The Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute Orchestra is necessarily an ensemble of uncertain prowess. Personnel change yearly and within a season the young players are confronted with a different conductor for every piece.
On the evidence presented Sunday at Hollywood Bowl, the fifth edition may be the best yet. For a trio of conductors, the orchestra provided enthusiasm and bright sounds in controlled, cohesive playing.
Only 5,842 aficionados showed up, which must be something of a disappointment to the performers and their leaders. With top tickets half the price of corresponding seats for the Philharmonic, the institute's concerts represent a bargain in summer musical fare.
Conducting fellow David Miller began things--after the obligatory National Anthem--with a brash, biting account of Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Weber." This is Miller's second season of institute training, which makes a nice testimonial for the experience, although one doubts that the pool of young conductors is small enough to justify the encore selection.
In any case, Miller is no neophyte with a baton. He elicited sharp contrasts and a powerful sense of rhythmic drive, while balancing the complex textures nicely. Such errors as occurred seemed individual matters, atoned for with many capable solos.
Otto-Werner Mueller of the institute faculty closed the generous evening with Dvorak's Seventh Symphony, stressing the dark side of the work with a murmurous, melancholy lyricism. Even the Scherzo carried a wilting, elegiac feeling, though lacking nothing in supple rhythmic direction.
Unfortunately, his players showed signs of tiring, undercutting the final transition to triumph with wildly out-of-tune first violins. There also seemed to be some experimentation with the amplification in the last movement.
The solo vehicle, Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1, was entrusted to the eminently able hands of Franco Gulli, also a member of the institute faculty. Gulli dispatched the cadenza by Emile Sauret with formidable elan and proved technically vulnerable only in the double-stop harmonics of the finale. Most importantly, he made the myriad challenges sound musically coherent.
The accompaniment was ably led by conducting fellow Michael Stern, the son of violinist Isaac Stern.