Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Back to Work

January 09, 2010

Bramwell Tovey shakes hands with members of the L.A. Phil with Andre Watts
Photo: mine 2010

The new year is underway and the L.A. Philharmonic was back in business this weekend in a somewhat odd program pairing Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 2 with Brahms’ Second Piano concerto. But hey, why not? The show followed hot on the heels of an unfolding controversy around Mathieu Dufour, the L.A. Phil's principal flutist who came and went in nearly record time back to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from whence he came. After rather unflattering comments about the L.A. Phil attributed to him appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday, an open letter Dufour penned to the L.A. Phil musicians appeared later in the week professing his deep admiration for all things L.A. Phil, and begging everyone not to look behind the proverbial nearby curtain. Game over. The Great Oz has spoken. But if any of this had affected the L.A. Philharmonic musicians on Thursday, it certainly didn't show in what was on their part, a very well-played program.

The evening was conducted by L.A. favorite Bramwell Tovey who has done his fair share of dirty work around town including several programs at the Hollywood Bowl. He’s usually on the money, and this instance was no different. His take on Vaughan Willimas’ “London Symphony” was likable for its clean and sober approach. This is music that can sound rather cinematic if one runs away with it. But it can still be evocative of the city without turning to mush, and I for one was feeling it. There's so much to love about Vaughan Williams' music and the second movement of his London Symphony is another one of those endearing gems that he's unfairly ignored for in this country. Now what all this has to do with the Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, I can’t tell you. But I will say that this was not one of the more sterling performances of that work I’ve heard. In fact it was decidedly below average. The soloist was Andre Watts and he plunked and pounded his way through the piece in a sloppy and rather ham-fisted way. Subtlety continues to be an elusive quality at the Walt Disney Concert Hall these days. The show repeats through Sunday afternoon.


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