On this day in classical music: Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen was born in Helsinki in 1958. Music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1992 to 2009, Salonen gave more than 120 world or American premieres during his 17-year tenure. Among the world premieres he conducted in Los Angeles were works by John Adams, John Corigliano, Arvo Part, Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky. Salonen commissioned more than 50 works during his tenure and is the longest serving music director of the orchestra. Salonen is now principal conductor and artistic advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Listen to Salonen conduct the final two movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xR3tJspIqlw
On this day in the musical theatre: The original London production of “Oliver!” opened in 1960. Based on the novel “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, this stage musical feature book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. It proved to be an enormous hit, running for 2,618 performances in London, 774 on Broadway and 1968’s Hollywood film. The film earned six Academy Awards, including one as best musical. It would be another 34 years before a musical film took the best picture Oscar (“Chicago”). The Broadway stage production earned three Tony Awards, including one for Bart’s tuneful score. Among its standouts are “Food, Glorious Food,” “Where Is Love,” “Consider Yourself,” “As Long as He Needs Me” and “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two.” Watch part of a production featuring the rousing “Food, Glorious Food.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5DvrSP0Nd0
Musical musings: If he had written only “Oliver!,” composer Lionel Bart would have earned an honored place in the history of British musicals, but he was far from a one-show wonder. His other work included shows such as “Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be” and “Maggie May,” plus many pop songs including “Living Doll” (Cliff Richard’s first No. 1 hit), Tommy Steele’s “A Handful of Songs,” Anthony Newley’s “Do You Mind?” and Matt Monro’s “From Russia With Love.” He epitomized the start of the Sixties in Britain, which he uniquely captured in song and spirit, and he was one of the few composers to deal uncondescendingly with the working classes, transposing their life styles and vernacular to the musical stage. “Nobody tries to be la-de-da or uppity, there’s a cuppa tea for all,” sings the Artful Dodger to Oliver. Bart also epitomized the Sixties in a less happy way — like many who flourished in that era, he was seduced by sudden success into a world of drink, drugs and hedonism, squandering his money and his youth. Cameron Mackintosh, who successfully revived “Oliver!” at the London Palladium in 1994 and gave him a percentage of the profits, said, “Of all the people I know in this business who have had ups and downs, Lionel is the least bitter man I have ever come across. He regrets it but, considering that everyone else has made millions out of his creations, he’s never been sour, never been vindictive.” – From Bart’s obituary in The Independent.