Joyce Yang, Edo de Waart, and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010
I have long been a fan of Dutch conductor Edo de Waart. Even after abandoning the music director post at Santa Fe Opera before it had even started, he remains one of those conductors I feel I can always count on for a worthwhile performance. He’s in town this weekend conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic and does deliver a very impressive program of Strauss and Beethoven. In fact, I’m starting to think of de Waart as a superior conductor of Strauss this season. He led magnificent performances of Der Rosenkavalier
in New York last fall while pinch-hitting for James Levine and this weekend he served up Ein Heldenleben
. It was big, beautiful and cheeky in that Straussian way. Strauss may have joked about his “Hero’s Life” being inspired by Beethoven’s Third Symphony, but in fact it’s more likely a twist on Wagner’s Siegfried. It was another rich and polished performance from the orchestra that was Romantic, but not histrionic. Concertmaster Martin Chalifour played beautifully in his extended solo passages as well.
The other half of the concert was occupied by a 10 year-old work from Qigang Chen entitled The Five Elements
. These short miniatures were, in fact, inspired by the five elements of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Chen, the final student of Olivier Messiaen, draws from both eastern and western musical traditions in his work which was evident even in these brief moments. Although the orchestration involved relatively little traditional or folk instrumentation, sounds associated with Chinese music were replicated in various places in the orchestra. It was a nice way to start the evening, although I’m not sure how it necessarily related to anything else. The middle of the program was taken up by a much less successful third Beethoven Piano Concerto performed by Joyce Yang. It may have been simply a matter of lack of rehearsal time with the orchestra, but Friday’s performance sounded robotic and heavy handed from Yang. The orchestra was there to pick up the ball, but on a number of occasions, Yang was nowhere to be found. Still, the Strauss was good enough on its own to make the evening worthwhile and the show repeats Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Labels: LA Philharmonic 09/10