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Second Week With Philharmonic : Salonen Conducts Sibelius' Fifth

February 07, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

Devotees of the large orchestral climax are having a happy fortnight at concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Last week, Esa-Pekka Salonen revived, for their delectation, Scriabin's "Poem of Ecstasy." This week, concluding his midwinter visit, the young Finnish conductor leads Sibelius' Fifth Symphony.

As heard in the Pavilion of the Music Center on Thursday night (with repeats scheduled at three matinees, concluding Sunday), this Sibelius Fifth is a consummation decidedly welcome--especially as shaped, illuminated and aurally explicated by Salonen's authoritative leadership.

At the first performance, this reading displayed a mastery already accomplished: a perfectly formed musical arch, encompassing in thought and sound-relations all content within its perspective. A tight balance between substance and mechanical detail. Purposeful and inspired playing from every constituent of the instrumental ensemble.

The conductor brought into focus all the musical materials in Sibelius' crowded horizon, giving each component its due, allowing every statement its relative impact.

At the conclusion, no mysteries remained--all events, those in the background as well as those in the forestage, proved necessary and inevitable. Has someone said the sunny slow movement belongs in another piece? Not in Salonen's perspective. Do those rhetorical, finale-ending, full-orchestra chords demand footnotes? Not this time around. Is the natural flow of musical movement impeded with too many details? Not here.

Before intermission, the conductor achieved similar results in works for winds alone and strings alone. Richard Strauss' early, one-movement Serenade, Opus 7, had a tonic effect at the beginning of the program. It was played with bracing neatness by 13 members of the Philharmonic.

Schoenberg's "Verklaerte Nacht" never reached that level of aural transparency one might have hoped for. Still, within limits prescribed by the large auditorium and by the placement of the strings flat on the Pavilion stage, it emerged with a modicum of balanced tone and clear presence. Salonen eschewed all temptations to dawdle, yet also avoided abruptness of statement.

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