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Music Review : Parkening, Herbig With Philharmonic

September 13, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

Hollywood Bowl is not known for its intimacy. Yet, for the first half of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's final week-night concert of the summer on Thursday, something amazing transpired: The vast expanse of the Cahuenga Pass amphitheater became one large, surprisingly cozy living room.

For that impressive feat, credit Gunther Herbig, who brazenly opened the proceedings with the small-scaled, wispy "Ma Mere L'Oye" Suite of Ravel and, with unflagging musicality and a sure, graceful podium manner, commanded his audience to really listen.

Credit, too, Christopher Parkening, one of this country's finest guitarists--if not its best--who nonchalantly tossed off Rodrigo's demanding "Fantasia para un gentilhombre," explored the muted charms of the Shakers' greatest hit, "Simple Gifts," then rewarded the throng of 10,614 with a solo encore, Albeniz's "Rumores de la Caleta."

Finally, credit should be given to a mostly cooperative amplification system (and those who twiddled the knobs), to a gentle autumnbreeze, to a sky free of intruding aircraft and to the aforementioned multitudes, who listened attentively and applauded enthusiastically.

During Parkening's portion of the program, of course, silence was not only golden--it was mandatory. Microphone or no, the classical guitar was never intended to be heard in such an environment.

Ronald Ravenscroft's arrangement of "Simple Gifts," for example, begins with that memorable tune played with a tambor technique in which the flat palm of the right hand gently taps on the strings. Rodrigo's sparsely orchestrated piece likewise seemed to evaporate as it was played.

Throughout the first half, Herbig worked without a baton, urging the Philharmonic with gently sculpted hand and body movements. The orchestra, in kind, responded with precision, warmth and bravura--notably in a charming reading of the Ravel suite.

Post-intermission, however, Herbig strode on stage armed with a baton to lead the Philharmonic in a scintillating reading of Brahms' Symphony No. 2. An unerring sense of logic pervaded the entire piece, whether in the unhurried, unforced opening movements or the unbridled, unstoppable energy of the final two. If a greater degree of tension was missing in much of this performance, that lack was more than compensated by the spirited playing of the orchestra.

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