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Guest Conductor Pappano Vividly Revives Honegger's 3rd Symphony


"Harsh and violent . . . streaked with a solacing sort of lyricism . . . written with compelling mastery." That was Albert Goldberg writing in The Times about the first--and, up until this week, last--performance of Honegger's Third Symphony by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, on March 10, 1949.

The French composer's "Symphonie Liturgique" returned to the orchestra's repertory Thursday night in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, thanks to guest conductor Antonio Pappano, who led as vivid and convincing a performance as that by Alfred Wallenstein at the local premiere, as described by Goldberg. Astute as ever, Goldberg reported the then-3-year-old piece "an important and durable example of contemporary music."

And so it is, though regularly neglected.

Its profile is tight and expressive, its style abrasive yet accessible, its rhetoric engrossing. Pappano, returning here for the first time since his Philharmonic debut in January 1996, gave the work its due in terms of an apprehensible musical arch and a detailed continuity. The London-born Italian conductor--recently appointed music director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, effective in 2002--seems to bring a vocal approach to every work, stressing its coherence through a linear sensibility, finding the song in every instrumental utterance.

He accomplished a similar tightness in Mendelssohn's "Reformation" Symphony at the end of the evening, finding its conventionality persuasive and making its length seem brief. The orchestra played with a controlled enthusiasm.

Pappano also proved an expert collaborator with French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet--at 37, a year older than the conductor--who made Liszt's E-flat Concerto into a festive, bracing experience. Thibaudet has the flair and technique to match his trademark red socks, plus a feel for Lisztian bravura and a sensitivity to the composer's lyric flights. He is a flamboyant virtuoso with pronounced and admirable musical depth.

The concert will be repeated tonight at 8, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., $11-$65, (323) 850-2000.

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