Review: Los Angeles Philharmonic

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John F
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Review: Los Angeles Philharmonic

Post by John F » Wed Mar 16, 2016 2:52 am

To Zachary Woolfe's ears, Gustavo Dudamel is maturing into a consequential conductor.

Review: Los Angeles Philharmonic Makes the Familiar Feel Fresh
By ZACHARY WOOLFE
MARCH 15, 2016

It is possible to hear even a chestnut like the “Appalachian Spring” Suite with fresh ears. Sometimes context alone can do it. Played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Monday evening, during the second of a two-concert stand at David Geffen Hall, this Copland piece of soaring, stirring Americana was preceded by a 1961 piano concerto by Alberto Ginastera and a 2013 symphonic detonation by Andrew Norman.

Those two works have little time for the gentleness we tend to associate with “Appalachian Spring.” So when the suite’s quiet beginning suddenly exploded into bursts of outspoken shards, the effect sounded more harsh than usual, even experimental. Our usually cozy Copland took his rightful place as both the true contemporary of his thornier friend, Ginastera, and the antecedent of young composers like Mr. Norman, 36.

Led by the Philharmonic’s star music director, Gustavo Dudamel, this program spoke to the great strength of this invaluable orchestra: embracing the new in a way that makes the canon, too, feel vibrant. Even the performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony on Sunday afternoon was in on the action, its offstage posthorn solo recalled in John Williams’s “Soundings,” which opened Monday’s concert and has musical fragments emerge from spots around the hall.

The orchestra’s New York visit didn’t showcase moderation or calm in two heaping portions of teeming, restless music. But Mr. Dudamel, whose reputation was built on his brash, youthful energy, delivered interpretations of remarkable restraint and maturity, particularly in the Mahler. Its sprawling first movement built with relaxed confidence, and the third had a joyfulness that wasn’t tight or driven. The symphony simply unfolded, unpressed.

This smooth ease, even in music that churned and raged, was present on Monday, too, in the New York premiere of the first section of Mr. Norman’s “Play” — called “Level 1,” in a nod to the frenetic activity of video games — and a rare hearing of Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1, chosen to honor the centennial of its composer’s birth. The concerto’s chugging rhythms make Ginastera’s lively atonal idiom feel accessible, understandable. Splatters of activity in the piano (Sergio Tiempo played with grand vivacity) fall over ethereal whispers in the strings. Slides, whoops and whooshes rush through “Play,” with half-buried lines of aching lyricism dissolving into fragments of scales that are passed around the orchestra with the enigmatic intimacy of dialogue in Beckett plays. The empty calories and fractured attention spans of popular culture are turned, without condescension, into something meaningful and poignant.

In this company, Mr. Williams’s inert “Soundings,” commissioned for the orchestra for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003, was thoroughly outclassed: never less and never more than professional, without a moment of the sparkling originality that permeates the work of Ginastera and Mr. Norman. Why not have cut it and instead delivered the full 45 minutes of “Play”? (And what orchestra will bring that complete score to New York?)

After a shining, unsentimental “Appalachian Spring,” Mr. Dudamel cannily delivered a Hollywood-style encore: Bernard Herrmann’s love music from “Vertigo,” the lurid dark side of Copland’s American dream.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/arts/ ... fresh.html
John Francis

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