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Review: Itzhak Perlman lends a hand or two with the L.A. Phil

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With its Walt Disney Concert Hall 10th Anniversary concerts in the rear-view mirror, the Los Angeles Philharmonic returned to something approaching normalcy Friday morning with a familiar face.  It was Itzhak Perlman, who last appeared with the orchestra just over two months ago at the Hollywood Bowl.

As always, Perlman remains a reliable draw; the house Friday was sold out. (Two more concerts are scheduled.)

The season brochure simply listed Perlman playing “Summer” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” – which probably would have been enough to sell out the place without any further help. Only later was it revealed that the real main course would be Berlioz’s huge, surreal “Symphonie Fantastique,” with Perlman trading his bow for a baton.

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Perlman, of course, is no stranger to the podium these days, and he does have a conception of “Symphonie Fantastique,” though it seemed to be coming from a Central European meat-and-potatoes perspective – loaded down with a weighty texture from the big orchestra (including four harps instead of the designated two).

If there was any French classical clarity, sharp rhythm, or pinpoints of subtlety underpinning Berlioz’s wildness, they didn’t surface very often. Nevertheless, the Philharmonic executed well, produced a big noise at the end, and clarinetist Michele Zukovsky delivered the recurring idée fixe theme with bundles of character.

In the two “Seasons,” Perlman the violinist had a somewhat rocky beginning but soon regained his form – mostly straight-forward, subdued playing with the occasional burst of opulent tone and emotional generosity. Seated at a right angle, he led a small group of strings with his bow, eliciting a robust, healthy, period-performance-free sound from them.

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Weber’s overture to “Oberon” – also a little heavy in feel, yet nothing that would impede the great, heroic tune that dominates the piece – was placed after the Vivaldi concerti instead of before, possibly for logistical reasons.

Los Angeles Philharmonic, with Itzhak Perlman: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; $62-$205; (323 850-2000 or www.laphil.com)

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