If all had gone as planned, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos would have led an all-Spanish first half at Walt Disney Concert Hall Thursday night. But the eminent Spanish conductor was forced to cancel his appearances due to illness last week -- and into the gap stepped young, tall Christoph Konig in what suddenly became his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut. He kept one Spanish piece --Pepe Romero’s vehicle, Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" -- and swapped the other for Dvorák's Scherzo Capriccioso, while closing as previously scheduled with Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.
Konig, who hails from Dresden and holds posts in Portugal and Luxembourg, employed vigorous circular motions with his right arm, and seemed to be most effective when cranking up the tempos into overdrive. Although he didn’t quite find the lilt of the infectious tune in the Dvorák, the revved-up coda got some attention.
The Brahms symphony went by in a young man’s rush; the pell-mell conclusion was played as if it were the end of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. I didn’t hear anything particularly searching or deep in Konig’s Brahms, but he could produce a warm, clear, unified blend from the Philharmonic, even at top speed.
Elsewhere, the evening belonged to Romero, once the fieriest of his brothers in Los Romeros and now at 68 a formidable elder statesman of the guitar. He could still turn on the flamenco fire in the strummed chords of “Concierto de Aranjuez,” but this performance was mostly marked by rhapsodic reflection. Romero took his time ruminating through the soulful Adagio – made famous by jazz people like Miles Davis, Jim Hall and many others – and even the chipper neo-classical outer movements were noticeably relaxed. He added a solo encore, “Fantasia Cubana,” by his father – the late patriarch Celedonio Romero – where his tone quality took on additional resonance and warmth.