Concerts of the Los Angeles Music Festival, 1947-1966
(including 1960 Santa Catalina Festival of the Arts)
David Neumeyer, ed. John Waxman
The Festival, sandwiched between the Philharmonic's fall-spring season and the summer programs of the Hollywood Bowl, showed from the start the stamp of Waxman's interests and aesthetic goals. Waxman was one of the pioneers of the "mixed" program that shed new light on familiar masterworks by setting them in the context of contemporary compositions. Reviewing the concert of June 2, 1954, Los Angeles Daily News critic Mildred Norton wrote that the new season "continued the tradition now established by the festival's founder-director Franx Waxman® of offering unhackneyed and stimulating departures from the usual." Although he was part of the film industry, which is often (and wrongly) associated with conservative musical attitudes, Waxman was a strong champion of contemporary music, as the concert programs clearly reveal. Even Mozart is outpaced by LA resident Stravinsky. Arthur Honegger, for whom Waxman felt a particular affinity, is well represented, and among the most striking events of the Festival's history were the world premiere of Stravinsky's Agon in 1957 and the West Coast premiere of Britten's War Requiem, under Waxman's direction, that took place within two years of the work's publication in 1962.
Beginning with the 1956 season CBS Radio selected concert performances from the Los Angeles Music Festival for broadcast throughout the United States and overseas as part of their World Music Festivals. The Los Angeles Music Festival was included among programs in Bergen (Norway), Helsinki (Finland), and Salzburg (Austria).
Reviews of Festival concerts -- like those in other venues -- routinely praise Waxman's skill as a conductor: his clarity of gesture, richness of expression, evidence of meticulous preparation, communication with the players, and shaping of the whole.
As early as its second year, the Festival concerts were mostly held on the UCLA campus, and gradually a close connection was established to the School of Music. The 1961 festival was named the "First International Los Angeles Music Festival," and on June 6 UCLA's Schoenberg Hall was the site for an "International Composers Conference" with a panel moderated by Roy Harris and including Karl-Birger Blomdahl, Werner Egk, Lukas Foss, Blas Galindo, Iain Hamilton, Kara Karayev, Tikhon Khrennikov, Milhaud, Piston, Rozsa, Stravinsky, John Vincent, Elinor Remick Warren, and Waxman himself. Two days later, an "International Critics' Symposium" was moderated by the Dean of USC's School of Music, Raymond Kendall.
The 1962 festival, which listed Waxman as "founder and music director," was also an "international festival" designed like the previous year: four concerts with a "Symposium on the Arts" tucked in the middle. By 1963, the official name of the festival became the "Los Angeles International Music Festival, " but a year later the name reverted to "Los Angeles Music Festival" and changed format to include two concerts and two recitals. The 1965 season included a cycle of all the Beethoven piano concertos played by Rudolf Serkin, and the final season (1966) returned to a format used twice earlier: three orchestral concerts and another of concert jazz compositions. It is both touching and appropriate that the last composition performed in the Festival series was Waxman's own orchestral song cycle, The Song of Terezin.
The tables provide details of the programs for all concerts in the Festival series, from 1947 to 1966. The first table is chronological, the second provides the same information but is sorted by composer name.