A staple of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Hollywood Bowl repertory for many decades, Rimsky-Korsakov's familiar "Scheherazade" has often seemed a tired exercise in orchestral display and conductorial indifference. One's many memories of it do not contain epiphanies.
Until Thursday night, that is, when Emmanuel Krivine, the French-born conductor of Russian/Polish heritage, turned the work inside out, coaxing from the Philharmonic a magnificently colorful performance and making it all seem new again.
One does not expect magic to happen in the Hollywood Bowl, or in "Scheherazade," but it did on this occasion throughout the performance. Eschewing the foursquare and the literal--elements that usually make this piece deadly--Krivine let the music of each section flow, without the constraint of rigid bar lines or steady tempos. The result was liberating for the orchestral players and soloists, and breathtaking for the listener.
The opening movement, uncorseted and headstrong, introduced the musical materials and the principal soloists, chief of whom, violinist Martin Chalifour and hornist Jerry Folsom, delivered thrilling moments here and elsewhere in the suite.
Inner movements proceeded with exceptional spontaneity, in tempos rubato that seduced and excited the listener. More soloists--bassoonist Alan Goodman, oboist David Weiss, clarinetist Lorin Levee, flutist Janet Ferguson--added distinction to the mix, and the entire ensemble participated wholeheartedly in a balanced, colorful performance.
Krivine and the Philharmonic also excelled in the first half of the concert, with a compelling revival of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, the first installment of a Rachmaninoff cycle at the Bowl this year.
The soloist was 29-year-old Sergio Tiempo of Argentina, who gave a solid and promising reading of the familiar work. At this point, the gifted pianist has more speed and power than tone colors at his disposal, but he is no slouch at playing all the notes, all the time.