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MUSIC REVIEW

Eri Klas Leads Stellar Beethoven Program

August 24, 1996|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Over the six years he has been guest conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Eri Klas has displayed a stunning musical versatility. This week, returning to the Hollywood Bowl for two more concerts with the orchestra, he proved himself again.

What is particularly strong in the Estonian conductor's art is not its breadth--though that is rare enough in today's crop of podium personalities--but the sense that in every area, Klas is a specialist.

The Beethoven program he led Thursday night showed that again. In the "Coriolan" Overture, the G-major Piano Concerto and the Fourth Symphony, Klas and the orchestra produced authentically stringent, dramatic and compelling Beethoven, full of detail yet in no wise overstated.

His collaboration with American pianist Garrick Ohlsson proved the high point of the program. Playing on an oversize, beautifully articulate (or perhaps it spoke so well because of especially discreet and sensitive amplification) Bosendorfer instrument, Ohlsson gave a tight but expansive, poetic and rigorous, sharply defined performance of the demanding, exposing Fourth Concerto.

All details meshed, beauties abounded. Ohlsson and Klas perfectly negotiated all those many places where keyboard runs end in orchestral entrances. A small matter, but indicative of a broader rapport that could also be heard in everything the orchestra played.

After some rough-and-tumble settling in through the opening movement, the B-flat Symphony met the same standard of definition and tautness. The orchestra achieved near-immaculate surfaces while expounding an unfeigned authority in the composer's style. The Adagio spoke its narrative clearly, the Scherzo flowed naturally, the Finale swept through its ebulliences with no loss of control. A pristine performance.

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