The Los Angeles Philharmonic has unveiled a new/old shell design for the Hollywood Bowl, and as far as these eyes and ears are concerned, hip-hip-hooray!
Preservationists who think the leaking, acoustically sorry present shell is just fine should try to actually hear music at the Bowl sometime.
While Czech-born New Jersey Symphony conductor Zdenek Macal happened to hit one of the better nights for his Bowl debut Tuesday--the sound had a bit more resonance and the bass was more audible than usual--the acoustics remain depressingly one-dimensional.
The programming suited Macal well, for he has long made a specialty of his countryman Dvorak and is one of only a handful of conductors to record all nine of the composer's symphonies. Macal's expertise shone throughout the "New World" Symphony, with a briskly flowing, river-like first movement, impulsively gushing streams shooting through the famous slow movement, a touch of a lilt in the spirited scherzo, and sufficient vigor in the finale.
He even departed a bit from the usual fare to lead off with a brief, welcome Dvorak rarity, a fanfare-laden Festival March stamped indelibly with the composer's Czech-flavored textures. Violinist Pamela Frank offered an extrovert's view of Brahms' Violin Concerto, most effectively in some dialogue-like passages in the first movement and the joyous way she lit into the finale. Her tone could turn rough under pressure, and she didn't make it sound effortless, yet her performance had life, far from the smooth, generalized Brahms we often hear.