By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
Philharmonic; Bernard Labadie, conductor
from Idomeneo ballet music; Piano
Concerto No. 27, K. 595 (Benedetto Lupo, pianist); Symphony No. 41 (Jupiter)
Friday, December 16 2011 Walt Disney Concert Hall
Next concerts: Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.
If you’re fed up with holiday shopping, Jingle Bell Rock and fake reindeer in this increasingly
commercialized season, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is offering a perfect
antidote in Walt Disney Concert Hall this weekend (and if you need more holiday
music, the Phil is presenting organist David Higgs tonight at 8 p.m. in Disney
Hall — see the hemidemisemiquaver
note below — along with few other holiday programs).
This morning in the first of three concerts, Qubec native
and resident Bernard Labadie led an all-Mozart program that was notable for the
orchestra’s splendid playing, Labadie’s exuberant conducting, and a sensitive
solo turn by pianist Benedetto Lupo. Of course, you couldn’t totally escape the
holiday spirit; fake stars are hanging from the Disney Hall ceiling to remind
you what month it is.
The 48-year-old Labadie, founder and music director of Les
Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Qubec, is known as a Mozart specialist and
it was easy to see why from this program. His conducting style is exuberantly
engaging, he has plenty to say about the three works on the program (two of
which are ultra-familiar) and he had a chamber-sized orchestra (less than 50
players) executing with precision and panache — that’s just fine from my
Labadie seated the orchestra somewhat unusually. The violins
were divided left and right but the basses were back right and the violas were
center left, with the cellos bunched in the middle and several rows deep, which
had the effect of moving the wind section (there are no clarinets in the three
pieces) farther back onstage. The effect was to accentuate the strings a little
more than usual but the different look was interesting to my eyes.
The program opened with the morning’s rarity: Chaconne from the ballet music from
Mozart’s opera, Ideomeo, using an
ending that Labadie prepared to make it a stand-alone piece. The performance
alternated between sprightly and elegant, elements that would recur in the
other two pieces on the program. Labadie apparently likes to emphasize dynamic
contrasts in his Mozart and this Chaconne
(which, as Dennis Bade noted in an excellent program, note isn’t really a Chaconne) had plenty of those.
Both the Piano Concertos, K. 595 and the Symphony No. 41 (Jupiter) were begun in 1788, but while
the symphony — Mozart’s last — was completed in a whirlwind (along with Nos. 39
and 40), the piano concerto (commonly listed as No. 27) took three years to
finish. It was his final piano concerto, although not his final concerto (the
Clarinet Concerto would come later) and it’s more contemplative than many of
Mozart’s piano concerti.
Lupo invested a sense of calm in his performance, using
great care to achieve elegance throughout the three movements. Labadie also was
deeply involved with the accompaniment, shaping phrases with detail throughout
the performance, and the orchestra responded lovingly. There was a sublime
moment in the second movement when a line played by Principal Oboe Ariana Ghez
emerged delicately from the orchestral fiber and seemed to hang forever in the
air — it was pure magic.
After intermission, Labadie and Co. offered a robust reading
of the Jupiter Symphony, notable for
rhythmic precision and the many dynamic contrasts of which Labadie is obviously
fond. Principal Flute David Buck added sparkle with many of his lines. Overall,
it was a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to a fine concert on a crystal-clear
December day — quite a contrast to the dramatic thunder and lightning storm of
the previous afternoon.
On Friday morning, the musicians dress down a little (not “Casual
Friday” style, but the men wear dark suits and ties). Labadie took the
opportunity to wear a white shirt with no tie at all; comfort obviously
prevailed (good for him).
Tonight’s organ concert has plenty of holiday music but
Higgs will play the Finale from Vierne’s Symphony No. 1, Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H, and a
splashy arrangement of Joy to the World
by local organist/composer Craig Phillips (organist/music director at All
Saints Church, Beverly Hills). Among other things, Hill will sing the Alleluia from Mozart’s Exsultate Jubileo and Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night. Information:
The Mozart programs are the final LAPO concerts for 2011.
The orchestra returns Jan. 5, 6, 7 and 8 when former LAPO Associate Conductor
Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 (Organ) and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
as soloist. Information: www.laphil.com
The orchestra’s “Mahler Project” begins Jan. 13 with
Symphony No. 4 and Songs of a Wayfarer. Information:
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.