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MUSIC REVIEW

Salonen Shows Command of Material

February 17, 1996|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

The folly of trying to predict the chemistry of any given musical event came clear again Thursday, when Esa-Pekka Salonen, utterly in control of his symphonic resources, led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a Stravinsky/Mozart program at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The predictable elements proved to be, of course, the Philharmonic music director's thoroughness at analyzing and communicating essences of the works at hand--Stravinsky's Symphony in C (1940) and Symphony in Three Movements (1945) and Mozart's Symphony No. 40--and the orchestra's effortless virtuosity at projecting them.

Less expected: the size of the audience at a program without a soloist (more than 3,000 in a hall accommodating 3,185) and that audience's serious and thoughtful way of listening--coughing only between movements, for instance--and extreme enthusiasm. It showed the latter at the end of each work but especially at the close of the evening, when it rose from its seats. Salonen's devotees seem to be a growing band.

One reason for this loyalty has to be the untroubled manner in which the Finnish conductor leads the way through complicated music, making it seem easy to comprehend and to play. He did so on this occasion, producing a pristine, if not always transparent, performance of the Symphony in C and an irrepressible but not overstated account of the Symphony in Three Movements.

Both works' superstructures were revealed and their stylish details spotlighted. Woodwind and brass soloists reveled in their moments of glory and were rewarded with bows at the end of each performance.

In this company, Mozart's hardy but still fragile masterwork flourished as centerpiece. Perhaps all of four dozen players are not needed to give the G-minor Symphony its most spacious and seraphic effect, but these 49, after some muddiness in the opening movement, played as a tight unit in terms of both spirit and mechanics.

* Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, repeats this program at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion tonight at 8 and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $6-$50. (213) 365-3500.

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