Andre Previn made his second appearance in 12 years at Hollywood Bowl Tuesday night, this time to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The first occasion was Sunday with the Philharmonic Institute Orchestra.
Many things have changed in the time since Previn led the London Symphony--his principal orchestra then--in Cahuenga Pass, among them the conductor's rise to the music directorship of our own symphonic ensemble. What has not changed are Previn's skills as leader and programmer, his championing of neglected repertory of this century and his solid rapport with orchestral players.
After three months away--he last conducted the L.A. Philharmonic here in May--Previn's summer homecoming to the Philharmonic podium was a pleasant affair. In a program devoted to Beethoven's "Coriolan" Overture and Violin Concerto and the First Symphony by Shostakovich, the orchestra showed itself alert and enthusiastic, the conductor proved careful (in Beethoven) and authoritative (in Shostakovich), and an audience counted at 15,167 festive listeners seemed to enjoy themselves immensely.
The presence of Itzhak Perlman, making the first of three consecutive Bowl appearances this week, accounted for much of the enjoyment. The beloved Israeli violinist began this series of outdoor performances with a pristine, virtually immaculate and pointed reading of Beethoven's D-major Concerto, one which very nearly met Perlman's own standard for concentration and imperturbability.
That imperturbability was tested, when several light planes passed overhead in the opening movements. Perlman seemed not to notice, and helped his audience hold its focus by pushing forward with unstrained fortitude and musical grace. If he slighted the wit in the finale and could not make the hoary Kreisler cadenzas seem anything more than showy and decorative musical detours, his splendid execution and seraphic expressivity put these distractions in perspective.
Previn's collaborative efforts, by contrast, sometimes dragged, appeared passive rather than aggressive and failed to give maximum support to Perlman's--and Beethoven's--musical impetus.
The conductor showed considerably more effectiveness, interest and motivation in shaping the fortunes of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, a work of youthful callowness and unmistakable promise.
As a historical document, it is fascinating and no doubt instructive in providing clues to the composer's later development. As a concert piece--Previn and the Philharmonic played it during the 1985-86 season just past--it does not warrant frequent revival, for its banalities, once heard, can only irritate, not charm.
At this performance, and except for special solo contributions from Philharmonic members Alexander Treger (violin); Ronald Leonard (cello); Heiichiro Ohyama (viola); Lorin Levee (clarinet); Zita Carno (piano), and Mitchell Peters (tympany), the memorable element was an obbligato provided in the first two movements by a repeatedly honking car alarm in the parking lot. Fortunately, the honking stopped in time for the slow movement--and just in time for another passing aircraft.