Los Angeles Music Review: URBAŃSKI CONDUCTS CHOPIN, PROKOFIEV & KILAR (LA Phil at Disney Hall)

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by Jesse David Corti on February 6, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Krzystof Urbański’s star shines a bit brighter these days. Not yet 35, he has taken hold as the conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony, and on Jan. 25 he wowed with an LA Phil command performance. The power bursting forth from the philharmonic, along with Urbański’s exuberance and lively showmanship, drew comparisons to Dudamel. Urbański, having memorized both Wojciech Kilar’s Krzesany and Sergei Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, allowed us to focus even more on his intelligence and passion.

Conductor Krzysztof Urbański

Unrelenting in energy from start to finish, Urbański’s conducting of Krzesany (1974, a West Coast premiere) was like an intense embrace. It began with a formidable arrangement of pulsing, foreboding bass against trilling, sanguine violins, which jolted occasionally with sforzando. Soon, the piece propelled forward like a locomotive ship crashing into the Black Sea’s inevitable waves. The tender moments—a deep-seeded dwelling torrent—were never in danger of becoming sentimental; an underlying ever-present struggle would spring forth and rupture moments that seemed clear for a romantic resolve.

The climax of the 15-minute work jostled with heavy, percussive thumping coupled with ear-piercing anxious flourishes, followed by an assault of a polish folkdance turned up to a volume more commonly associated with today’s DJs playing EDM music in nightclubs. Effective in its abrasiveness, it conjured up an image of enthusiastic dancing in a grand dance hall while an earthquake shook and shattered LA PHIL Disney Hall 10th - Posterthe foundation, thoroughly decimating everything and everyone in it. The violent, boisterous work concluded with a fittingly tremendous exclamation point, marvelously cacophonic and almost as thunderous as the applause which followed.

Chopin’s classic Piano Concerto No. 2 is sumptuous ear-candy for the romantic music lover. However, it must not be forgotten that Chopin’s music is contextually revolutionary in regards to its harmonics and chromaticism; his impromptus—along with Liszt, Schumann, and Schubert—are precursors to jazz music. Like a time-lapse camera which captures a flower’s unfolding blossom from its bud, the Phil delicately delivered the intrinsically poetic beauty of the Concerto.

Pianist Khatia BuniatishviliGeorgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili has garnered praise and accolades for her previous performances, and this evening was another exercise of her prowess. Draped in a red glittering sequined dress that called to mind Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, she sat at the piano and played with a sublime touch so inspiring that two water metaphors come to mind: Imagine the sonic equivalent of the ease with which Jesus must’ve walked on the water; for those less religiously inclined, consider a majestic Italian fountain whose water source slides into and through the water in one, continually smooth motion. Every note was precisely played, yet empathetically felt.

The organization of the program to pair the cacophony of Kilar and the fluidity of Chopin adroitly prepared a textured context to enjoy Prokofiev’s landmark Fifth Symphony, which was brimming with both abrasive dissonance and kaleidoscopic beauty. Considered to be a work of man’s triumph, it was performed with great intensity and exquisite detail, and Urbański can certainly be assured that this evening was a triumph in which man’s romantic and savage urges were celebrated with pulsing verve, intense precision, and supple fluidity.

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Urbański Conducts Chopin, Prokofiev, and Kilar
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Krzysztof Urbański, conductor
Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Walt Disney Concert Hall
played January 24-26, 2014
for future events, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil

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