OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Joana Carneiro and the L.A. Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Joana Carneiro, conductor

Nielsen: “Maskarade” Overture;
Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto; Copland: Clarinet Concerto; Copland: “Appalachian
Spring”
Suite

Thursday, August 4, 2011 Hollywood Bowl

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Tuesday and Thursday have been alumni week on the Hollywood
Bowl podium. Tuesday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s outgoing associate
conductor, Lionel Bringuier (now sporting a new title: resident conductor) led
the orchestra in a program of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky (with a major assist
from pianist Yuja Wang — LINK). Last night, Portugal-born conductor Joana
Carneiro, who preceded Bringuier as LAPO associate conductor, led a more
innovative program at the venerable Cahuenga Pass amphitheatre.

 

The “reunion” theme continues next weekend (August 12 and 13
when Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who served as the Phiul’s associate conductor from
1999-2004, returns to lead a Latin-themed program.

 

After Carneiro finished her tenure with the LAPO, she moved
north to the Bay area to become music director of the Berkeley Symphony, where
she replaced Kent Nagano (now heading the Montreal Symphony), who retired from
that innovative ensemble after an impressive 30-year tenure.

 

The 34-year-old Carneiro is a strikingly beautiful woman
whose podium style leans heavily to heart-on-the-sleeve exuberance. She employs
sometimes grand, sometimes fussy, sweeping gestures that seem difficult for
musicians to follow and sometime get in the way of the music rather than
encourage it. Consequently, while there were many positive moments in last
night’s concert there were also others that left us wanting more.

 

The evening opened with a boisterous account of Neilsen’s “Maskarade” Overture followed by what
turned out to be the evening’s highlight: Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg’s
Clarinet Concerto, written in 2002 for his countryman, Kari Kriikku, who was
the soloist last night.

 

This 26-minute, single-movement work is a tour-de-force for
the soloist; in fact, one wonders whether anyone beside Kriikku would attempt
it … or want to. (Amazon.com lists in its catalogue only the original recording
that Kriikku made following the premiere with the Finnish Radio Symphony
Orchestra, conducted by Jukka-Pekka Sarasate.)

 

Kriikku bobs and weaves all over the place as he plays but
that fits the style of the piece, which opens with a jazzy, bluesy solo and
then has the soloist skittering up and down the keyboard, with the orchestra
answering with occasionally dark, ominous chords.

 

There are several cadenzas written into the work; the most
extensive requires the soloist to create multi-phonic sounds (think
double-stops on the violin) that resemble bird sounds, sort of a Finn’s take on
the music of Olivier Messiaen. For all of that, the ending is surprisingly
tonal and majestic. Carneiro led the Philharmonic joyfully through the
accompaniment. The audience responded with a vigorous standing ovation,
particularly for the soloist.

 

After intermission, Paul Meyer was the soloist in a somewhat
subdued reading of Aaron Copland’s 1947 Clarinet Concerto, which sounded tame
when compared with Lindberg’s piece. Meyer played the melancholy first movement
diffidently and sailed gracefully through the cadenza that acts as a bridge to
the concluding, jazzy, upbeat movement. The accompaniment has plenty of
quintessential Copland harmonies and Meyer handled all of them with aplomb.
Carneiro’s reading was carefully couched with Joanne Pearce Martin’s work on
the piano a highlight. Compared to its response to the Lindberg, the audience’s
applause was restrained.

 

Concluding the concert with Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” Suite made sense on several layers. The
original ballet was written two years before the Clarinet Concerto (Appalachian Spring won Copland a
Pulitzer Prize) and there are overtones of that ballet and other familiar
Copland dance pieces in the concerto. Moreover, the orchestral suite leans
heavily on the orchestra’s wind sections and the Phil’s principals — Lorin
Levee, clarinet; Marion Arthur Kuszyk, oboe; Catherine Ransom Karoly, flute;
and Whitney Crockett, bassoon — performed with sensitivity and grace throughout
the evening.

 

Carneiro tended to emphasize speed in the rhythmic, quick
portions and lingered luxuriantly over the slower sections. One suspects that
most of the limited rehearsal time was devoted to the concertos, particularly
the Lindberg, which may have accounted for some ragged rhythmic moments, but
the wistful end was exquisite, fading away into the nighttime air.

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Hemidemisemiquavers:

The attendance was 7,501, eight more than Tuesday and
about the average for the past four (i.e., non-Gustavo) weekday crowds.
Considering that the soloists were not big market and the presence of a very
contemporary concerto on the agenda, the number was quite healthy.

There were also fewer aerial intrusions than in past
concerts; one even had the good luck to fly over during intermission. Ask not
why the respite; just be grateful.

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(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.