The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the direction of conductor Gustavo Dudamel, presented a mesmerizing performance of Gabriella Smith’s 2023 composition, “Lost Coast,” a world premiere on May 25, 26, and 27.
Smith’s cello concerto was mastered by Gabriel Cabezas, recently named one of “23 Composers and Performers to Watch in ’23” by the Washington Post. “Lost Coast” is packed with unconventional textures and harmonies, serving up an immersive sonic experience. The evening ended with a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
A California native, Smith was born in 1991, developing an early fascination with music. She received her Bachelor of Music in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music and later returned to Curtis as an ArtistYear Fellow. The natural world is one of her primary influences, most notably the rugged coastlines of Northern California. Many of Gabriella’s works address the climate crisis and participation in climate solutions.
At her LA Phil debut, the orchestra handled Smith’s impressive range of colors and timbres deftly. Cabezas coaxed otherworldly wonder from passages. The vibrant brass, winds, and percussive elements were standouts. “Lost Coast” thrives on contrast and dichotomies, swerving from passages of ethereal beauty to frenetic moments that end in explosive climaxes. As ever, conductor Dudamel plumbed the emotional depth from the piece.
Smith says her composition was inspired by a five-day solo-backpacking trip she took on the Northern California coast’s Lost Coast Trail. “It’s a wild and dramatic landscape of jagged precipices and stomach-turning drops overlooking ferocious, pounding surf,” Smith writes.
Smith is a rising star in the contemporary classical music world. Musical America terming her “the coolest, most exciting, most inventive new voice I’ve heard in ages.” The Los Angeles Times called her an “outright sensation.”
Another notable Smith composition is “Tumblebird Contrails,” a piece inspired by the American West’s sweeping landscapes. She captures the essence of nature through expansive melodies and intricate rhythmic patterns. Writes Smith: “Tumblebird Contrails is a Kerouac-inspired, nonsense phrase I invented to evoke the sound and feeling of the piece.”
Smith and Cabezas have previously debuted a duo version of Lost Coast at the Philharmonie de Paris, employing a cello, violin, voice, and electronics combo.
In 2021, Smith released her first full-length album, “Lost Coast,” recorded in Iceland with cellist Gabriel Cabezas. It was named one of NPR Music’s “26 Favorite Albums Of 2021.