MUSIC REVIEW : Andre Previn Comes Back to Philharmonic

Times Music Writer

Was there just a hint of guilt in the splendid performance the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave Thursday night, when music director Andre Previn returned to the podium at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center?

Like a guilty spouse who has had a little fling while the marriage partner was out of town, our Philharmonic seemed on terribly good behavior at this reunion with its recently absent leader.

Was that merely because the players were happy to see Previn back at the podium? Or was it an afterglow from the carryings-on with a guest conductor for the past two weeks? Will we ever know?

The program that Previn is conducting this week (ending Sunday afternoon) is a bread-and-butter agenda, beginning with Beethoven’s Overture to “Fidelio” and First Piano Concerto and culminating in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony.


What made it special at this performance was the solidity and jauntiness in the music director’s bracing approach to Beethoven and the clear conviction he brought to the manic-depressiveness of the “Pathetique” Symphony. And the orchestra’s willingness to give Previn near-complete cooperation in bringing these scores to life.

Not all of the turgid textures in Tchaikovsky’s emotional Sixth emerged clarified, or transparent. But the sweep of feeling, and many of the corroborative instrumental details, held it all together, even with occasional blatting of tone in the climaxes. And the lush string sounds one wants and expects at the lyric heights of the work materialized handsomely and eloquently.

Celebrating the 35th anniversary of her Philharmonic debut, Alicia de Larrocha gave as well-spoken and elegant a reading of Beethoven’s C-major Concerto as one might ever wish to hear.

The Spanish musician--who made her first United States appearances here in February, 1954, with then-music director Alfred Wallenstein and the Philharmonic--continues to serve as a role model for thinking pianists who believe in the power of the instrument to produce myriad shades of color and specific qualities of tone. She is as much an inspiration today as she was at that long-ago but well-remembered series of debut appearances.

Previn and the orchestra provided stylish and attentive support, particularly in a generously laid-out and richly songful slow movement.