By Ted AYALA
Next week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (LAPO) will pay tribute to a man who fundamentally reshaped the orchestra and cemented its reputation as among the world’s very finest orchestral ensembles: their late executive vice president and managing director Ernest Fleischmann.
Originally from Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany, the young Fleischmann and his family fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s for the safety of South Africa. Beginning as a conductor, Fleischmann turned his talents from musical performance to working behind the scenes as an organizer. He was instrumental in organizing the Johannesburg Festival, where British composer William Walton was commissioned to compose his bright Johannesburg Festival Overture. He also helped along the conductor Jascha Horenstein eke out a living in South Africa before he gained wider recognition in his last decade in England.
In 1969, Fleischmann became executive director of the LAPO where he immediately set about to improving the orchestra’s pay. After the departure of then music director Zubin Mehta to New York, Fleischmann brought in renowned Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini to helm the LAPO – Giulini’s only time he headed an orchestra. Giulini left a few years later out of concern for his wife’s health. It was then that Fleischmann brought in the man that cemented the orchestra’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost musical ensembles: the Finn Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Salonen’s 16 years with the LAPO saw the orchestra move to very front rank of orchestral ensembles in the world, earning acclaim and awards for its concerts and recordings.
All the meanwhile, Fleischmann ensured that the orchestra became a crown jewel in Southern California’s musical culture. Today, thanks to the work of Fleischmann, the LAPO stands eye-to-eye with the the finest ensembles from London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Chicago, etc.
On Tuesday, March 29 at 8 p.m. at the Walt Disney Hall, past and present music directors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel, along with musical luminaries like Pierre Boulez will pay homage to Fleischmann in a concert and in a ceremony where the city of Los Angeles will name a street intersection after Fleischmann.
“We honor our dead friend with an unusual program and colleague with an unusual program, but one he might well have selected himself,” said LAPO president and CEO Deborah Borda.
The program, a modern one with works by Boulez and Stravinsky, is free to the public. Tickets can be obtained by calling (323) 850-2000.