Reviews 2008-2009 Season
SIGNALS ON HIGH 5/9/2009
THE SPIRIT TRIUMPHANT: Someday when the ink supply starts running low, and there’s still enough left for one last tabulation, last Saturday’s Jacaranda concert will rank among the best musical events I will ever want to remember. Ever. It’s not just because of the music; there was no Mozart, after all, and no Schubert. There were a few truly great performers, but the majority were recruits from local schools – well-trained, to be sure, and basically held to their task by the sense of dedication that enveloped the whole undertaking. The concert drew its excellence from a deeper well, from the depth of musical enthusiasm, tempered with imagination and pure love, that have driven Jacaranda’s guiding spirits – the musician Mark Alan Hilt and the man-of-all-the-arts, spirited amateur (in the best sense of that word), Patrick Scott, since the series was dreamed up and brought to a state of improbable but tangible deliciousness over the past decade or so.
Their work has inspired their community as their community has inspired their work. That was easy to sense last weekend, in the size of the crowd that came so close as never mind to filling, not the concerts’ usual small (and lovely) First Presbyterian Church but the far more spacious Barnum Hall, the adequately monstrous assembly hall of Santa Monica High School. Many of Jacaranda’s professional regulars participated: the marvelous pianist Gloria Cheng, the Denali String Quartet, the several ad hoc gatherings who regularly play and/or sing under the Jacaranda aegis, and a roof-raising gathering, grateful to eye and ear, it proved to be.
From the racketing pounding upon Heaven’s gates by the winds, brass and percussion of the so-named “Jacaranda Festival Orchestra” let loose on Messiaen’s Expectations of the Resurrection, to the exquisite curlings of silvery choral tone around Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat, to Glorious Gloria’s ascent, girdled by flocks of pianistic birds massed to serenade her at The City on High, to the much touted finale, the charming, sturdy and expendable piece of national-anthem note-spinning, the long-lost Chant des Déportés that finally brought to earth the two years of “OM Century” with, I must admit, something of a thud. Yes, this much awaited pearl of great price, the capstone to the fabulously inventive centenary birthday-party concocted by Jacaranda’s founders, uncorked by a stageful of ardent interpreters numbering no fewer than185, encored by the acclaim of the stunned multitude, may now be shoved back – one must truly hope – into history’s sheltering shrouds for at least another century. Yes, it bore the name of a composer worthy of respect; yes it carried the cachet of a historical event of sorts; yes it enabled its presenters to go romping around proclaiming “premiere” and “first time”; yes it enabled those 185 prideful people – most of them young, all of them beautiful – to assemble on that stage and yell and hack their way through its four meager minutes of musical substance. Now we move on.
- Alan Rich, So I've heard 5/12/2009
MARSHALING A LIBERATION FORCE IN MESSIAEN'S NAME: An impressive contingent joins in performing a U.S. premiere for the Jacaranda series.
The ambitious Jacaranda music series concluded its two-season Messiaen centenary tribute at Barnum Hall in Santa Monica on Saturday with the U.S.
premiere of the composer’s “Chant des déportés” (Song of the Deported), a work reportedly performed only three times since its 1945 introduction on Radio France.
Though short (it lasts about four minutes), the unwieldy piece requires massive forces. Written quickly in commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, “Chant des déportés” made for a stupefying sight, with a full orchestra and chorus numbering 185. More a historical document than an example of Messiaen at his most inspired, this posthumously published work was made memorable by the inclusion of high school and college students among the professional musicians — part of Jacaranda’s educational outreach program.
Yet conductor Mark Alan Hilt and company ultimately conveyed the poignancy of the score when they performed it a second time for an enthusiastic audience.
The concert began with the somber “Night Signal,” the first of two brief antiphonal brass fanfares from Toru Takemitsu’s “Signals From Heaven.” Then Amy Fogerson led the Jacaranda Chamber Singers in Arvo Pärt’s lovely “Magnificat” (1987) for small chorus. Since Pärt shared Messiaen’s interest in ceremonial and liturgical choral music, it was an inspired lead-in to the program’s major Messiaen work, from 1965, “Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum” (And I Expect the Resurrection of the Dead).
Here Hilt explored the composer’s obsession with bird calls and plainsong, drawing a refined blend of sonorities from an orchestra comprising woodwinds, brass and percussion. Hilt observed the composer’s request for a minute of silence between each of the score’s five sections. Overall, Messiaen’s dazzling, resonating instrumental colors may have been understated in the rather dry Barnum acoustics. Yet the conductor compensated with fine attention to detail.
From Messiaen’s final score for expanded orchestra from 1992, the hour-long “Éclairs sur l’au-delà” (Flashes From the Beyond), Hilt chose to perform one short section, “Abide in Love,” exquisitely rendered in its Los Angeles premiere.
Pianist Gloria Cheng performed another L.A. premiere. In “La Ville d’en-haut” (The City on High), a kind of bird-song concerto for winds, brass and percussion, Cheng’s bright, pointillistic sound was heard to best effect in her solo.
- Rick Schultz, Los Angeles Times 5/11/2009
Going to the limits of extreme performance and sensuality 4/4/2009
Jacaranda's sacrifice - Imagine, the knuckle-busting four-hand piano version of Igor Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, coupled in one evening with probably the most difficult song cycle of the 20th Century, Olivier Messiaen’s Harawi, Chant d’amour et de mort. The near impossibility of finding musicians who can do justice to these two stupendous works, much less muster the courage to tackle them, challenges the brave if not the foolhardy.
Jacaranda’s producers, Patrick Scott and Mark Hilt, have the kind of audacity that lives up to the epithet of their series, “music at the edge”, and a stable of artistic talents approaching bottomless. For this evening, they put together a coalition of the willing - more importantly, the able - and brought us what may have been the most astounding concert in the five year history of the organization.
We are so used to the orchestral version of Sacre du Printemps, it is hard to think of the work without its prism of brilliant instrumental colors, or for some, the extra-musical associations of ballet or cinema. Who can forget seeing fearsome dinosaurs fighting to the death in the Walt Disney movie, Fantasia? Ballet versions are less frequent in these parts, but I was once fortunate enough to have taken Nicolas Slonimsky, the renowned lexicographer, to the Chandler Pavilion for the American Ballet Theatre’s recreation of the original Ballet Russes version. Slonimsky had seen a revival of the original with dancer Vaclav Nijinsky just a couple of years after its premiere, and was initially skeptical of the ABT’s ability to do it justice. But he was ultimately delighted with the results.
Stripped of such vivid orchestral colorings and visual evocations, however, would tonight’s Sacre prove to be nothing more than a historical curiosity? There is, after all, a certain lugubriousness inherent in four-hand piano performances, even with the best of musicians. I approached the evening with trepidation.
Not to worry. With Steven Vanhauwaert and Danny Holt on hand, all such doubts were cast aside. The four-hand piano Sacre blazed like a comet through the hall. Both illuminating and liberating, one could only stand mute at the work’s astounding musical structure. Dissonances were sharper when stripped of orchestral colorings. Interwoven lines that exist more independently in the orchestra version are here more obviously connected. Asymmetrical rhythms, constant off-beat accents, meters that change like jumping beans, all were revealed afresh in the piano version for 20 fingers.
It was like looking at one of those model ships where a half-cut down the middle reveals all the chambers. No wonder Messiaen studied this version for his own instruction and taught it to his students. It is a terrific companion to its more famous orchestra twin.
Vanhauwaert and Holt tore into this piece like furies, undeterred by daunting challenges (and even the distracting breeze from the hall’s air-conditioning system that threatened to topple the music off the piano). It was a performance at turns propulsive and precise, aggressive and tender. What aplomb these two demonstrated!
Unlike the Sacra du Printemps, Messiaen’s Harawi, Chant d’amour et de mort is not a composition many will encounter with prior conceptions or associations, or a even knowledge of its existence. Fiendishly difficult for both pianist and singer, it is shunned by most singers for understandable if lamentable reasons: there are simply very few with the combination of voice, musicianship, or time to prepare and perform it.
Patrick Scott’s lengthy program notes provide a good history of Harawi, including commentary on its surreal-inspired origins and its autobiographical significance to Messiaen. The notes can be found on Jacaranda’s website (http://www.jacarandamusic.org/). Suffice it to say here that Messiaen’s iconic musical obsessions and devices abound, including what seem like hundreds of exotic bird calls.
As with the evening’s first piece, the two performers of Harawi, soprano Elissa Johnston and pianist Vicki Ray, know not fear. Johnston has a voice of enormous range and suppleness, with a fresh, many-hued tonal quality just right for this piece. Just as important, hers is an impeccable musicianship without which it simply could not be performed.
Likewise, Ray has the dexterity to fully negotiate this beautiful monster, and the simpatico to be an ideal pair to Johnston in bringing it off, not just adequately but well nigh definitively. (Unconfirmed reports tell of the two working on it over a period of several months. If so, we can add artistic integrity to the merits they brought to the work’s revelatory performance.)
With this concert, the last at First Presbyterian this season, the two-year survey of works of Olivier Messiaen and those who influenced him draws almost to a close. There is but the season finale, a large-scale extravaganza featuring the seminal 20th Century composer’s compositions, including one US premiere, to be given at the restored art deco Barnum Hall at Santa Monica High School on May 9. Don’t miss it.
After you see it, please tell me what I had to miss while on a Sierra Club trip to southern China next month. Even in deepest China I doubt I’ll encounter birds more exotic or a spring more ravishing than those of this evening in Santa Monica.
- Rodney Punt, LA Opus 4/5/2009
Rain Forest in Paris 3/7/2009
At night there was Jacaranda, also in a church - Santa Monica's First Pres - but one of comfortable size (and also pretty close to jam-packed). The Messiaen centennial celebration continues, with its imaginative excursions around the periphery and an occasional peek into the center. This last was fulfilled with a couple of songs, flown in on the wings of Jacquelynne Fontaine, an enchanting soprano new to us and all the more wondrous for that. She then went on to more familiar realm, the Fifth of Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras, the one that starts with the haunting cantilena you'll never get out of your head, followed by lesser stuff.
Other Villa-Lobos had begun the program, the Rudepoema for solo piano, a continuous essay in irrational virtuosic demands, apparently written as a portrait of Artur Rubinstein (in 1927, when he might have come close to mastering it). A slender, cool chap named Danny Holt mastered the daylights out of it at Jacaranda: a phenomenal performance. Rationality was restored at program's end, with the marvelously clear-headed Trio of Maurice Ravel, delivered in like manner by string players Tereza Lucia Stanislav, Cecilia Tsan and pianist Robert Edward Thies. All hail them, too.
- Alan Rich, SoIveheard 3/12/2009
JACARANDA CONTINUES its wonderfully inscrutable ways, providing its chosen celebrant with the most sumptuously embroidered birthday box in which to celebrate in absentia. There was no Messiaen on Saturday’s Messiaen celebration; the ecstasy is in the zeroing in, and in the wisdom of Patrick’s devotional program notes – page after page this time, all worthy of publication, and with one special delight: the way the deviations in the spelling of “Franck” versus “Frank” swung back and forth like a censer at St-Sulpice.
I can learn to live with a modicum of Fauré (provided it’s the Requiem), and so much of Saturday’s program tended to enhance awareness au fond of church-pew construction. Then, from the most unexpected source, came the evening’s great Surprise: a Piano Quintet by Louis Vierne, composed in 1918.
Here is a piece whose very pedigree inspires fear and loathing: a French organist, thus bearing the stigma of César Franck; blind from birth plus a few other afflictions, father to a family of offspring mostly killed in WWI; struggling to compose this one chamber work with his brother helping to fill in the note-heads on the manuscript paper. And then, voilà!
I am not ready to proclaim this Quintet of Vierne any kind of long-lost masterpiece. Surely the element of surprise has entered into my reaction to the work. I found it a considerably attractive work, the more so in its dark, rich, haunting slow movement and its lively, shapely finale than its somewhat over-eager first part. If I had a recording, which I don’t, I would gladly give it some study. All I know for sure so far is that musicians I have come to trust and admire – Jacaranda’s Denali Quartet plus the pianist Steven Vanhauwaert – have given the work a serious and devoted performance, and that music I had expected to curdle in my eardrums on Saturday night
failed to live down to expectations.
– Alan Rich, SoIveheard 2/10/2009
BIRDS, BELLS AND SPELLS 1/10/2009
BIRDS, BELLS, SPELLS, AND MORTY: Jacaranda’s program looked daunting on paper,; the music turned out even more in actuality. Its power took flight in the unbridled fantasy of composers fixated upon infinite distances. I am not at all sure about greatness; what delighted me more was the sense of insinuation, of an abiding invitation to inundate oneself in the splashes of color and sound (the one fused to the other). From Tristan Murail, at the program’s beginning and end, there was music to tease, to jangle, to smile. From George Benjamin came the sheer nonsense of violas wrapt around one another. Messiaen was celebrated by more of his goddam birds. The playing, too, was goddam exquisite; what a violinist, that Joel Pargman! What a colorist, that Gloria Cheng at the piano! Two singers – Elissa Johnston whom I’d heard before and Timothy Gonzales whom I’d hadn’t – made fabulous musical drama of a silly early Messiaen number. The church, Santa Monica’s First Pres, was, as usual, jammed; these are just the best programs, ever.
The programming genius of Jacaranda was exactly the kind of unpredictable enterprise that Betty Freeman loved to encourage, and her place in the back row at the church ws tragically empty this night, a week after her death. There were so many rumors in the first days after her death last week that everybody got some of the facts wrong, myself included. She did not die in a hospice, but at home, with a few family members. One thing that is pure Betty: Fanny Freeman, her daughter-in-law, wrote to tell me that the last music at her bedside was by Harry Birtwistle.
– Alan Rich, SoIveheard 1/13/09
FATEFUL GLANCES 12/6/2008
One Thing After Another: “On Saturday there was Jacaranda, still up to its ears in celebrating Olivier Messiaen’s 100th birthday – four days short. The crowd was small; Mark Robson had, after all, performed the Vingt Régards at a Piano Spheres concert not that long ago, and that can be measured as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I am still not sure where to go from there. There is a way of experiencing this music that transcends familiar pathways; you give yourself to its language with a realization that it cannot lend itself to normal methods of parsing. It angered me for a time, to be screamed at in an absolutely foreign language. Certain works of Messiaen I still find unbearable; their colors are so bright that they actually hurt my eyes, and I’m looking forward to next week’s cataract surgery for an enhanced acceptance of, say, the “Quartet for the End of Time.”
The piano works project the right colors; Mark Robson sat there, in Santa Monica’s First Pres, for 2-1/2 hours, pulling down clouds of the deepest purple streaked with bright orange, and that was all pretty wonderful. Happy Birthday, Cher Olivier, and Elliott Carter, too.”
– Alan Rich, SoIveheard 12/15/08
INTERVALS OF PASSION 11/22/08
Music, Absolutely: Jacaranda features Bach and Webern “Jacaranda’s homage to Olivier Messiaen, The OM Century, resumed at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica last Saturday evening, after a season opener at the new and nearby Eli and Edythe Broad Stage. Jacaranda’s is the most comprehensive local survey yet of the seminal 20th Century French composer, and explores as many influences on his style as its organizers can conjure.
Sometimes the OM label stretches the imagination, as in this evening when not a note of Messiaen’s music was actually performed, his phantom presence in the hall only an idea. Three big solo works of J. S. Bach surrounded six tiny chamber or solo works of Anton Webern. Messiaen was well-acquainted with these two composers who appealed to that part his creativity that relished sound for its own sake.
Before the word “absolute” took on negative connotations (like from those who profess absolute certainties), it had more palatable employments. Take, for instance, the phrase “absolute music” which describes a musical purity that contrasts with mixed-media “program” music of a literary reference, descriptive text, or excessive emotional narrative.
Absolute music stands at an intersection where intellect meets sound. Exemplar works in this form are equal parts craftsmanship and abstract inspiration; listening to them is literally a mind-trip. The instrumental works of Bach fit this mold, as do those of Anton Webern, one of the last composers in a long unbroken line of Austro-German musical purists, abruptly severed in the ravages of World War II.
Bach represented the apogee of 150 years of ever more complex Baroque musical art, and his well-tempered harmonic explorations set in motion possibilities for all that was to follow in serious Western music. Webern composed 150 years after Bach, a time just after the Romantic style had peaked, seemingly exhausting the tonal harmonic world of Bach. In his slender works, Webern pared down the excesses of the concluding era into a kind of needle-point distillation of isolated sound essences. Pairing the two composers on the same program gave us contrasting polarities in absolute music.
I am happy to report the musical execution of the concept was very much up to its plan, another triumph for Jacaranda, matching the organizational prowess of its producers, Patrick Scott and Mark Hilt, with the impressive performing strengths of their musical team: the Denali string quartet- Sarah Thornblade and Joel Pargman, violin; Alma Lisa Fernandez, viola; and Timothy Loo, cello - who were augmented in various musical configurations by cellist John Walz, pianist Gloria Cheng, and violinist Tereza Lucia Stanislav.
The three Bach solo works featured on the program –the Suite for Unaccompanied Cello in C, the “Toccata” from Partita for Keyboard No. 6, and the “Chaconne” from Partita for Violin No. 2 - are each comprehensive essays that wring out all possibilities musical art at the time could explore on their respective instruments. In the context of the program, they stood like temple columns at the beginning, middle and end, casting their majestic shadows on what followed or had come before.
Webern’s six small works (only so in length) formed the middle action of the evening, with their clarity an antipode to Bach’s density. They included Two Pieces for Cello and Piano of 1899, the Piano Quintet of 1907, Five Movements for String Quartet, Op. 5, Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 7, and Movement for String Trio of 1925, with one solo piece, Variations for Piano, Op 27.
Opening the program and setting a high standard for what was to follow, cellist John Walz infused the Bach suite’s six dance movements with a lilting propulsion and faultless intonation, taking a moment here and there to dwell on some of the more introspective musings in the work.
Gloria Cheng’s keyboard Toccata eschewed the snappy touch so often associated with virtuoso performances of such works. On her modern Steinway grand, she approached the work in the rhapsodic style of a Chopin etude, exploring its expressive potential with nuanced phrasing and dynamics, and a suave touch of velvet. In Cheng’s masterful interpretation, Bach’s score took on the unruffled tranquility of a moonlit lake with a lot going on beneath the shimmering surface. Her later solo outing in the Webern was a fitting counterpart in its own way to the encyclopedic possibilities for keyboard of the Bach.
The Denali Quartet performed as an ensemble and as individual members with the evening’s soloists in five of the six Webern pieces on the program. As they have time and again in the Jacaranda concerts, the crackerjack Denali players once more challenged the writer for superlatives. For one, as with Walz earlier, near-perfect intonation is a hallmark of this group. Precise attacks, so important in Webern, are another.
The first two of the Webern works, still in the late Romantic mode (Loo on cello in both), plumbed the remaining sonorities in that tradition. The latter three Webern chamber pieces gave the ensembles ample opportunities for their near-perfect execution of the pointillist atonality that redefined harmonic language for the next half century and beyond. The cumulative impression these Webern works leave is of flickers of light and darkness in tiny moments of sound and silence. In stark contrast to the exhausting thoroughness of Bach, the Webern would seem to suggest rather than explain, hint rather than tell, like the wisps of a conversation one only half hears, or darting images one sees only in peripheral vision.
After a full evening of such intense listening, the Bach Chaconne for solo violin might have seemed a bit much. It is one of the greatest technical challenges in the repertoire. But in the hands of Tereza Lucia Stanislav it exhibited not the slightest evidence of labor. Rather, it invoked the delicacy and effortless precision of fine lacework, every stitch in perfect detail, and yet at one glance its profound master plan fully comprehensible. In an evening of miracles, it was the transfixing moment.
Continuing applause and a standing ovation of the surprisingly large audience acknowledged a well deserved appreciation for Stanislav's triumph, and those of her colleagues earlier.
It was instructive on this evening to listen to Bach and Webern in light of our continuing exposure to those later Messiaen compositions. Next up: an ALL Messiaen program on December 6 at the same location. See you there.
Some further musings:
It is a bitter irony that Anton Webern, the bespectacled, musical egg-head and political naïf, was shot and killed by an American GI while smoking a cigarette on his front porch one night in 1945, just days after World War II ended. It was a freak accident; the soldier imagined the tiny flame a weapon.
The vanquished Impurity of National Socialism, it would seem, was able to reach up from the grave and vanquish a remnant of pre-war artistic Purity. Webern’s teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, having outlived his two most famous students, the other being Alban Berg, would live a few more years in our neighboring Southern California community of Brentwood. Richard Strauss, the last Romantic, had died in 1949, and with Schoenberg’s death in 1951, the Austro-German tradition as it had been known in both its progressive and retrograde branches, had finally died out.
Almost as cosmic compensation, Olivier Messiaen was to survive his own imprisonment during the war and thrive as a composer for another half century. His interest in sound combinations would take music in new directions.”
Rodney Punt – LA Opus 11/25/08
TIPPING THE SCALES 10/17/08
Jacaranda series blossoms again: The Santa Monica new music series presents three composers with local roots: Harrison, Cage and Partch. “A Lou Harrison craze has appeared frustratingly just around the corner ever since this poster boy for gorgeous nonconformist California music died in 2003. Friday night Jacaranda, Santa Monica's new music series, opened its new season with a half-Harrison program featuring his music for Western instruments and Javanese gamelan. In two weeks' time, the Los Angeles Master Chorale will present another half-Harrison program when it performs "La Koro Sutro" at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The corner may finally be getting closer.
Jacaranda's concert was a lively, winning occasion that also included music by two other real-McCoy mavericks with local roots: John Cage, who was born in Southern California, and Harry Partch, who died here.
The setting was Santa Monica's new Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, which got a colorful acoustic test. In Harrison's scores, mellow gongs and bells clang and peal. Cage's String Quartet in Four Parts spends considerable time on the edge of string sound and near the brink of inaudibility and unintelligibility. Partch's sassy "Castor and Pollux" was written for his homemade instruments, such as the bass marimba, which the composer designed so that its deepest pitches would vibrate through a listener's backside. The Harrison works selected were from his hand-across-the-ocean oeuvre. Various Western instruments made for melody combine with a percussive Indonesian orchestra. A gamelan is for the eyes along with the ears. Its instruments are decorative, and the players in the CalArts Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih (or Venerable Dream Come True) pleased in plum-colored jackets.
A gracious traveler and a generous host, Harrison asked a little more of his own kind. He let the gamelan pretty much do its thing, building structures of interlocking rhythmic patterns. The Western instruments are tuned to Javanese modes and sometimes bend pitches when that is possible. But saxophone, harp and French horn, the solo instruments in the short first three pieces on the program, kept their own sonic personalities and introduced the kind of ear-hugging melody for which Harrison had a particular gift.
The stretch proved a little too great for the soloists in "Cornish Lancaran," "In Honor of the Divine Mr. Handel" and "Main Bersama-sama." In the latter, a Western flute, rather than the Indonesian counterpart Harrison preferred, added further unease, but not so much as to make the work's hit tune uninviting.
The big piece was Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, With Javanese Gamelan, and it came off splendidly. Alyssa Park and Timothy Loo maintained their rich string tones in exotic tunings as they sailed along on gamelan background glitter. The central movement is an adapted Renaissance dance for the violin, cello and drums (played by Ted Atkatz), and it was electrifying.
The context of this program was elaborate. Connections with the Westside were many. Harrison worked with a gamelan at UCLA, where he premiered the concerto's first and last movements in the early '80s. Cage studied with Schoenberg at UCLA, and Partch also had relations with the campus.
But Jacaranda found other links. As it did last season, it is again highlighting Olivier Messiaen, who like many of his French Impressionist predecessors was gamelan-drunk. Cage's quartet was begun in Paris and is Satie-inspired.
In this work, Cage hoped to escape harmony and maybe even rhythm. He asked for no vibrato. Pitches are restricted through the use of mathematical formulas. When played perfectly in tune -- when the high whistling harmonics are pure and time is permitted to flow without being pushed -- the quartet's fresh, open sounds give the impression of space opening up, making the mind receptive to fresh thoughts.
That is exactly what happened during an expertly nuanced performance by the outstanding Denali Quartet. The Broad is a fine space for capturing such nuances of sound, and Cage's score shimmered.
After years of neglect, Partch's pieces were reintroduced by John Schneider and his Harmonic Canon last spring at REDCAT. They dazzled then and dazzled again Friday. From my balcony seat, everything sounded crystal clear, if a tad bass-shy. The marimba tickled only the ear.
— Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times 10/20/08
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