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Music : Real Bombs at Bowl Weren't Those in Sky

September 13, 1993|LAURENCE VITTES

The "Fireworks Finale" at Hollywood Bowl over the weekend was set with stale musical charges including overtures by Bernstein ("Candide") and Rossini ("Barbiere di Siviglia") and Gershwin's "American in Paris."

While television cameras roamed the stage on Friday night, 13-year-old Tamaki Kawakubo gave a blockbuster performance of Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso and a toy firecracker went off in the crowd, reported at 15,058, during Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Emperor Waltzes."

But the best explosions were the ones that went off into the sky while a host of double reed players plus a battery of percussion concluded matters with their annual and expert performance of Handel's "Royal Fireworks Music."

What kept the preceding musical proceedings earthbound were the Philharmonic's sluggish performances under conductor David Alan Miller. Although they demonstrated more musical power than the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra that now plays most of the weekend pops concerts, the Philharmonic personnel also demonstrated little of the subtlety or finesse that is necessary to make the hackneyed works on the program sound fresh.

The orchestra's inability to play as if it mattered was most depressing during the Saint-Saens piece, when, making her Bowl debut a memorable one, Kawakubo flashed the brilliant technique and rich violin sound that is becoming routine from teen-age female virtuosos.

But the Philharmonic accompanied so unresponsively that she often had to restrain her musical urges to accommodate them. And her playing of Massenet's Meditation from "Thais" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" (as programmed encores) suggested, perhaps unfairly, that all Kawakubo can play is chestnuts.

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