Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Oh, Vienna

March 04, 2009

Zubin Mehta, , and the Vienna Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2009

Zubin Mehta returned to Los Angeles this week, but not to conduct our local orchestra, with whom he’s had such a long-standing relationship. Instead, he’s on tour with the Vienna Philharmonic conducting a variety of pieces near and dear to his heart. It was a big turn-out at Walt Disney Concert Hall, which probably speaks mostly to the affection for Mehta in this town. The performance I caught on Tuesday included an all-Austrian program of Wolf’s Italian Serenade, four songs from Joseph Marx, and Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. Mehta was clearly excited about the evening and told us all from the stage at the end of a fourth “curtain call” that he’d been dreaming of performing for us in L.A. with “this orchestra" since 1962. And it was quite a worthwhile evening. The Bruckner was pretty magnificent and the immense skill of one of the world’s finest orchestras was on display. The power was amazing, but never completely over the top. The pizzicato alone was worth the price of admission but the gorgeous sound of the brass was equally remarkable. This orchestra clearly knew what it was doing, and Mehta delivered a superb performance with them.

The first half was lighter fare if not without its charms. The Wolf serenade was brief and light but played with the right touch. Meanwhile, the Marx songs were given very robust and serious treatment for works not always thought of as top rung. The soloist was soprano, Angela Maria Blasi, and, although she did get lost at times amidst the sound roaring behind her, it was a highly felt and very enjoyable performance of something you don’t hear every day. All and all not too shabby - and not a note of J. Strauss to boot. There's another program tonight with Lang Lang playing Chopin, if you're so inclined, but I believe it may be sold out, so call first.

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The reason night #2 was sold out was the presence of Lang Lang. After his performance, many in the audience left, with probably 200 empty seats for what may have been the best individual performance of the two nights - Schubert's #9 symphony. Truly wonderful, and performed indoors in the acoustics of Disney, as opposed to the typical performance of the work at the bowl, with its lack thereof.
Lang Lang did not emote as much as usual, yet did so enough to still be annoying. Glad to hear the rarely performed F-Minor Chopin Concerto, but as you so well know, the presence of distractions do take their toll.
Still feel the LA Philharmonic with Salonen conducting would have done a better job! Glad to have finally heard the Viennese at Disney, though, as my last hearing was at the Musikverein a couple of decades ago.
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