Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Are We There Yet?

January 21, 2010

Maazel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010

Don’t bet on it. At least that was my thought during this weekend’s performance from the Los Angeles Philharmonic currently in the final of two programs led by Lorin Maazel. This evening was devoted entirely to Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. It’s a massive work that contains so much beautiful music it’s hard to believe it all sprang from the same source. Of course it is also quintessentially Bruckner with all of the hallmarks of Wagner’s influence and Bruckner’s own self-esteem issues. Like many of his symphonies it underwent numerous revisions in the wake of critical feedback from people Bruckner respected after its premiere. In the end, though, it’s a lyrical, radiant piece with plenty of mystery.

But in the wrong hands it can be dreadfully dull, and Maazel did Bruckner no favors on this count tonight. As with his most recent appearances, the maestro proved that he can extract details and dynamics from the orchestra. However, more often than not the line was lost. There are some beautiful tunes in this symphony, but you’d have been hard pressed to find them tonight. Frequently Maazel seemed to lead the orchestra to a near dead stop, only to turn and plow into the next phrase as if checking items off a shopping list. He covered a lot of ground, but got nowhere fast. Of course, it was a rather limited audience who got to share the experience. Between the rain and Bruckner, the hall was only about 60 percent occupied from the looks of it. Hopefully things will pick up musically and otherwise at Disney Concert Hall this weekend when the program repeats.



And pick up it did.
While you attend many Thursday night concerts, by Sunday when I attend the matinee version, the orchestra & conductor have had more opportunities to practice, fine tune, etc., and this was very evident yesterday when the orchestra played a truly moving Bruckner 8th to a nearly full house, save maybe 100 empty seats scattered throughout the house.
Wish you and Swed would take this opportunity some times, especially with quality programming like the Bruckner, to just check the theory out.
Only complaint, if I had to have one, was with the horns, but only a small one. Arianna and Catherine on oboe and flute were truly on top of their game at all times, while the violas with their new home for this program on the right side really shone.
And Joe Perreira was a one man percussion section!!!
Wish they would do a complete Bruckner cycle in the near future, maybe spread out over three years!
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