Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

The Viola in My Life

March 19, 2010

Robin Ticciati hugs Lars Vogt with the L.A. Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010

The Los Angeles Philharmonic continued a series of concerts this month that have been uniformly strong and well thought out. It wasn’t anything flashy and didn’t involve some overarching programmatic concept, but the quality of playing and conducting lately almost begins to make up for a particularly weak fall stint of shows under the orchestra’s still-in-development new musical leadership. This week’s guest conductor Robin Ticciati was making his local debut and reinforced the perception created by our local orchestra that young dynamic conductors apparently grow on trees. With his bushy curly hair, I couldn’t help but wonder if many of the less aware in the audience mistook him for Gustavo Dudamel. Personally, I would prefer to think that the very warm and enthusiastic reception he got was attributable to the fact that he led a great and often exciting show.

There was a Northern European focus with Sibelius’ suite from King Christian II, the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor, and Magnus Lindberg’s Chorale. Ticciati’s soloist for the Grieg piece was pianist Lars Vogt who has always struck me as far more attractive and youthful in person than in photographs. Last night he also struck me as a pretty brilliant musician breathing ample life into Grieg’s very familiar music. It was a thinking-man’s approach to the music, paced out with no rushing. The clear romantic line of the second movement struck me as one of the more romantic (with a small r) things I’ve heard in months. The first and third movements were elegant and restrained allowing the composition to provide its own thrills.

Dale Hikawa Silverman with the black viola on the right.
Photo: mine 2010

The rest of the show was equally strong. Lindberg’s 6 minute Chorale was tantalizingly too short. Even the closing work, Elgar’s Enigma Variations sounded more coherent than I typically think it is. Perhaps the real mystery of the evening for me though, was the black replacement viola played by Dale Hikawa Silverman throughout the evening. Whether it’s a temporary or permanent replacement of her usual instrument is unknown to me, but it’s funny how the smallest details can catch your eye and interest when they are out of place. The show repeats on Saturday night.



It's a carbon fiber viola made by Luis&Clark. Dale likes its tone and wants to make it her primary instrument.
Dale's carbon fiber experiment is over for now. She has decided that the tone is not quite good enough.
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