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Review: Greatly improved sound at Glendale’s Alex Theatre

Review: Greatly improved sound at Glendale’s Alex Theatre
3:55 PM, April 19, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Culture Monster: All the Arts, All the Time

For all its amenities, the Alex Theatre in Glendale has never been a great place to listen to music. The sound was muddy, the reverberation time almost nonexistent. People in the balcony were less likely to complain (sound blends and gets better as it travels upward), but musicians were unhappy. They couldn’t hear themselves onstage, they said privately.

All that has changed.

The theater installed a new orchestral shell about two weeks ago, the latest step in its $6.2-million redevelopment project begun in 1992. On the basis of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert Saturday, one can smile. The acoustics in the 1925-built vaudeville-movie house — transformed at the end of 1993 into a performing arts center — have improved greatly.

The strings have presence and transparency. The winds and brass, now on risers at the back of the stage, remain a bit muffled and blurry. But tinkering is still possible. More important, LACO sounds more like it does in its other venue, Royce Hall at UCLA. It sounds, in short, more like its fine self.

The Saturday concert, scheduled to be repeated Sunday at Royce, was a program of firsts. The four-part bill included Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1. But it also marked Joana Carneiro’s first LACO guest conductor appearance and David Fung’s LACO debut, playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G for the first time.

The Ravel concerto must be at the upper limit of the repertory for a chamber orchestra, if not beyond. The Alex stage was so packed that the Fazioli grand piano extended beyond the proscenium arch, compromising the blend although bringing Fung closer to the audience.

As the first piano graduate of the downtown Colburn Conservatory of Music, Fung, 25, also unwittingly bears the responsibility of representing the school. A former student of John Perry, Fung was up to the challenge, though there was perhaps more clarity and directness than poetry in his first encounter with Ravel’s score. Still, there is undoubted talent there, and he has already recorded for ABC Classics and Yarlung Records.

Carneiro is a familiar local figure. A native of Lisbon, she has led the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra and served as a LACO assistant conductor in the 2003-04 season and a conducting fellow and assistant conductor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 2005-08. Her star is on the rise: In January, she was named successor to Berkeley Symphony music director Kent Nagano.

Carneiro opened the concert with a sparkling account of Mozart’s “Paris” Symphony and closed it with a buoyant reading of Beethoven’s First. She conducted with enthusiasm, clarity and elegant gestures. She sometimes expended more effort than she needed to, but that may be the exuberance of youth. While she was also an attentive collaborator with Fung, the high point may have been her passionate reading of Schoenberg’s impassioned score.

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Status Update from the Alex Theatre


As the saying goes, "The Show Must Go On." However, sometimes, unprecedented circumstances call for the show to be paused. This is one of those rare times.



Currently, our shows through April 5th will not be taking place on their original dates.



The Glendale Arts and Alex Theatre staff have been hard at work behind-the-scenes collaborating with the presenters of these performances to reschedule dates and communicating with ticket buyers about their options.



We are continuing to monitor directives established by local, state-wide, and national authorities and will post developments on shows scheduled beyond April 5th as they happen.



While our staff is working remotely, we are with our beloved Alex in spirit, and our hearts remain committed to the thousands of patrons we happily serve every week and our extended family of presenters, producers, performers, and community members who call the Alex home.



These are trying time for everyone. The economic impact on the dual industries with which we identify - non-profits and performing arts/live entertainment - has been swift and severe.



If you are able, we ask you make a gift at that will allow us to continue our work at the Alex Theatre - a place for arts and entertainment to be enjoyed; a symbol of history, beauty, and community - during this time, so we are ready to bring healing and happiness to all who need it when the time is right.



We wish all of you and your loved ones health and safety throughout this situation and can't wait to welcome you through our doors again when the show is ready to go back on.



With our love,


Glendale Arts/Alex Theatre Management Staff


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