Music Review: DUDAMEL CONDUCTS MAHLER (LA Phil)

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by Tony Frankel on October 29, 2021

in Music,Theater-Los Angeles

THREE HOOTS FOR HOOTEN!

Gustavo Dudamel’s formidable venture into Mahler’s symphonies with the LA Phil hit a real high mark with the magnificent performance of the Fourth Symphony the Fourth Symphony. The LA Phil is now one of America’s finest playing ensembles, and its amazing stratospheric association with Dudamel has already produced grand results. There was an uniquely transparent sound with plenty of gravitas, all used to magnificent effect. The first movement is rightly brisk but, as is his custom, Dudamel’s musical intelligence forges a kind of new identity for this well-known symphony at the outset. The second and third movements were beautifully conceived and played to sweet satisfaction with none of the treacle. The often devilish details are handled with typically cogent grace by Dudamel, a master of the hidden art, and the wisdom of his reading is marked with no grandstanding, no romantic artifice. And Dudamel’s choice of soprano Camilla Tilling to sing the fourth movement made innocence palpable — she sang with a clean heart the remarkable ‘song’ of the last movement. I felt her singing arising, as it were, from out of Dudamel’s baton. So effortlessly matched were all the components of singer, orchestra, conductor, composer. An absolutely superb rendering of one of the twentieth century’s masterpieces of art.

The title of New York-based violinist and composer Jessie Montgomery’s wonderful 7-minute Strum alludes to the guitar-like plucking of strings that starts in calm, fleeting nostalgia reminiscent of American folk music but grows into ecstatic celebration. Strummed pizzicato lines starred all four string instruments, creating a metrical exuberance which plunges the wholly American work — nostalgic but never corny – from its first moments all the way through to its deliriously vivid and emotional denouement. So many rhythmic layers and glorious harmonics! It’s a bit Dvořákian in that there seemed to be folk tunes bounding about in a reeling but homey warmth. The piece left us feeling jubilant and rosy.

LA Phil Principal Trumpet Thomas Hooten

But it was LA Phil Principal Trumpet Thomas Hooten who astounded in a performance for the ages in the world premiere — and LA Phil commission — of Shivaree: Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra by electric guitarist Steve Mackey, whose music blends rock, jazz, and classical. The first time I heard the word “shivaree” was in the musical Oklahoma!, when cowboys stood under a newly married couple’s window and banged on anything that added to a cacophonous event. So that’s what I prepared for. But this series of short character pieces that vacillated between sparkling tomfoolery and weighty winks (with explanations of each movement projected in supertitles) was as exciting as they get. (The other titles were an etymologist’s wet dream: Shivaree, chthonian, erumpent, tintinnabulation, exonumia, requiescat, deipnosophist, omphaloskepsis, horripilation, deliquesce, apopemptic.) Who knew the dumfounding range of possibilities in the trumpet and flugelhorn could imitate barnyard animals and car blasts? The amazingly huge percussion section helped with toots, plunks and booms. A most successful premiere.

Dudamel Conducts Mahler
Los Angeles Philharmonic | Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.
reviewed on October 24, 2021
for tickets to other events, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil

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