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Dvorak goes from noble to immobile

August 12, 2004|Daniel Cariaga | Special to The Times

Returning to Hollywood Bowl and the podium of the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Tuesday night, Yakov Kreizberg led a Dvorak program of clarity, astuteness and finesse. The Bowl's new sound-enhancement system performed well for the most part, a few surprising echoes notwithstanding, and the modest-size audience heard the music without distractions.

In the first half, a young German musician, Alban Gerhardt, made his local debut in the Cello Concerto. Although his hair is unruly, he is the model of musical decorum and charisma. And his playing is flawless, communicative and relaxed. Unlike some of his peers, he sweats not; neither does he strain. He conveyed the work's many beauties without grandstanding or undue effort.

Together, Gerhardt and Kreizberg returned this much-battered showpiece to its rightful place as an example of Dvorak's lyric ingenuity at its peak. A noble performance.

Yet there was disappointment in the second half, when the St. Petersburg-born conductor presided over a low-energy, uncompelling reading of the Symphony No. 8, one of Dvorak's most masterly and thrilling scores.

Here, Kreizberg's attention to the work's songful elements, so successful in performance of the Cello Concerto, resulted in a bland, sometimes plodding reading of music that is bold, virtuosic and exuberant.

With the orchestra seated flat on the stage floor and its sound homogenized, the character of each choir failed to come into focus. Kreizberg's choice of tempos just below maximum drive also lessened the effect of the composer's vision. This work used to be one of the Philharmonic's calling cards; here it was reduced to a safe predictability.

Throughout the evening, the Philharmonic performed at its usual level of accomplishment. Especially noteworthy contributions came from concertmaster Alexander Treger and the exceptional cello section, which seemed particularly inspired by the guest soloist.

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