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MUSIC REVIEW : Estonian Klas Conducts 19th-Century Program


After a week away from its summer home in Hollywood Bowl, the Los Angeles Philharmonic returned this week. With Eri Klas as guest conductor, the orchestra hosted violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky as its soloist on Tuesday.

Also appearing on Thursday was Sitkovetsky's mother, Bella Davidovich, who is better known as a legendary Russian pianist who, after a long and distinguished career in her native country, emigrated to the United States in 1978. She returned to Cahuenga Pass after a nine-year absence.

Still an elegant music maker and solid technician at 65, Davidovich disappointed in Chopin's E-minor Concerto only in the predictability of her polished performance, which seemed to be carved in stone rather than created in the moment. The authority of its protagonist, however, could not be questioned, nor the effortlessness of her pianistic resources; one wished merely for a greater surge of spontaneity.

Klas and the orchestra gave full-blooded yet careful support.

As a parting gesture in his third Philharmonic engagement (each one encompassing two separate programs), the Estonian conductor revived one of the ensemble's longtime specialties, Brahms' Fourth Symphony, in a reading remarkably free of ego and cherishably focused on continuity. Klas, aided wholeheartedly by the ensemble, gave each movement its separate character and quirks, still arriving at the finale with leftover zest.

The E-minor Symphony has earned a reputation for formality, complexity and abstruseness. In fact, its construction, seamless in the extreme, supports an emotional life that is fascinating, dramatic and finally cathartic. The listener does not even have to know the word passacaglia to receive its impact; Brahms has done most of the work. All that remains is for a conductor to let it happen.

And so it was Thursday, in a near-immaculate, cogent and convincing performance which one could, if one chose to do so, compare favorably to memorable Brahms Fourths of the Philharmonic's rich past.

After a bracingly hymnlike "Star-Spangled Banner," Klas and the orchestra opened the proceedings (attendance: 10,508) with a winning, full-of-contrasts run-through of Weber's "Oberon" Overture.

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