68TH SEASON OF L.A. PHILHARMONIC : Previn's 2nd Year: Some Unanswered Questions Linger : Commentary

Times Music Critic

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, like most major arts institutions of the jet age, must make its plans many years in advance.

Under the circumstances, it is difficult for an outsider to gauge just how much of Andre Previn's second season as music director--just announced--was put together by Previn and how much was concocted by Ernest Fleischmann, his enduring managerial cohort.

Fleischmann, after all, was busy plotting a not-so-vague Philharmonic future at a time when no one could even guess who the musical boss might be in 1986-87.

The schedule, in any case, has its obvious strong points.

Previn will be in town for 11 of 24 subscription weeks. That isn't much by ancient Koussevitzky-Ormandy-Szell standards, but it represents a reasonable figure in an era marked, and marred, by chronic conductorial wanderlust.

The orchestra is paying increasing attention to little-known music--both old and new--of the rapidly ending 20th Century. That is healthy.

The roster of soloists, though too predictable in some ways, remains impressive.

Still, the agenda poses certain nagging questions, in clusters:

--Why is Previn not opening the season himself? And why is his distinguished, venerable replacement--Kurt Sanderling--presiding over an exclusive menu of romantic chestnuts? And won't the Sanderling opening be an anticlimax, coming right after his Beethoven mini-festival at the Wiltern?

When will Previn himself reveal his own affinities (or lack of same) for the basic symphonic rhetoric of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, et al?

--Why must we have eight guest conductors in so short a season? And isn't it particularly damaging to continuity and morale to schedule a three-week period with a different leader at the helm each week?

What about the quality of the guest conductors? No one can doubt the value of a visit from Sanderling or Pierre Boulez, but does Los Angeles really need more of Sir Charles Groves?

Why has the Philharmonic suddenly rediscovered that perennially mistreated local prophet, Daniel Lewis (far better late than never, but why now)?

Where are the likes of Kurt Masur, Klaus Tennstedt, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Carlos Kleiber and Daniel Barenboim (we won't even mention Muti, Abbado, Solti and--significant pause--Giulini)?

--Why is it that Zubin Mehta can find time for the glamorous opening of the Orange County Music Center, but not for a concert at his erstwhile alma mater?

--It is only fitting that we should hear music composed by our music director, but is Previn's "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour," a West End theater piece, really an appropriate Philharmonic vehicle?

--Why is Simon Rattle, our principal guest conductor, favoring us with only two weeks, after a year's absence? Are his priorities in order? Is his title in order?

--Why must the only world premieres on the schedule be relatively modest ventures: a Brahms transcription by Luciano Berio and the revision of William Kraft's "Contextures"?

--Is Andre Previn an orchestra builder--a genuine technical repairman--or just a good conductor? Do we need both?

The answer to that final, most critical, question is yes .

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