Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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


March 13, 2010

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.



How could you miss the proverbial mark on that one so badly - i mean Joyce Yang's Beethoven? Robotic and heavy-handed?? Are you kidding???
This past weekend i was able to hear all three of her performances and i must say that i enjoyed them thoroughly. Robotic compared to whom? Maybe Lang Lang - but that would not be a good example of interpreting Beethoven. Personally, i do not prefer Beethoven sounding like Liszt and i am sure you don't either. Yes, some can play this concerto more flamboyantly than she did, but the only "robotic" thing about her playing was her ironclad rhythm which is not a bad thing in Beethoven at all. In the delightfully realized finale, for example, she had plenty of playfulness and whimsy as required by the music. It was overall a marvelous performance! Beautiful tone, tasteful phrasing, appropriate dynamic range - it was all there. Some of the accompanying figures may have been a little too shy, but that is a very minor quibble. By the way, this is not just my lonely opinion - all musicians i have talked to, including several fine pianists, praised her playing in most uncertain terms. Her communication with orchestra was great and i am sure that she can be a fantastic chamber musician too.
Anyway, your batting average is still quite high, but be careful - you have already exhausted your limit of misses for this month!
Post a Comment

<< Home

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