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Music Reviews : Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles

February 24, 1989|BRUCE BURROUGHS

The Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles traditionally offers theme programs. Thus, Wednesday night's annual Dorothy Chandler Pavilion appearance constituted a "Goodwill Concert between U.S.-Japan."

Conductor Akira Kikukawa paired Japanese violinist Yoshio Unno and American cellist Nathaniel Rosen in Brahms' Double Concerto. The Violin Concerto No.1 (1963) by Yuzo Toyama got a hearing, but no American music turned up.

Inconsistency ruled the evening. The orchestra produced fine moments side-by-side with bizarre harmonic and ensemble contretemps. A slow, rather logy go at Liszt's "Les Preludes," for example, found the brass in firm fettle, winds capable and cellos united in pitch-true songfulness.

But even if the high strings had agreed in intonation, the whole would still have fallen short of the sum of its parts. Staggered attacks prevailed, each section playing well enough with itself, but often in unbidden syncopation with the others.

Unno's impressive pyrotechnics and warm lyricism carried Toyama's concerto. The work begins with a difficult extended solo which commanded rapt attention. Thereafter, the composer waffles wanly between Oriental and Occidental modalities, and his orchestral requirements (especially of rhythmic intricacy) eluded this group persistently.

Unno and Rosen (he of the big, burnished tone) served up a rousing Brahms Double Concerto, reveling in its polyphony and sculpting all those echoing "anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better" phrases with eloquent urgency. Welcome orchestral accuracy materialized here, too, adding to the glow.

To open, Kikukawa led a messy but heartfelt reading of Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante defunte," in memory of Emperor Hirohito.

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