Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Bon soir

August 24, 2007

Stéphane Deneve
Photo: Lawrence K. Ho/LAT 2007
It’s August in LA and even though it’s only a week before Labor Day, our hottest months are just now getting underway. Which is why the light clouds provided relief in the form of a surprisingly cool evening for the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl last Thursday. The LA Philharmonic played under the leadership of Stéphane “Leopold” Deneve in his first Bowl appearance with a program of French masters including Berlioz, Debussy, Saint-Säens, and Ravel. And while there was little groundbreaking or new about the show, and it suffered from the awful acoustics that are part and parcel of the venue, everything was played so splendidly and with such skill and care that all the negatives melted away into wonder.

This success was in no small part due to the contribution of Jean-Yves Thibaudet who was the featured soloist in Saint-Säens’s fifth Piano Concerto. Thibaudet seems to love the West Coast and the region loves him right back - he appears as a regular fixture in both LA and SF in a variety of indoor and outdoor venues throughout the year. This piece can often be about the fireworks of the last movement, but Thibaudet had other things in mind leaving the crowd with a second movement that was nothing short of brilliant. He was a man on a mission.

But the show was far from over with Deneve leading our hometown orchestra through an especially Wagnerian version of La Mer and a rousing suite from Daphnis et Chloë. It may be the doldrums of late summer elsewhere, but the LA Philharmonic again proved that any night they are playing is likely one to remember.

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