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.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Kylie Jenner challenge: Bizarre lip suction device inspired by Kardashian sister goes viral
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 4 Bruce Forsyth backs assisted dying campaign: 'If I had Alzheimer's or dementia I would do something about it'
- 5 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate