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Bowl Concert : Litton Excels In Saint-saens

July 23, 1987|MARTIN BERNHEIMER | Times Music Critic

The Hollywood Bowl concert wobbled a bit at the outset Tuesday night.

First Andrew Litton, the promising 28-year-old guest conductor, led a rather ragged Los Angeles Philharmonic through a rather leaden performance of Weber's "Oberon" overture.

Then he virtually declined the same composer's invitation to the dance, treading heavily through the paces of that popular concert waltz in its fancy Berlioz orchestration.

At concerto time, the redoubtable Sidney Weiss stepped up from his accustomed position as first violinist to pay patrician, sensitive, fleet and, where appropriate, fiery attention to the Bruch G-minor extravaganza.

Weiss managed to sustain arching lyricism while minimizing the slushpump drip. He met the bravura challenges more than honorably, yet never let us regard this potentially creaky exercise as a mere excuse for virtuosic display.

His best efforts were compromised, however, by two matters beyond his control. The amplification system invariably made the violin sound tight and tinny in ascending passages, and the orchestral support provided by Litton and friends proved less than ideally synchronized.

After intermission, it became obvious where most of the limited rehearsal time had gone. In the massive "Organ" Symphony of Saint-Saens, Litton revealed himself as a master of romantic indulgence, of the extended line and the heroic gesture.

He mustered a daringly slow tempo in the great adagio, and, with it, a splendid aura of majesty and pathos. He also built the expressive sprawl to a whomping, cathartic cadence in the final allegro.

Here, he enjoyed the further advantage of precise, alert, delicately meshed playing by the Philharmonic, not to mention a poised and authoritative performance of the organ solo by Anita Priest.

The only problem involved the organ itself. The Rodgers company brought its vaunted Model 925 (reputed value: $150,000-plus) to Cahuenga Pass for the occasion. Stately cabinets containing pipes and speakers flanked the sides of the stage shell, and microphones stood guard in front of each.

The instrument made a rich, resonant, plangent sound. No doubt about that. Unfortunately, when the dynamic level began to rise above mezzo-forte, the organ steadfastly refused to blend with the orchestra it first bludgeoned and then abandoned. The concept of loud conquered new frontiers Tuesday night where music supposedly meets the stars.

The unusually sophisticated audience (no bouncing wine bottles, no applause between movements) was officially tabulated at 7,876.

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