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Bowl Concert : De Waart Conducts Philharmonic

August 29, 1987|ALBERT GOLDBERG

G enerous is the word for the program concocted by Edo de Waart for the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl Thursday night. It opposed two monuments of the literature--one in each half of the program--and prefaced them with a wholly unrelated novelty. The mixture could have served as a text for one of T.S. Eliot's cogitations on the subject of time.

The novelty was provocatively titled "Fanfare: Short Ride in a Fast Machine" by American minimalist John Adams, who was composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony during De Waart's tenure there. A regular beat originates in woodblocks, and generates additional rhythms and more notes as the scheme for the short 1986 opus progresses, not unlike Ravel's "Bolero."

The net result is lively, expertly orchestrated, and noncommittal--nothing much to get excited over. A good deal of the trip seemed to be traversed over a bumpy road, with a flat tire. Prodded by the conductor, the Philharmonic worked up a fair head of steam during the journey.

Of the two monuments, Schubert's C-major Symphony, "The Great," encountered more favorable circumstances than did Brahms' Violin Concerto. The problem there was not the playing of Joseph Swensen, but the hash that the amplification made of it.

Swensen is a talented young product of the Dorothy DeLay studio. It was fairly obvious that he was actually on top of the demands of the Brahms, but the microphone reduced his silken passage work to an unclear whisper, and magnified the double-stops to the size and sonority of an entire cello section. One guessed that on the stage side of the microphone, reason and harmony prevailed--on the audience side it was an aural jumble.

The crass way of judging a conductor's approach to the Schubert is to measure the extent that he minimizes the fabled heavenly lengths. De Waart resorted to the usual palliatives, without totally shortcutting the distance. He did not linger excessively; on occasion he even pushed a bit. He was ever mindful that Schubert was basically a lyricist, letting the tunes flower naturally and seldom intruding on the orderly course of events. He maintained desirable balances in the orchestra, and even the amplification could not conceal that he had a certain regard for texture and tone.

On the whole it was not exactly inspirational, but it was solid, sensible, and respectful. One often has to settle for less.

Attendance: 7,866.

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