Los Angeles Philharmonic / Dudamel, Barbican Hall
Friday 28 January 2011
The Los Angeles Philharmonic seemed to bring all the shiny surfaces of their spanking Disney concert hall with them to London.
Their tour opener – John Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox – was a Californian dazzler. Talk about arriving with a splash; or even a bigger splash. This motoric explosion of hyperactivity is the kind of workout no gym can offer. Why it even has the first viola doing a Paganini, for heaven’s sake. Add a little Latin American heat – namely Gustavo Dudamel – on the podium and the audience’s ears will tingle. I wonder if John Adams realised he was writing a kind of square dance for the digital age? The LA violins seemed to know he had.
You can’t get much more American than that – unless, of course, you bring Bernstein, too. It was good to hear the youthful 1st Symphony “Jeremiah” for a change. It doesn’t get out much these days – well, not in London – and it’s a wonderfully precocious example of everything Bernstein was and Dudamel hopes to be. Bernstein was a mere 24 when he wrote it and I can’t help feeling that Dudamel (a grand old 30) was himself making a point by programming it. He understands its outrage and identifies with its passion declaiming its soulful prophecy in full-throated strings and sage brasses. The “Profanation” of the middle movement is divine decadence such as only Bernstein could have conceived. Chaos is kind of fun with a rangy violin tune and sizzling high trumpet fanfares. The serious business of “Lamentation” fell to the darkly earthy and intense Kelly O’Connor whose incantations sounded real and heartfelt like they were inventions of the moment. And there was a Dudamel “special” – the evaporation of string sound at the end of the first movement continued long after we stopped hearing it.
Dudamel is good at the extremes. It’s the in-betweens he needs to explore more. His high-octane account of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony was more about loudness than rhythm, the tuttis too generalised, the brass and timpani too assertive, even when merely marking time. Inner voices were repeatedly covered, and there were oddly inappropriate rubatos – little ritardandi in the trio of the scherzo that seemed to belong to another style altogether. Yes, the energy was galvanic, yes, he really nailed the finale’s big climax, but when Beethoven 7th is exhausting as opposed to exhilarating something is wrong.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote