Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Pump it Up

March 13, 2009

Martha Argerich, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the L.A. Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2009

It takes a lot to upstage the members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic on their home turf, but this weekend has one of the performers who can do it. The soloist is piano great Martha Argerich who is on a rare tour of the West Coast, which I saw on Friday. Her legend has been only enhanced by her acknowledged disdain for performing in public and her history of cancellations for health and other reasons. She got the requisite legion of rabid fans who were on hand for ovations she had to bring to an end by pulling the orchestra off stage. And to boot, this weekend's appearances are especially a treat considering that on this tour she’s playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, a work she has recorded twice and is closely associated with. And, yes, the performance was indeed that good. It was absolutely riveting. I can’t recall the last time I saw a performer make such intensity look so casual and off-hand. As my friend Howard noted, it was almost as if the whole thing was improvised.

But Argerich was not the only star on the program. The conductor for the evening was the young Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin who was clearly working as a collaborator in the fullest sense. The orchestra was crisp and forceful coming to Argerich at every turn. YNS even went so far as to perform alongside Argerich in the first of her two encores, a selection from Ravel's Mother Goose arranged for four hands on piano. Dressed in a thin tie and black suit with the tuxedoed orchestra, he looked like some latter-day Elvis Costello or perhaps a young Bob Odenkirk. YNS has scored some big assignments on the international stage this year after taking the helm of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and will make his Metropolitan Opera debut on New Year’s Eve conducting their new production of Carmen with Angela Gheorghiu. If his handling of the French works on this program were any indication, Ms. Gheorghiu may not be the big story of that evening. He’s clearly got a handle on both the control and dynamics. Nowhere did the orchestra sound tepid or hesitant. In the opening piece, Ravel’s La Valse and the closing 5th Symphony of Shostakovich, YNS delivered the "delicate" and the "sweeping" with equal concern and real attention to detail. There are two more shows on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, but Sunday is already sold out so act fast.



Your comments are spot on. I went to the Saturday matinee, and they really put on one spectacular show. Not a big Ravel fan here, but the case he made for him allowed me the full opportunity to appreciate what La Valse can be, while Argerich was just superb with that concerto, and the two encores were true delight. The comraderie between the two was sensational.
And Chalifour probably really felt at home with a fellow French Canadian. Truly wonderful day at Disney Hall. And the place was sold out as well, even though a few empty seats were seen.
Note: next weekend's Mahler and Mendelssohn program will now be conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, not Yuri Temirkanov as scheduled.
wish i'd gotten to hear it :(
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