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Stravinsky, And Brahms Vie At Bowl


Two monuments of the orchestral literature vied for attention in Hollywood Bowl on Thursday night. They did not so much vie with each other as with the elements. In the chilly, damp air, Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" enjoyed a distinct advantage over Brahms' Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra. A rather meager-looking--because it was so spread out--but still substantial audience of 8,652 witnessed the contest.

It was not a matter of one kind of music against another, but the difference in writing styles as instruments of attack against the blanketing atmosphere--and it definitely had nothing to do with performance.

One heard the Brahms in parts and pieces, mainly the upper parts of the music. The higher registers of Alexander Treger's violin and of Daniel Rothmuller's cello came through mostly unscathed, though often badly dimmed in luster. Rothmuller's mellow bass tones and the G string of Treger's fiddle fought a losing battle. The flutes pierced the thick air; sometimes the clarinets did, sometimes not; the bassoons were overwhelmed, the horns took their chances.

But what did penetrate to the listening ear when circumstances allowed was a warmhearted conception of a work more intimate than heroic. Now and then the colloquy of violin and cello was that of a dramatic dialogue; too often each instrument seemed in argument against space.

The same applied to the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Kent Nagano. When Brahms let it soar, the effect was solid and pleasurable; when Brahms thinned out his diatonic harmonies the nuances were lost.

"Le Sacre du Printemps" is not basically an outdoor piece, but the driving rhythms and the clashing dissonances put up a brave resistance to aural blight. And while one could hear most of the subdued passages clearly enough the definitive colors were blurred.

Nagano knew what he was about with this back-breaking stint. He might have been freer had he not had to turn the pages of the score so often, and the on-going propulsiveness sometimes defeated his energetic efforts.

It was not all consistent, but when it worked it showed the conductor to be in control and the orchestra responsive. It would have been hard to dance to such an unpredictable course, but the voice of Stravinsky generally came through clear and decisive.

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