Those who couldn’t make the trek to Costa Mesa to catch David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony last month were in luck this last weekend, for D-Rob -- as he is whimsically called by some in St. Louis -- turned up Friday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As often happens, he came with new music in hand -- and also with his wife, pianist Orli Shaham, to play it with him.
The piece was Steven Mackey’s piano concerto (a Philharmonic co-commission) “Stumble to Grace,” in which the premise is a would-be pianist making the first stumbling, fumbling efforts to learn how to play, eventually blooming into a polished virtuoso.
Though the piece has a clearly plotted structure, the progression was not linear, as the pianist seemed to acquire an uncanny ability to play tricky cross-rhythms early on, regressing to a simpler state in the cadenza at the dead-center point of the concerto.
As always, Mackey combined a plethora of influences -- including some apparently Vince Guaraldi-inspired funky rhythms in the cadenza -- with his usual flair for unusual orchestral colors and effects (the “West Side Story”-like police whistle in the final section).