Christoph Eschenbach, Christian Tetzlaff and the LA Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2009
Christoph Eschenbach may be many things, including a bit unpredictable
on the podium. But given the overall quality
of his performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic over the last few years and you might wonder why he isn’t leading the orchestra as the new music director. (Not that I think that would be a good idea, I’m just saying….) This weekend is another one of those incredibly strong outings
from Eschenbach sans score and avec some pretty wonderful playing from our favorite hundred or so musicians. And lucky for us, it was being recorded for iTunes. The evening was book-ended by Dvorak – the Carnival Overture
for starters, and Symphony No 9 for the main course.
Things got off to a big start. Often, those 10-minute intro pieces on a program often seem like little more than an excuse to give latecomers a few more minutes to show before the main course. But not here. The Carnival Overture
was a wallop upside the head for an audience who gave a deservedly big ovation at a point in the evening when some of that same crowd would have usually just fallen asleep. This energy was carried throughout and Dvorak's big-ticket Symphony No 9 was very engaging. I think this work is often presented on these shores in a way that's a bit too aware of its purported American influence at the expense of Dvorak's own history. But not here. Eshenbach gave the piece a fresh and rather modern sound like some latter day European work.
In between all this Czech music was Karol Szymanowski's decidedly less overtly Romantic first Violin Concerto played by Christian Tetzlaff. He handled it with ease and no histrionics. But maybe that wasn't totally a good thing. Eshenbach took a dryer, less mystical approach to the score in a nod to its 20th-century leanings. There was still plenty of sweep but this is definitely music that can sound like some strange voice from beyond. It was just a little more earthbound than I would have liked. But nonetheless it was quite enjoyable and one can't argue with Tetzlaff's virtuosity. The program repeats in two matinees this weekend.
Labels: LA Philharmonic 09/10