suffice to say, we did not return for Act III.

Because of the high quality performances of familiar works and tasteful selection of less familiar and new works, the LA Philharmonic enjoys a vast pool of good will. However, such rapport with the subscribers and audience should not be taken for granted or abused. Hopefully, blunders like The Importance of Being Earnest will remain the exception.

Thanks for a mostly wonderful 2010-2011 season. I look forward to 2011-2012.

The LA Phil has a clearly marked and labeled new music series called Green Umbrella.

I don't attend those because having heard some new music on the radio, I know I am not likely to enjoy or be interested in that type of programing.

Over the years, I have come to trust the LA Phil programing staff in regards to their music choices beyond the traditional Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and other crowd pleasing favorites that they mix in to the general subscription packages. Some have been quite enjoyable or at least thought provoking. Examples: Salonen's farewell concert, an Ades led concert, Concrete Frequency Festival, Stucky's Second Concerto for Orchestra.

Importance of Being Earnest was dreadful.