By no means is the Los Angeles Philharmonic jumping late on the supposed bandwagon of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Thanks to Andre Previn, the Pulitzer Prize winner's music made an appearance here two years ago when the incoming maestro led his inaugural concerts.
And now he is presenting her Symphony No. 1, the 1982 piece that distinguished Zwilich as the first woman in music to receive the prestigious award.
At its Los Angeles premiere Friday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the 15-minute work comes across with its authority and high craftsmanship intact. Both radiance and complexity abound. Against lush strings that set up a mood of foreboding come driving brass interjections and their angular motifs. A slow movement focuses on sparse materials spun out in distantly eerie long lines and a finale continues the mode but adds an insistent pulse.
Altogether it is an arresting work, one that speaks a distinct language. And Previn, in a clear-voiced account, emphasized its post-Impressionistic aura. Whether as a stroke of luck or by shrewd design, his pairing the Zwilich with Debussy's "La Mer," which followed, further brought this connection to mind.
Unfortunately, he did not discover the tension and mystery lurking in these darkly ominous seas. Much of the time was spent treading generalized water, despite the refined--if not incisive--playing he coaxed from the orchestra. At the climactic moments, however, Previn rose to the exhilarating heights of this overworked score.
But there was nothing superficial when Radu Lupu made his appearance after intermission. Predictably the Romanian pianist submerged himself in the music at hand, Brahms' First Piano Concerto.
Looking, as ever, like a Rasputin with his long, dark hair and full beard, Lupu let himself be known as an artist possessed. Not least, when he sounded an opening thunderclap that strung all the raging notes together.
Throughout there was a sense of integrity and wholeness of concept. Whether taking rhapsodic flight or powering demonic double octaves, he got under the music and commanded the instrument to do his bidding.
For all the virility of his hulking presence, though, Lupu could create tenderly wafting sentiments and project spontaneity in his languid ruminations. Previn offered alert support, but did not find the same depths.