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Sweet delicacies at the Bowl

July 19, 2007|Richard S. Ginell | Special to The Times

LEONARD SLATKIN shattered the usual overture-concerto-symphony model at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night, reaching back to his L.A. childhood for something different -- very different.

He led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program that would have been at home at the Bowl in 1935 or 1945, or even through the 1950s, when he used to attend dad Felix Slatkin's concerts here. It consisted of 10 short, tuneful classical bonbons, each of which could fit on two sides of a 78 rpm record. They used to be played all the time at summer concerts.

Why did these once-beloved little pieces disappear? Blame the invention of the LP in 1948. Blame the lofty tastemakers who scoffed at the likes of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Blame shifting demographics. And finally, it's possible these endearing works just plain wore out through overexposure.

On Tuesday, in any case, they no longer seemed so tired or hackneyed.

Part of the reason was Slatkin, who displayed a real intimacy with and affection for them, imparting all kinds of witty inflections in "Dance of the Hours," showing a flair for the accents in Chabrier's "Espana." Enesco's Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 rampaged along its path; you could even see people bobbing their heads to the rhythm.

One could disagree with Slatkin's unyielding treatment of the fast tempos in the Liszt, but mostly he was right on the dot.

Certainly the guest soloists got into the program's fun retro spirit. Ever the contrarian who plays things few others will touch, pianist Christopher O'Riley swept with molto rubato through Addinsell's lovable Rachmaninoff pastiche, the "Warsaw Concerto," and skittered through the Scherzo from Litolff's Concerto Symphonique No. 4. Violinist Karen Gomyo drew Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen" out almost to the breaking point before cutting loose with the coda's fancy technical tricks.

Alas, the low attendance figure (5,311) suggested that this repertoire remains in eclipse. But now that the iPod is catering to the appetite for single songs, perhaps the time has come for these pieces to rise again.

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