Last night’s concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in Philharmonic Auditorium, the sixth subscription program of the season, had the festive air and excitement of an opening, for it brought about the first appearance of Eduard van Beinum in his new capacity as the organization’s music director and first conductor.
The house was crowded to capacity and the audience gave Mr. Van Beinum an enthusiastic welcome for a brilliantly performed concert that augured well for the six remaining programs he will conduct on the Thursday-Friday series this season. Last night’s program will be repeated tonight.
In Full Command
Since Mr. Van Beinum has previously conducted the orchestra both last season and in Hollywood Bowl, his immensely authoritative style of music making was reasonably familiar. He is a quiet but genial figure of the podium and one immediately feels the presence of a conductor whose comprehensive musicianship puts him in thorough command of every situation.
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He obviously instills in the players sense of alertness and confidence and their response throughout the program was marked by a degree of enthusiasm and eagerness to follow his slightest bidding that revealed the orchestra’s capacities in the most favorable light.
The major item of the program was Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” a work well calculated to put both orchestra and conductor to nearly every possible test. It demand extremes of brilliance and excitement matched against mercurially changing moods and episodes of poetic fantasy.
Mr. Van Beinum met the challenge with searching imaginativeness and orchestral workmanship of the first order. There was masterly control of every phase of the operation, and a constant play of nuance and color to illuminate the most remote recesses of the composer’s thought.
The feverish unrest of the opening movement was delineated with remarkable flexibility. The Waltz reveled in subtle rhythmic suavity, the “Scene in the Meadows” invoked the most delicate orchestral colorings, and the “March to the Scaffold” and the “Witches’ Sabbath” were unleashed with splendid abandon to realize the demonic fury of the music. And yet in the most exciting moments the orchestra never lost the gloss of rich and solid tonal quality.
That Mr. Van Beinum commands an equal mastery of the classical style was amply proved in Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante,” which advanced David Frisina, the concertmaster, and Sanford Schonbach, the first violist, to solo roles.
This was music making on an intimate scale, with clarity and polish to match one of the composer’s most felicitous inspirations. The give and take between the soloists was co-ordinated with a rare feeling for ensemble, and both performers played with notable smoothness and graceful phrasing. Mr. Van Beinum’s accompaniment was perfectly scaled to the soloist’s requirements, and the whole performance has a warm and affectionate glow.
The program opened with something more than a respectful gesture to the native composer, for William Schuman’s familiar “American Festival Overture” seldom has sounded so exuberant and so well calculated orchestrally. It was a brilliant beginning to Mr. Van Beinum’s stewardship of the orchestra.