The fall music season will begin with dissent. Petitions have been circulated calling for companies that employ Russian artists, such as the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera, to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin's human rights policies, especially those that deny rights to gays and lesbians. Good luck. Most administrators in today's classical music world fear taking a strong stand lest they bite the hands of the private donors, corporations or governments that feed them.
But many artists will, as they always have, speak out about issues of the day. Violinist Nigel Kennedy, for instance, told a Proms audience in London last month after leading a Palestinian youth group in a jazzily pulsating version of "The Four Seasons" that the infectiously animated performance shows that "getting rid of apartheid gives a chance for amazing things to happen." The BBC, not surprisingly, cut the speech from its Proms television broadcast.
A glance at the fall's highlights, locally and beyond, demonstrates just how inescapable politics can be in the arts.
Philip Glass' "Einstein on the Beach" reminds us of the great physicist's stance against nuclear weapons. Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" is an unblinking antiwar statement. George Crumb's "Black Angels" became an early '70s string-quartet anthem of Vietnam War dissent. Mohammed Fairouz's "Symphonic Prayers and Poems" is a symphony meant to stand for Jewish-Arab reconciliation. Frank Zappa's "200 Motels" does its best to offend everyone.
But the fall concert that will no doubt stand out as the most politically courageous is "To Russia With Love" in Berlin on Oct. 7. Organized by the great Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer, it features some of today's classical music legends, including pianist Martha Argerich, pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and composer Giya Kancheli.
Kremer selected the date because it is the seventh anniversary of the slaying of the Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya. Also citing oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Pussy Riot punk group and other journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and musicians, Kremer writes that over the last decade, "the death toll and list of dubiously convicted people in Russia have grown exponentially."
The violinist calls on musicians not to remain indifferent to other people's suffering. "Compassion is the basis of all morality," he asserts. "Many great artists of the past upheld these principles," and Kremer asks that musicians today walk in the footsteps of Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Bernstein and Yehudi Menuhin.
"It is naive to believe that our joint action can dramatically change something and justice will prevail," Kremer concludes, "but we do choose idealism and do believe in miracles."
Philharmonie, Berlin; http://www.to-russia-with-love.org
Sept. 30-Oct. 23
Walt Disney Concert Hall 10th Anniversary Celebration
The Los Angeles Philharmonic's celebration of its decade in Frank Gehry's multifaceted masterpiece will include its season-opening gala on Sept. 30, with a fancy-schmancy dinner afterward, and on the actual anniversary, Oct. 23, a serving of something more akin to lumpy gravy (as Frank Zappa titled a Mothers of Invention album). Music director Gustavo Dudamel will open the gala with John Cage's silent piece, "4'33," in order to take in the ambience of the hall, before Yo-Yo Ma plays Tchaikovsky. Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen's choice for the anniversary, which will be a Green Umbrella concert, is none other than Zappa's "200 Motels," originally commissioned by the L.A. Philharmonic in 1970 as a concerto for the Mothers and orchestra.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.,$110-$165 (gala), $39-$89 ("200 Motels"); www.laphil.com
Oct. 9, 16 and 20
Bach Keyboard Cycle
András Schiff's two-year Bach project, which has resulted in revelatory performances by the Hungarian pianist, particularly of "The Well-Tempered Clavier," concludes with programs of the English Suites, Partitas and "Goldberg" Variations. It's just Schiff, Bach and the listener in sensitive Disney Hall, leaving you with the sense that this is your brain on Bach.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave, $10 - $105.; www.laphil.com