Juho Pohjonen, Lionel Bringuier, and the LA Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2009
My Hollywood Bowl season got under way Tuesday with one of those golden nugget of a shows buried among the Beethoven and easy listening favorites that typically make up summer in the Hollywood Hills. It almost feels like an evening intended for someplace or someone else, but there it was, another outing of the Esa-Pekka Salonen Piano Concerto. But this time it was without its composer at the podium or the soloist for which it was written, Yefim Bronfman,
at the keyboard. Instead we had the L.A. Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor, Lionel Bringuier, lead the orchestra with the devilishly speedy piano part left to the very talented young Finnish musician, Juho Pohjonen
. The good news is that the piece lives on. In fact, to be completely honest, I liked it much better here than in either of the Salonen/Bronfman performances I’d seen previously. I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about this piece since its premiere, but tonight I felt it really burst into life for me.
Part of it was Pohjonen. Whereas Bronfman attacks the piece with zeal punching through rapid passages in bursts of activity, Pohjonen seemed to take things in stride. His hands were moving faster than anything, but he was calm, cool, and collected throughout the whole run. It was a more connected, flowing interpretation that emphasized the relationships with each of the orchestral soloists who get a chance to interact with the piano directly. Bringuier delivered the work cut from the whole cloth with shimmering fibers instead of patches of arch juxtapositions before. The work with paired with Paul Dukas The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
which couldn’t have been a more fitting introduction. The Pairing pointed out the whimsy that can underlie Salonen's work as well with its almost comical references to robot-birds and Stanislaw Lem. That all of this happened in the crappy Bowl acoustics is even more remarkable.
It's worth noting that at least based on last night's performance, someone spent some time on the acoustics issue in the last year. This is the first concert I remember there in a long time that was not marred by the snap, crackle, and pop of amplification problems. The show ended with Ravel's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition
, a work I always feel is about 10 minutes longer than it should be. Bringuier made the most out of Ravel's lush and rather French orchestration. It was a nice start to the season and here's hoping that everything at the Bowl this year comes off this well.
Labels: Hollywood Bowl 09