Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

February 06, 2009

Wang, Dutoit, and the LA Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2009

This week was all about polish. And that's a good thing, even if it isn’t always for the best in every situation. The venue, of course, was the Walt Disney Concert Hall where the L.A. Philharmonic hosted conductor Charles Dutoit and rising star Yuja Wang on piano. Based on these performances, this would seem a match made in heaven. Dutoit is an old master, and there are few that can match his ability to go so far with so light a touch. Thursday night’s program included the very French Debussy’s Petite Suite and the less so Scheherazade of Rimsky-Korsakov. In Dutoit’s hands these works sparkled with smooth, warm, and fragile surfaces, in performances that were nothing if not admirable. Concertmaster Martin Chalifour got to shine in the solo bits of the latter and I do admit I was taken up with all of this overall.

Wang is a kindred spirit to Dutoit and gave two rather well honed performances of her own this week. With the Philharmonic, she assailed Prokofiev’s 2nd Piano Concerto with amazing technical prowess and command. Again admirable and well received, but the Prokofiev is a stranger fish than the other works on the evening's program, and, for all of it’s rough edges, I wasn’t sure how much Prokofiev's difficult score benefited from the energetic but ultimately restrained approach. I wished for something more maniacal, more drastic in the offing here. Still, Wang’s talent is undeniable and Tuesday’s performance of Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor with members of the L.A. Philharmonic had moments of beauty as straightforward as breathing – simple, clear, and unassailable. Wang will undoubtedly be popping up again, and that is very good news. So the history of the Franco-Russian camaraderie in music at least carries on. It may not always be a perfectly harmonious one, but this weekend proves it continues to have a wealth of rewards.


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