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A happy marriage of Mahler and Mozart

Orchestra and conductor connected for a lively concert of the composers.

September 11, 2003|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

An autumnal and an early vernal masterpiece made surprisingly congenial musical partners Tuesday at the Hollywood Bowl when Los Angeles Philharmonic assistant conductor Yasuo Shinozaki led the orchestra in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Mahler's Symphony No. 1. Michele Zukovsky was the eloquent soloist in the Mozart.

It helped that the orchestra sounded revitalized after some lackluster performances last week. The sound system was also back on track, delivering richness and detail.

But above all, there seemed to be a special chemistry between Shinozaki and the orchestra that enabled it to bridge the stylistic gap between Mozart's ineffable concerto and Mahler's sprawling, extroverted symphony.

Shinozaki's energetic, sweeping, sometimes super-kinetic podium activity could elicit some affectionate smiles from an observer, but it always got results. His account of the Mahler symphony, conducted from memory, was masterly. It opened with a sense of portentous possibility, the link to the opening of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony made evident. Some sloppiness in the horns suggested problems ahead, but they never materialized. In the blazing, heaven-storming climax of the symphony some 50 minutes later, Shinozaki directed all eight horns to stand in a coup de theatre. It was a proud, deserved moment for them.

At the other end of the dynamic scale, but equally arresting, was principal bass Christopher Hanulik's plaintive solo opening the third movement death march with an uncommon sense of personal grief.

Shinozaki presided over it all with a clear, loving hand, reminding us, for instance, in the second movement that Mahler linked classical and klezmer music long before it became fashionable to do so.

The young conductor also made a sensitive collaborator in the Mozart concerto. Zukovsky sounded just the right note of gentle loneliness, for all her virtuosic ease. Even the perky excursions of the final movement couldn't disguise her projection of childlike reticence and vulnerability. She was quite wonderful.

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