With unexpected assistance from the mysterious Hillside Howler, Jan Latham-Koenig led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the second concert of a thus-far musically uneventful season at Hollywood Bowl.
Though Rimsky-Korsakov made no indication of an off-stage tenor in "Scheherazade," most of those in attendance on Thursday heard the sporadic crooning of someone on a nearby hill. By intermission time, the unwelcome warbler was chased off--but not before the spell had been broken. Also distracting was the fly-over of a small plane, which at least had the courtesy to match pitch with the closing measures of "The Sea and Sinbad's Ship."
The music? Not much to write home about. The Philharmonic was fortunate in having the services of the enthusiastic young English conductor, who stepped in this week for the ailing Lawrence Foster. Alas, Latham-Koenig failed to capture the moment with memorable music-making.
His prancing, crouching, swaying manner on the podium is certainly amusing to watch, but such antics did little on behalf of the composers represented Thursday.
Rimsky-Korsakov's potboiler received a neat, efficient performance. Concertmaster Sidney Weiss contributed his usual on-the-money solos, save for an unusual off-the-money botch-up of the magical arpeggio passage in the third movement. With nearly everything in place, with tempos blessedly brisk, the Philharmonic's reading nonetheless never achieved cohesion, momentum, drama, dreaminess--all those qualities that make this overplayed music worth hearing again.
Neither of the two post-intermission pieces helped bolster Latham-Koenig's case.
The conductor kept matters under control for the duration of Poulenc's witty, colorful, backward-peeking Concerto for two pianos--but in so doing squashed any opportunity for reckless fun. Misha and Cipa Dichter certainly did no harm in their keyboard contributions--but they also fell short in adding fiery passion to the music, the way the Labeques reportedly did when they tackled the work last year at the Music Center.
To bring the curtain, such as it is, down, Latham-Koenig produced his most spirited dancing for the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 by Enesco. The orchestra finally awoke from its doldrums and gave a rousing performance of this rousing work. The 9,339 who remained until the bitter end also managed to surface from their slumber, cheering lustily at concert's end.