Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen

February 22, 2011

Gaultier Capuçon Photo: Julien Mignot

I finally caught up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic this weekend for the first time since their return from their recent European tour. I was glad to see them back in town and particularly in the company of the organization’s young and very-talented Associate Conductor Lionel Bringuier. He’s in his fourth and final year in that position here, and I will be sad to see him go, having heard him lead so many fine performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall during his tenure. This weekend was another one of them. It wasn’t anything flashy or unusual but it was well played and led without an overabundance of demonstrative exuberance. The concert included major works from composers associated with 19th-century musical nationalism. And while both Bringuier and guest soloist Gautier Capuçon are both French, the music was predominantly Czech, including Smetana’s ubiquitous The Moldau and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5. Opening the concert, the Smetana piece certainly invoked the watery movement associated with its title if not all of the nationalist spirit that comes with it. The Dvořák piece was well organized and developed by Bringuier with very fine playing all around. The symphony was composed at a time when Dvořák was becoming more interested in the folk music and traditions that would influence his later work. And while Bringuier may not have always brought out these influences to their fullest, it was hard to argue with this clear-headed rendition.

Given that the Dvořák Symphony No. 5 was a departure stylistically for the composer at the time, it couldn’t have been more appropriately paired with the Schumann cello concerto that was sandwiched in the middle of the show. Schumann’s richly lyrical work, which plays without pause between movements, is not all about showy finger work and virtuosity. It’s a deeper and more complicated work, which soloist Gaultier Capuçon gave a solid performance of. He was making the first of two appearances here this season. (The second of which will include his brother, violinist Renaud Capuçon and the equally dramatically coiffed Gustavo Dudamel in one of those new-fangled theater broadcasts in June during the "Brahms and More Brahms" festival.) The young photogenic Frenchman had a direct no-nonsense approach to the work, which was more admirable on an intellectual level than it was an emotional one to my ear. But maybe that is for the best in an evening filled with music of understated gestures.



I saw the Sunday performance, and think you nailed it concerning Mr. Capuçon's playing. For all the vibrato, it was bizarrely cold. There was something a bit...strident in it's precision. And I too will miss Mr. Bringuier. He's been a real asset.
Lionel will definitely be missed, yet will still be around for the March 29 tribute to Ernest along with mentor Pierre Boulez and Esa-Pekka for companionship!
Good company, indeed.
I heard this concert twice(once a rehearsal), and agree with the assessment of Gaultier's lack of emotion in its playing - is that a function of the work itself, or ?
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