Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

My 20th Century

November 07, 2010

Pablo Heras-Casado, Peter Serkin, and members of the L.A. Philharmonic Photo: mine 2010

As I’ve noted here already, November promises the return of Esa-Pekka Salonen to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the orchestra he transformed into one of the best in the world, for two weeks of programming. And while those concerts are two weeks off, you’d think he was already here given this weekend’s program of 20th century works with a focus on Debussy and Stravinsky. Instead, the conductor was Pablo Heras-Casado, a young conductor increasingly in demand here. And while the show was not a recreation of the one from only a few years past, it was very well played and highly satisfying.

Debussy’s Jeux set an impressionistic tone to the evening. The strings in particular produced such a lovely sound for this more suggestive than formally structured work. Following this were two concertos for piano with guest soloist Peter Serkin. The first was Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments which provided a nice contrast to the Debussy with its neo-classical references. Serkin’s playing was fleet and grand when it most needed to be. After the intermission, the players offered Takemitsu’s riverrun from 1984. Takemitsu takes up the impressionism of Debussy and infuses it with his own cultural perspective. The theme here is water, and the slow quiet dripping of notes from Serkin’s piano was mesmerizing. It was clearly the high point of the whole night and reason enough to see the show.

Heras-Casado closed the program with Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite. It’s the third time this year the work has made it into an Los Angeles Philharmonic program, which would be something to complain about if it weren’t such a great piece of music to begin with. I didn’t find Heras-Casado’s take the most convincing of the three. (The other two belonged to Lionel Bringuier in May and Bramwell Tovey at the Hollywood Bowl in September.) Although it still stirred up plenty of excitement, the entrances were often sloppy, a problem that is increasingly chronic across shows and conductors this season in Los Angeles. The horns sounded hesitant and unsettled at times and Heras-Casado could have made much more dramatically out of the last movement. On balance, though, it was a satisfying evening and perhaps one of the most rewarding from the L.A. Philharmonic yet this fall.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter