Things returned to the usual, midsummer, midweek routine at Hollywood Bowl Thursday night after the sold-out Placido Domingo/Yo-Yo Ma Event two days earlier. No epic traffic snarls -- or at least nothing out of the ordinary. No jammed lines at the turnstiles. The concert started on time. Back to normalcy, as they used to say in Warren Harding's day.
Presiding over Classical Thursday this time was a young Slovakian conductor, Juraj Valcuha (born 1976), who was making his first appearance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (his bio only lists one previous U.S. appearance with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2007-08).
Based in Paris, he has been making the rounds of European opera houses and symphony halls, patiently gathering credits. Apparently his chief instrument at the Bratislava Conservatory was the cimbalom -- an unusual one for a conductor.
As seen on the podium and the Bowl big screens, Valcuha doesn't cut a particularly arresting profile -- his gestures appear to be a bit stiff at times -- but he did get some results in some arresting music. He could produce a nicely rousing, militant response in the big marches of Wagner's Overture to "Rienzi" -- the only music we generally hear from that now-obscure early opera -- enforcing clear, blaring textures.