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MUSIC REVIEW

Philharmonic, Browning and Hirokami: A Pleasant Evening

August 31, 1996|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jun'ichi Hirokami, the Tokyo-born conductor who again led the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl Thursday, wasn't even born when John Browning, soloist of the evening, first appeared there, in 1953.

Earlier that summer, the American pianist had turned 20, but already was marked for high achievement. The intervening years have seen his promise fulfilled and the competition winner of the 1950s has become a respected veteran.

This week, Browning returned to play Ravel's G-major Concerto with all the kaleidoscopic pianistic resources one has come to expect, and with his trademark elegance and technical solidity. The special joy in this performance came in the tight collaboration and musical rapport between the older and younger musicians, with the expert support of the Philharmonic's players.

For whatever reasons, Browning, a boyish and still-slender 63, continues to frown and look glum when he walks on stage and addresses the keyboard, despite the fact that his performance, as usual, merited a smile.

Hirokami might justifiably be named King of the Inner Workings, inspiring detailed clear playing from the orchestra all evening.

One wished only for greater freedom and breadth in his manipulation of apparently every single measure in Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, which moved along convincingly, despite momentary raggedness. Here, and in the evening-opening "Candide" Overture by Bernstein, all the solos came out handsomely and articulately. Whatever his priorities, Hirokami first of all makes music.

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