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Artists bring the best out at Bowl

Award-winner Ingrid Fliter and conductor Alexander Mickelthwate complement each other.

September 02, 2006|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Two young artists whose careers are on sure ascendancy collaborated Thursday at the Hollywood Bowl.

Gilmore award-winning pianist Ingrid Fliter reprised the impressive performance she gave of Beethoven's First Concerto at Walt Disney Concert Hall in March, when she stepped in for an indisposed Martha Argerich. Leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic this time was Alexander Mickelthwate, the orchestra's assistant (and soon to be associate) conductor and the newly appointed music director of the Winnipeg Symphony. He was also on the podium for Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.

Making her Bowl debut, Fliter brought a fresh, engaged perspective to the music, combining lyricism, grace and repose with explorations of nuance and meaning. At the start, she created a sense of improvisation and discovery. During the crossed-hand passages of the finale, she drew instrumental colors from the keyboard. In the middle movement, though, she was not deeply introspective.

Mickelthwate accompanied her with elegance and lilt, ending long phrases not with a bang but with a Mozartean rounding-off. More elasticity, however, might have added breadth to this approach.

He had lots of ideas about Shostakovich's great if overexposed Fifth Symphony, many of them thwarting expectations but not all of them persuasive. Working without a score, he drew more than the usual connections to Mahler. Shostakovich's individual voice -- one of personal and collective anguish -- emerged rather late.

The conductor set a slow, stretched-out tempo in the first movement, initiating an intriguing portrait of a blighted, inchoate landscape rather than propelling any tensely driven drama.

This antiheroic tack revealed details of construction but at the expense of conflict and resolution. Even the controversial ending -- a real triumph or a sardonic one? -- seemed muted.

Still, Mickelthwate may sense the late Shostakovich in this politically pivotal work. If so, he added an important element to the discussion in the composer's centennial year.


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