Times Staff Writer

At the end of a largely aircraft-free evening in Cahuenga Pass Tuesday night, two noisy helicopters virtually demolished the quiet close of “Neptune” in Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets,” as played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Hollywood Bowl. The actual conclusion was not heard, only observed, when Sir Charles Groves mimed the soft ending by lowering his arms.

Such is life at an urban amphitheater seating more than 17,000--though only 7,807 were in attendance at this Holst/Vaughan Williams/Debussy/Rossini program. But one was dismayed at such a crass ending to an otherwise smooth and polished reading of “The Planets.”

Sir Charles, beginning a season-concluding two-week visit to the Bowl, displayed again solid competence and a pleasing podium manner. If he did not elicit from our Philharmonic the ultimate in rhythmic thrust, inner voicing and long-limbed phrasing in Holst’s irresistible suite, he also did not impede the orchestra’s routined expertise at playing these particular notes. This performance ran a neat course.

And, at the beginning of the evening, Groves’ account of Vaughan Williams’ Overture, “The Wasps,” also emerged virtuosic, clean and uneventful. In between, the English conductor provided careful attention and affectionate collaboration with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, soloist in Debussy’s Premiere Rapsodie and in Rossini’s Introduction, Theme and Variations.

Making his Bowl debut, Stoltzman showed again the artistry, musicality and showmanship that have earned him praise from all corners. The tone he produces is not always handsome--indeed, above the staff it can become grainy and unpretty--but the music he makes is invariably articulate, songful and communicative.

His encore was Debussy’s “La fille aux cheveux de lin.”