Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

We built this city (on 20th c. art music)

May 24, 2008

Salonen, Anssi Karttunen, and the LA Phil
Photo : mine 2008

Well, not really. But one could hardly be faulted for thinking so based on Friday’s concert by the L.A. Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Esa-Pekka Salonen led the orchestra in one of a series of shows in the last two weeks of the season that focus on 20th century and more recent composers. The program tonight was all 2oth century, Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements and Henri Dutilleux’ "Tout un monde lointain..." Not necessarily a readily digestible program but one that nearly filled the hall to capacity on a holiday weekend-Friday—in the rain no less. (That, my friends, is cataclysmic weather by L.A. traffic standards.)

The near capacity crowd was in for a treat as Salonen and the orchestra were in top form. The program began with the Bartók piece - piano, celesta, and harp center stage with the orchestra divided into two separate ensembles on either side. Starting quietly, the music grew to a thrilling and forceful account with Bartók's trademark folk-touches. It was very exciting stuff. After the break was Dutilleux' "Tout un monde lointain...", a de facto cello concerto played in five movements which is almost entirely about small gestures from a very large ensemble. This was a replacement of sorts for a new commission from Oliver Knussen that apparently wasn’t quite ready to go on for this performance so Salonen and soloist Anssi Karttunen switched gears and presented the Dutilleux piece, which certainly featured virtuosic passages Karttunen handled with ease. The work in its own subtle way remains restrained never rising above a fascinating simmer as it weaves in and out flirting with tonality.This was never about flashy theatrics and provided a nice counterpoint to the other works on the bill. Karttunen's visits to L.A. are consistently highlights and that tradition continues.

The program ended with a preview of next season as Salonen led Stravinsky’s big bustling Symphony in Three Movements. Salonen was not messing around, returning from the intermission and blazing into the opening chords with no pause for the audience to even start quieting down. Salonen's admiration for Stravinsky is well established by now, and his performances of Le Sacre du Printemps with the L.A. Phil will always remain in my mind. This Symphony was easily of that quality flying and pouncing with amazing detail and accuracy. The seeming effortlessness of a performance so well controlled is remarkable. At this level, next season, Salonen's last as music director here in L.A., may end up being one of his best. The program repeats on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon if you are so inclined.

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter