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Rediscovered concerto propels Bowl program

Hekel Tavares' 'Brazilian Forms' fits the evening.

August 05, 2004|Richard S. Ginell | Special to The Times

Who was Hekel Tavares? Even experienced listeners might draw a blank on this name, let alone Hollywood Bowl-goers who spotted his Piano Concerto ("In Brazilian Forms") among the more familiar figures of Copland and Rachmaninoff on the Los Angeles Philharmonic's classical programs this week.

Tavares (1896-1969) turns out to have been a near contemporary of fellow Brazilian countryman Heitor Villa-Lobos -- and the similarities don't stop there. Both were mostly self-taught composers who also conducted their works, both tried to merge Brazilian elements with the European classical tradition, and both were incredibly prolific. Tavares' concerto, written in 1938, was his Opus 105, No. 2.

On one level Tuesday night, one could hear why this work has fallen into oblivion, for it spurns all the modernistic fetishes of its time. It's an unabashedly Romantic concoction, with primary-color harmonies, Rachmaninoff-like flourishes for the orchestra, echoes of the Beethoven concertos, hammering toccata-like passages for the piano and outbreaks of Brazilian percussion grooves that are never long enough.

Yet the piece is more attractive and engaging than any of Villa-Lobos' five piano concertos -- and it worked especially well at the Bowl, with its succinct time span (just over 22 minutes) and fresh supply of good, if not blockbuster, tunes. A South American tandem -- Brazilian-born pianist Arnaldo Cohen, who is currently based in London, and Peruvian-born conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya -- performed ably, although their interpretation could conceivably have been more propulsive.

Cohen did double duty Tuesday, also contributing a thoughtfully shaped, cleanly executed rendering of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. He's not a showboat in this repertoire, and that turned out to be an asset, as he shrugged off the thick syrup served by Harth-Bedoya and company with his own brand of unsentimental lucidity.

Contrasting a Brazilian Romantic and a Russian one was good programming. So was the inclusion of Copland's "Billy the Kid" Suite, which isn't performed nearly as often as it is recorded, as an appetizer. Yet Harth-Bedoya's rendition was too careful -- the rhythms needed more snap and the gunfight was surprisingly tame.


Los Angeles Philharmonic

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

When: 8 tonight

Price: $1 to $103

Info: (323) 850-2000

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