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MUSIC REVIEW

Not-Quite-Ready-for-Paris Program From Philharmonic

July 31, 1996|TIMOTHY MANGAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Previewing yet more of the mountain of music slated for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's residency in Paris, Esa-Pekka Salonen, the New Music Group and a few mere members of the Philharmonic gave a variety pack of chamber Stravinsky a whirl at the Ford Amphitheatre Monday night.

But unlike the ready-for-export (or nearly) performances of Paris repertory offered last week at the Bowl, these were strictly preliminary run-throughs. Rarely heard pieces proved all too obviously rarely played too. The musicians have not settled into this music yet.

Still, professional competence accomplished much, if not all, with this delightful program. Salonen led an easygoing account of the neo-Baroque "Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto that bubbled but didn't gel. The upper strings--in Stravinsky-sanctioned numbers--were feeble members in the soundscape.

The stringless Octet proved somewhat better balanced and genially conducted by Salonen, but still problem-filled. For instance, the recurring "ribbons of scales" variation--which should be a small miracle of taut dovetailing--emerged baggy.

*

Generally, the intricacies and delicacies central to Stravinsky's chamber music found the Ford a tough venue. Evan N. Wilson gave the arcane and subdued Elegy for solo (muted) viola his considerable all, but the crickets and night air sapped its resonance. A stalwart string quartet headed by Martin Chalifour proffered the Three Pieces, Double Canon and Concertino in mixed performances, but their juxtaposition of light and shadow, and geometric doodling didn't translate to out-of-doors.

The second half of the concert was taken up by a non-traveling edition of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet played by a solid Philharmonic quartet and pianist Nikolai Lugansky, the 1994 Tchaikovsky Competition winner. He revealed the technique expected and a fresh directness of expression, but fell short of subtle insight.

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