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MUSIC REVIEW

Ax, Philharmonic Show Multifaceted Skill

March 08, 1997|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Jacob Druckman's kaleidoscopic orchestral score "Prism" shares the program with Brahms' monumental B-flat Piano Concerto at the Los Angeles Philharmonic's concerts this week.

Though both works, written a hundred years apart, are complex and faceted, they nevertheless complement each other. And Esa-Pekka Salonen's leadership, and the orchestra's resources, allowed for the full range of expression in each. Thursday night in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion these scores sounded as important as they are.

Emanuel Ax brought to the Brahms an ease, passion and articulation that made this difficult piece sound easy. He caressed the poetic line, ascended the many accumulative climaxes and kept a sense of musical balance, as well as humor, through it all. The result: a definitive performance as lighthearted as it was contemplative.

The Philharmonic's collaboration, under the loose-limbed Salonen, met the prevailing standard. Among the prominent soloists were cellist Ronald Leonard and hornist Jerry Folsom; both made their contributions shine.

"Prism," written in 1980, took the place on this program of the originally announced Druckman Piano Concerto, unfinished at the composer's death. "Prism" plays orchestral tricks with music--all of it operatic, all of it dealing with the "Medea" story--by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Francesco Cavalli and Luigi Cherubini.

This recomposition-in-fragments turns out to be surreal and engrossing, complicatedly scored and demanding virtuosity of the players. These three movements grab their listeners and make them want to hear them over again. The curtain-raiser, Beethoven's "Egmont" Overture, emerged loud, raucous and blustery. Clearly, the players had not yet settled in.

* L.A. Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor, with Emanuel Ax, Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., $8-$60. (213) 365-3500. Also today, 2 p.m. , sans the Druckman work, $5-$26.

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