Nothing new or startling marked the concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Hollywood Bowl Tuesday night.
The event, penultimate Tuesday program in the summer subscription series, instead offered Bowl veterans as conductor and soloist, a pops program of 19th-Century favorites and mixed, if certainly respectable, performances.
At the top of the evening, Leonard Slatkin led a rousing, brilliant reading of Dvorak's "Carnival" Overture, a run-through generous in energy and clarity, with handsome solo playing contributed by principals of the orchestra.
At the other end, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony emerged slightly out of focus through much of its length. Two mistimings marred the opening movement--nothing serious, but nervous-making for players and listeners--and kept a tangible tension in the warm night air, at least until the close of the Andante.
And even then, the mysteries and triumphs of the closing movement seemed compromised and lacking in genuine contrasts. Despite viable sound dispersal--very little distortion from amplification was delivered on this occasion--Slatkin appeared unable to impose much distance between the composer's louds and softs.
The disappointments in Joshua Bell's efficient, imperturbable playing of Lalo's "Symphonie Espagnole" had nothing to do with the Indiana-born violinist's technique or musical solidity. They seemed purely of a temperamental nature: Bell, 19, takes a cool approach to this colorful test-piece. He makes no observable attempt to differentiate between its five separate parts and its many moods; he simply takes it as it comes, without trying to sell or advocate it.
The result, impressive as display, becomes indifferent only when one remembers how fiery, excitable and actually irresistible the piece can be in the right hands and under a caring musical sensibility. Without those, the display is empty.
Nevertheless, the audience of 14,148 attending this event gave Bell and Slatkin loud approval throughout the proceedings. And, at the beginning of the Fifth Symphony, the crowd recognized and greeted it noisily, like an old friend long absent.