Some nights it all works.
Some nights all the elements conspire to make listening to music in Hollywood Bowl the happy occasion it ought to be. The noisy aircraft stay away. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, in response to an inspired conductor, its own musical health or forces beyond its control, plays at its highest technical standard. Humidity, the temperature of the surrounding air and the resident sound-dispersal system all operate at optimum levels.
It happened Tuesday, when Gunther Herbig, making his Bowl debut scarcely 2 1/2 years after his first indoor visit to the Philharmonic, led a standard Bowl program--Weber's "Oberon" Overture, Mozart's Fourth Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony--in a manner to bring out the best features of each work. Also in a way that elicited strong, relaxed and virtually immaculate playing from the orchestra.
Outside conditions also cooperated. Until the finale of the Tchaikovsky symphony, few aircraft passed over Cahuenga Pass. The sound system worked well and unobtrusively, aided no doubt by benign climatic conditions. And an audience counted at 9,844 listened attentively.
The foreground of this musical panorama proved exceptionally neat and ordered, as one might have expected from Herbig's previous local appearances.
What made this event stand out were the bonuses he provided:
--A tightness of conception in the overture, one manifested in an apprehendable continuity and an integration of all materials.
--A sense of wholeness in the concerto, that sense displayed in firm contrasts between movements and a conversational tone in the Rondo.
--An almost tangible arch of thought in Tchaikovsky's Fifth, from the clarified statements of the opening movement, through an impassioned Andante and a restorative Waltz, to a finale that summed it all up.
On the way to that climax, a number of polished details could be savored, including splendid solos from the wind section.
All was not perfect. The soloist of the evening, Cho-Liang Lin, disappointed. The Taiwanese violinist's playing of the D-major Concerto lacked breadth, mellowness and the charm we have come to expect from his performances. No technical lapses spoiled this reading; what marred this most exposed of concerted works were pedestrian statements, minimally articulate tempos and brittle tone.