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A Resonant Evening Led by a Subtle Rattle


Simon Rattle, whose presence on a local podium is ever welcome and ever illuminating, came to the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic and achieve the near-impossible.

With the help of sensitive solo playing from members of the orchestra and equally intelligent support from the sound engineers, Rattle vanquished the vast, open expanse of the outdoor amphitheater. And he did this in some decidedly non-high-decibel music by Debussy and Ravel.

To be sure, there were some big, splashy climaxes as well as the high-powered virtuosity of 15-year-old Sarah Chang in the Sibelius Violin Concerto. But the ravishment began with music that probably should have simply evaporated in the 18,000-seat theater--Debussy's "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune."

Initiated with lovingly languid playing by flutist Anne Diener Zentner, Rattle led a poetic and delicate reading that also accounted for the eroticism in the Mallarme poem that inspired the work.

Time seemed dreamily suspended, as it should have. Musical lines emerged and hovered weightlessly. Physical urgency arose in due proportion. Transparency and balance were exemplary.

This sensitivity to nuance and color occurred also in Ravel's magical "Ma Mere l'Oye," where the final leave-taking of childhood emerged with heartbreaking regret and affection.

In the Sibelius concerto, the sound balance must have gone slightly off. Rattle appeared to attend to lots of orchestral detail that simply did not cross the front of the stage. Still, he was a sympathetic and lyrical collaborator. He emphasized French clarity of orchestration rather than Nordic monolithic blocks of sound, and he placed the shotgun accents and sunburst climaxes with judicious point.

Chang made a poised and powerful soloist, playing with sweet, ample and dark tone. She offered a serious and thoughtful interpretation, and if she did not plumb the depths or exploit all the details in the first two movements, she was, nonetheless, exciting and bewitching in conquering the bravura challenges in the last movement.

Rattle turned again to Ravel to close the program with a reserved but well judged account of the Suite No. 2 from "Daphnis et Chloe."

Among other Philharmonic musicians making distinguished contributions in the course of the evening were principal concertmaster Martin Chalifour and principal violist Evan N. Wilson.

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