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Kahane brings Bowl, Beethoven to life

August 14, 2003|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

The final season under the hopelessly flawed Hollywood Bowl shell -- it will come down in October, to be replaced by next summer -- is refuting all the jokes and disappointments. Quite simply, the Bowl is turning out to be a great place to hear great music.

Tuesday, conductor-pianist Jeffrey Kahane and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra offered the first of two programs this week devoted to Beethoven's five piano concertos. By any standard in any venue anywhere, the performances of the second, third and fourth concertos were extraordinary. Nos. 1 and 5 will be played tonight.

Kahane and the orchestra played this cycle to critical acclaim in their own season over one weekend at the end of 2001, but the vigor, lyricism and insight sounded newly minted Tuesday, and Kahane's stamina never faltered.

Hearing the works in sequence allows immediate appreciation -- dumbstruck wonder would be a better description -- of the composer's development. Between the first and third concertos, Beethoven became great and became himself by purging, simplifying and concentrating his earlier style, rejecting the proliferation of ideas that reflected his Mozartean models.

Indeed, in the crazed, outsized, not-often-heard Beethoven cadenza that Kahane chose to include in the playful Second Concerto, you could tell the composer was searching for a larger, more serious and crystalline dimension to incorporate his thoughts. He would not realize it as a whole until the Third Concerto (and Third Symphony).

The dramatic struggle to achieve that dimension in No. 3 -- which Kahane calls "Janus-faced" in his excellent program notes, because it looks both backward and forward -- won the pianist a spontaneous and justified ovation at the end of the first movement. His solo at the beginning of the tender and intimate middle movement was plaintive, gentle, gorgeous. The orchestra, which throughout the evening was an equal partner, joined in applauding Kahane at the end of the work.

The Fourth Concerto is a different world altogether, one in which all the turbulence that surfaces ends in serenity. It may not make a slam-bang concert closer, but Kahane's personal voice in the middle movement was still memorable.


Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood

When: Today, 8 p.m.

Price: $1-$88

Info: (323) 850-2000

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