(Revised) OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Dudamel and L.A. Phil play Mozart and a new concerto at Walt Disney Concert Hall

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

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Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Mozart: Overture to Le
Nozze di Figaro;
Posthorn Serenade

Vasks: Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra (Distant Light)– Alina Pogostkina,
violin)

Thursday, May 10, 2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next performances: Tomorrow at 8:00 p.m.

Information: www.laphil.com

May 25 at 8 p.m. (Casual Friday concert)

Mozart: Exsultate
Jubilate
(Kiera Duffy, soprano); Posthorn Serenade

Information: www.laphil.com

May 27 at 2 p.m.

Mozart: Overture to Le
Nozze di Figaro; Exsultate Jubilate
(Kiera Duffy, soprano); Posthorn
Serenade;

Information: www.laphil.com

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From the moment the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Philharmonic
season was announced last year, the month of May figured to be chaotic. Two
major works — a production of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni and the world premiere of a major oratorio by John
Adams, The Gospel According to the Other
Mary —
were scheduled two weeks apart. Then the Phil tried to shoehorn in a
series of orchestral, Green Umbrella
and chamber music concerts around the opera and preceding the oratorio.

 

Things have been in flux since that original schedule was
posted. Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, Grieg’s Peer
Gynt
Suite No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto were all jettisoned in
favor of (mostly) Mozart. Then, according to at least one published report,
Adams was very late delivering the full score of his new oratorio, so Gustavo
Dudamel has been busy cramming for that assignment while preparing Don Giovanni, which meant he bowed out
of Tuesday’s Green Umbrella concert.

 

Frankly, it wouldn’t have surprised me if we had arrived at
Disney Hall last night to find a new conductor for the program but, judging by
the care he poured into the accompaniment, perhaps Dudamel didn’t want to pass
on the L.A. Phil premiere of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks’ Concerto for Violin
and String Orchestra. Vasks wrote the piece for Gidon Kremer but, again judging
by a first hearing last night, 28-year-old Russian violinist Alina Pogostkina
has emphatically made this work her own.

 

The 31-minute concerto uses three virtuosic cadenzas as the
trunk of a tree off of which spring many short branches.  The concerto is subtitled “Distant
Light” and the light was almost imperceptible at the beginning as Pogostkina
and the orchestra traded off shimmering harmonic layers before she spun a rich,
gorgeous melody. 

 

I could have listened to Pogostkina play that sumptuous
melodic line all night, but the cadenzas allowed the soloist (winner of the
2005 Sibelius Competition and making her LAPO debut) to display her prodigious
virtuosity at its fullest. 
Meanwhile, the “branch” sections alternated shimmering measures with
moments of chaos and sardonic wit before the first-movement melody returned at
the end (albeit in a different key) as the concerto finally dissolved while the
light again became distant; as the late, great British comedienne Anna Russell
once exclaimed of Wagner’s Ring,, We’re exactly where we started [in this
case] 31 minutes ago!”

 

Pogostkina, Vasks (who came onstage), Dudamel and the
orchestra received generous, well-deserved ovations from the audience. The LAPO
strings were lustrous throughout the performance and Dudamel seemed to revel in
the challenges that Vasks asked of soloist, orchestra and conductor.

 

If the concerto shone a rich spotlight on the Phil’s
strings, Mozart’s “Posthorn” Serenade was the chance for the Phil’s wind
section to take center stage, literally as well as figuratively.  David Buck, flute; Marion Arthur
Kuszyk, oboe and their colleagues sparkled in their solo and ensemble
offerings, while James Wilt poured out sweet, melodious lines on the posthorn
(a valve-less, curled horn instrument). Dudamel led a propulsive reading of
this 40-minute work and the entire orchestra was in top form throughout.

 

In yet another programming switch, Dudamel swapped Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue for the
far-more-familiar Overture to Le Nozze di
Figaro,
which was bouncy without being boisterous. The concerts in two weeks
will exchange the Vasks concerto in favor of Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate, with Kiera Duffy as the soloist; she’s also
listed as a soloist in the Adams oratorio.

 

Meanwhile, Don
Giovanni
opens next Friday, with additional performances May 20, 24 and 26.
Got all that straight?

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Hemidemisemiquavers:

Dudamel has rearranged the orchestra slightly for these
concerts. The violins were divided left and right with cellos and basses to the
left, inside of the first violins. Timpanist Joseph Pereira
was perched alone on the top riser but appeared to be slightly off center to
the right (ask not why).

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.