Medici Arts Releases the First DVD Concert Performance Featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducting His LA Variations

On July 28, Medici Arts releases the first DVD concert performance featuring the outgoing Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conducting his 1996 LA Variations. The concert, which also includes a performance of the Sibelius Symphony No. 5, was filmed at the 2007 Verbier Festival and features the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra.

Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and premiered in 1996, LA Variations highlights the virtuosity and power of this celebrated American ensemble. In an interview with Allan Kozinn for a 2006 New York Times article, Salonen commented on his breakthrough work: “For me, this was the moment when it all came together; when I finally had the harmonic language that produced the sound I want to hear. I felt free.”

Mr. Salonen provided these notes for LA Variations:
“LA Variations is essentially variations on two chords, each consisting of six notes. Together they cover all twelve notes of a chromatic scale. Therefore the basic material of LA Variations has an ambiguous character: sometimes (most of the time, actually) it is modal (hexatonic), sometimes chromatic, when the two hexachords are used together as a twelve-tone structure.

“This ambiguity, combining serial and non-serial thinking, is characteristic of all my work since the mid-’80s, but LA Variations tilts the balance drastically towards the non-serial.

“This piece, some 19 minutes of music scored for a large orchestra, including a contrabass clarinet and a synthesizer, is very clear in its form and direct in its expression. The two hexachords are introduced in the opening measures of the piece together in the chromatic phenotype. Alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, and two bassoons, shadowed by three solo violas, play a melody which sounds like a kind of synthetic folk music, but in fact is a horizontal representation of the two hexachords transposed to the same pitch. Some of the variations that follow are based on this melody, others are the deeper, invisible (or inaudible) aspects of the material. There are also elements that never change, like the dactyl rhythm first heard in the timpani and percussion halfway through the piece.”