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Philharmonic Tames Lively Dance Pieces

Music Review

April 07, 2000|RICHARD S. GINELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Five years ago, David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony put out a wild CD called "Dance Mix," which linked several brief, jumping contemporary pieces written for the concert hall. It was a great idea--let's appeal to generations raised on rock rhythms without resorting to dumb symphonic inflations of pop tunes--and there was a variation of this concept at work at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Wednesday night.

Here was Christopher Rouse's "Bump," a deliriously raucous, Latin-ish thing that retains its musical sophistication even with all its high-energy bashing about. Lash that together with two American repertory standards, Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" and Copland's Four Dance Episodes from "Rodeo," and you should have a kick-out-the-jams evening with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Alas, the Philharmonic's associate conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya seemed a little too mild-mannered and formal an interpreter for this program. The heavyweight rhythms in "Bump" didn't get off the ground, and the bludgeoning drums skewed the balances with the rest of the crew. In "West Side Story," the jazz and Latin-based grooves refused to emerge through the confused percussive clutter, although Harth-Bedoya could convey the warmth of the lyrical "Somewhere." "Rodeo," which doesn't swing per se, fared somewhat better, particularly in the atmospheric middle episodes, but again, the high spirits could have been more unbuttoned.

And what was the sweetly Romantic Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 doing amid all this American racket? Why not something closer to the evening's concept--like, say, the Bernstein Serenade or the Adams Violin Concerto? In any case, concertmaster Martin Chalifour made a cool, disciplined, slender-toned case for Bruch with seemingly effortless elegance while again, Harth-Bedoya made his deepest impression in the most lyrical passages.

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