Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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That's All Folks

May 30, 2009

The L.A. Philharmonic with Christoph Eschenbach
Photo: mine 2009

Remember how I was going on about Christoph Eschenbach the other day? Well, Friday we in Los Angeles had a visit from the other Eschenbach, the thoughtful, enthralling maestro who delivered a stellar performance of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony. It was the final Los Angeles Philharmonic concert of the 08/09 season, and, even though it’s been a lame duck operation since Salonen left in April, the Philharmonic delivered, and we did go out with a bang. Though Eschenbach took his sweet time about it. The Symphony was stretched to an amazing 75 minutes, well beyond the average running time of around 65, in a strategy similar to that taken by the conductor when he appeared as piano soloist on Tuesday in a chamber music program at Walt Disney Concert Hall playing Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat major Op. 960. This veritable slow motion allowed Eschenbach's conducting to build in a marvelous swirl and intensity that makes these works great. While this slow pacing can run the risk of seeming ponderous, in his hands it was never dull. The orchestra demonstrated an amazing ability to sustain tension over the course of beautiful lengthy lines pulled taut over the influx of extra seconds and minutes.

Now I’ll admit my bias – I love Bruckner. Admittedly a sentiment not universally shared by concertgoers whose opinions I admire. But if you need an argument for why Bruckner amounts to more than rehashed Wagner, this weekend's shows are it. Yes, the influence and indebtedness to Brukner’s idol is undoubtedly there, but this is a magnificent piece when played as thoughtfully and wonderfully as this. And if you can't go along with me on this one, think of it this way, Wagner's so good that even a facsimile in the hands of another is a force to be reckoned with.

There was also a short Mozart Symphony, No. 34, that opened the program and was played well. Eschenbach makes great music. He doesn't always fit well in every situation with every group of musicians, but who does? I mean look at Ricardo Muti. Anyway, there are two more performances of this very good program, on Saturday and Sunday. Now is your chance to hear our great orchestra up close and personal before they rereat into the distance of the Hollywood Hills for the summer.



You did not say enough about how well played that Bruckner was! As much as I too did not love anything about the Russian program/performance the previous week, the Seventh as heard at the Saturday matinee was to me the best performance of one work for the entire season, and as you can tell, I too love Bruckner way more than many a critic. I was crying at times, and I know several others nearby were doing likewise.
Truly fabulous, and a glorious way to end the season. As to the Mozart, so uninteresting a work that even though well-played, it just lay there like a lump of coal.
Wish Eschenbach could be engaged to do a complete Bruckner cycle over say a 3-year period.
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