Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Big Piney

November 23, 2008

De Burgos with the LA Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2008

Is it wrong to crow about Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos? Maybe it’s me, but he’s not the first name to leap to mind when you think of hot conductors. He certainly doesn’t have the profile of a media darling like Dudamel. (Don't worry his overrated ass will be back in town again the next two weeks.) But I’ll tell you what. De Burgos frequently visits Los Angeles, and he typically delivers a show as strong as those we had this weekend with the L.A. Philharmonic. At 75, he can still turn it out with the best of them. So while he may not be fresh or sexy, he's got it, and the Philharmonic members appear generally happy to be performing with him.

My expectations were low with a program that is as uninspiring as you can get: a Mozart Serenade, Beethoven’s 8th, and not only the Fountains but The Pines of Rome thrown in for good measure. But it was really very good. The Respighi was full-bodied and brassy without any fuss. The Beethoven was even better. And while this may not have been some sort of critical reassessment, it’s the kind of impeccable playing that is hard to resist.

Lively and well paced, this unapologetically user-friendly afternoon represents the kind of playing that got the Los Angeles Philharmonic on this week’s list of the top 10 orchestras in the world in Gramophone Magazine. I suppose this may have been news to some, but for those of us on the West Coast, it was already a well-known fact.



Went to the rehearsal on Friday morning, and was quite impressed with the preparation and the sounds created by these works. Superb concert, although I could have done without the mozart and the seemingly oft-heard Beethoven #8.
I am sure the originally scheduled Turina work would have been more interesting than either of these, yet I enjoyed them even so.
And as you say, they really seem to enjoy playing for De Burgos.
I, too, attended this concert and was mightily impressed. It was de Burgos's recording of the Respighi pieces that I cut my teeth on (I also became familiar with Carmina Burana by way of his recording of that piece).

This was the third concert I've attended for which he was the conductor (once before at Disney Hall and once at Symphony Hall in Boston)....all three concerts were remarkable experiences.
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