by Anthony Kershaw
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Yefim Bronfman, piano
Pedro Carneiro, percussion
LIEBERSON (Oliver Knussen Realization): Shing Kham (world premiere, LA Phil commission)
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 4 “Tragic”
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1
Oct 6, 2013. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA — This was my first visit to the sexy confines of the acoustically wonderful Disney Hall. Designed by Canadian Frank Gehry, the hall was constructed with his trademark steel and titanium shell and a fir wood interior. It makes for a spectacular hall both visually and aurally.
Adding to the lustre was the excellent Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Always a fine group, Gustavo Dudamel’s band is a different animal than when I first heard them in London many years ago. First, he’s hired very well. Lots of musical superstars dotting the landscape. Then, there’s Dudamel. You all know the story. Enough said, that he is a wonderful conductor and musician and serves as an inspiration wherever he performs.
Joining conductor and orchestra for this afternoon matinee, the brilliant Yefim Bronfman, piano and Pedro Carneiro, percussion. The concert served to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The concert began with the orchestra’s commission and world premiere of ‘Shing Kham’ by Peter Lieberson (1946 — 2011). Sadly, Lieberson died before completing the work. The final ‘realization’ was left to another, equally brilliant composer, England’s Oliver Knussen.
The title of the work mean’s ‘pure land’ and was inspired by Lieberson’s long adherence to Buddhist principles. The soloist for tonight’s premiere, Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro, describes the sound world as ‘earthy, impulsive, somewhat “throbbing”‘. An apt description. The work offered Carneiro the opportunity to show off his superb, multi mallet technique. At times, it seemed more a concerto for bongos, but the short, ten minute work also employed marimba and cymbals, all to wonderful effect. ‘Shing Kham’ owes much to Berg, slightly less to Charles Ives and Michael Tippett, all three very worthy influences. I have not heard a ‘contemporary’ piece so well conceived and performed for a long time.
The second work on this oddly balanced program was Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 ‘Tragic’ (1816). It received a fine, if heavy handed performance. More big band Brahms than diaphanous Schubert. Hearing this work recently in concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra and The Vienna Philharmonic, both conducted by Franz Welser Most, suggests that the young phenom Dudamel may need a few more years to settle into Schubert.
The second half was filled to the brim with the crash, bang, wallop of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful Piano Concerto No. 1 (1875). Its pounding difficulties were no match for Yefim Bronfman’s larger than life technique. He matched the orchestra for sound and power as Dudamel unleashed the full volume of the wonderful orchestra on the very appreciative audience. As accompanist, Dudamel, in a masterclass of brilliant conducting, demonstrated why he’s on the top of the mountain. But, he does not look down upon ‘mere’ musicians. The love for his players and his deep respect is shown in every conducting movement, every bow, every walk among the musicians to congratulate one and all. It made for a fantastic finale. If that was not enough, we got a quiet, beautifully played encore by the magnificent Bronfman (Bach, I believe). By this time, Dudamel had sent the pianist out several times by himself to receive the rapturous, standing ovation.