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MUSIC REVIEW : Dvorak and Haydn by Previn and Ma

<i> Times Music Critic</i>

Andre Previn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic played it pretty safe for the second program of their winter season Thursday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. They also played it pretty.

Our music director concentrated on Dvorak, with a little Haydn added for concerto indulgence. Since the soloist happened to be Yo-Yo Ma, the indulgence was, of course, welcome.

Logic should have dictated that the indulgence also would provide a welcome element of stylistic contrast. Surrounded by so much of Dvorak’s sunny Slavic romanticism, Haydn’s lean Baroque flourishes should have presented the stimulation of different textures, different expressive devices, different dynamic resources.

It didn’t happen.

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Previn seemed to approach Haydn’s C-major Cello Concerto, written in 1765, with the same symphonic perspective that he brought to Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, written in 1889. Ma seemed to think the Haydn concerto was just an extension of Dvorak’s G-minor Rondo, which had served as something of a warm-up exercise.

Luckily, such limited vision did not preclude superior music-making. Apart from a few pardonable coordination mishaps, Previn and the orchestra were in fine fettle. Apart from a few pardonable intonation problems, Ma played like the enlightened virtuoso he is. Still, the conductor and cellist gave us a concert more notable for polish and clarity than for emotional or intellectual stimulation.

An instant audience favorite, Ma sighed and soared gently in the Dvorak Rondo. Then, still sighing and soaring, he exulted in the long cantabile lines of the Haydn concerto.

He surmounted the bravura hurdles with nimble elan, sustaining a polite aura of muted passion all the while. With Previn’s cooperative support, he also offered object lessons in pianissimo restraint.

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It sounded very tasteful, very artful and very slick.

Previn and friends opened the program with the inconsequential razzle-dazzle of Dvorak’s Scherzo Capriccioso. They closed it, on a remarkably generous scale, with the sweeping lyricism of his G-major Symphony.

It sounded very clean, very bright and very familiar.


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