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L.a. Artists At Berlin Celebration

May 05, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

WEST BERLIN — An artistic presence from Los Angeles pervaded the opening ceremonies of this former German capital's 750th birthday celebration last weekend.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, under the baton of music director Andre Previn, performed two concerts in the Philharmonie Hall, playing works by Richard Strauss, Debussy, Ravel, Korngold and Schoenberg.

Mayor Tom Bradley also opened an exhibit of the work of 15 Los Angeles-based artists called: "Los Angeles Today: Contemporary Visions," which will be on view at the Amerika Haus for several weeks.

Artists represented in the exhibition are David Hockney, John Baldessari, Michael C. McMillen, Edward Ruscha, Lita Albuquerque, Peter Alexander, Candice Gawne, Robert Graham, D.J. Hall, Karla Klarin, Liga Pang, Frank Romero, Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin, Betye Saar and Alexis Smith.

Bradley said of these "distinguished and varied" artists that "their wide range of styles and approaches will give the residents of Berlin an opportunity to see the vitality of Los Angeles as interpreted by its creative community."

In addition, Bradley and Ronald Lushing, president of the Los Angeles Library Commission, presented books on California history and culture to the American Memorial Library here.

Throughout the festivities, Bradley maintained a high but unhurried profile. He had been invited to the ceremonies because Los Angeles and West Berlin are international "sister cities," with strong cultural ties.

Ambassador to West Germany Richard R. Burt observed that "I am only the ambassador for my government of the United States to the Federal Republic. Mayor Bradley has been the ambassador of all America to all of Germany."

The two L.A. Philharmonic performances, which followed appearances by the Berlin Philharmonic, led by Herbert von Karajan, were among the highlights of the week. Audiences in the Philharmonie responded enthusiastically and so did the critics.

"The orchestra played fabulously," critic Klaus Geitel wrote in the Berliner Morgenpost. "It presented music of many kinds with great precision."

"The orchestra proved itself to be a highly disciplined ensemble of the very top class," Albrecht Duemling of the Tagespiegel wrote.

Calling the Los Angeles performance "superb," Hans Joerg von Jena in the Volksblatt said that "the soloists (in Richard Strauss' "Don Quixote"), principal cellist Ronald Leonard and principal violist Heiichiro Ohyama, bestowed all honor on the orchestra. The guests from Berlin's partner-city honored Berlin's music standards with a choice and demanding program. They made music expertly."

The Berlin performances by the orchestra were the first in a 25-day, 18-concert European tour that also will take the ensemble to Italy, Spain, Monaco, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria and England.

For his part, Previn seemed more than satisfied with the orchestra's performance. Sitting in his hotel room wolfing down a club sandwich after a long morning's rehearsal, Previn said, "Opening here was very good for the orchestra, following Karajan and doing Strauss the same day he did, as well as playing with this wonderful sound in the auditorium.

"I rarely say this, but I think we did quite well. I have never toured with a better orchestra or one more generous of their time and effort.

"You know, these tours are only valuable if you are first-rate. I think if you are good enough to show off, then why not in the best places in the world?

"I think the hometown audience can sometimes get blase about their orchestra. That's why it is important that the orchestra gets gratified by the enthusiasm of different, sophisticated audiences.

"It is great for the orchestra when you hear those people out there say: " 'Oh, boy, what a band!' "

The art exhibition also was well received.

One art critic, commenting on the exhibition, said, "I think your artists are more varied than ours in Berlin. They seem to bring more fantasy to their work, and they deal in more varied media--constructions, and so forth. But there are also similarities between contemporary artists in Los Angeles and Berlin."

Liga Pang, Abstract Expressionist and the only exhibiting artist who was actually on hand for the event, said, "It was really a pleasant surprise being selected. The curator, Noriko Fujinami, got in touch with my gallery, so I am showing two of my smaller works here."

A dissident note was raised by Hal Meltzer, an American artist who divides his time between studios in Los Angeles and Berlin.

"I find the selection of material a little bland. I think they could have produced a stronger show. And I do think they should have chosen some California artists who work in Berlin too."

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