Even with an orchestra clearly friendly to its guest conductor, an amplification system turned up to its loudest setting and a certain rapport between all participants, the debut appearances of conductor Kent Nagano and pianist Ursula Oppens in Hollywood Bowl Tuesday night still proved undistinguished.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic, hitting its stride at the beginning of this official second week of the summer season, gave strong performances of Berlioz's "Corsaire" Overture, Beethoven's G-major Piano Concerto and a suite from Prokofiev's score to the ballet, "Romeo and Juliet."
With one notable exception--naturally, in the slow movement of the concerto--no noisy aircraft bothered the 7,395 listeners gathered in the outdoor amphitheater. And technical miscalculations on the part of the conductor and pianist were few.
Still, this exposing agenda, so congenial to an orchestra prepared to exploit it in a musical way, proved less grateful to its other protagonists.
Nagano appeared to essay sharp contrasts of tempo and detail in the Berlioz piece, without completing any of the passes he made at it.
He also attempted focusing on certain moments in the seven "Romeo" excerpts but failed to project either the specifics of his own internal scenario or the differing elements of emotion and character already recognizable to listeners in the familiar score.
If Nagano feels strongly about this music, he did not share that feeling with his audience on this occasion. As far as one interested listener could ascertain, he merely went through it.
Oppens' approach to Beethoven's most demanding piano concerto emerged respectful, competent and timid. She neither probed its depths nor found new quirks in its personality. Her reading lacked both authority and conviction, and, though her playing meshed regularly with Nagano's rather mechanical conducting, the two did not always seem connected.