MUSIC REVIEW : Peak Larrocha at the Bowl

Times Music Writer

Alicia de Larrocha, one of our more distinguished pianistic visitors, has been playing Mozart and Falla in Southern California music centers for more years than some of her younger observers have been alive.

Indeed, the vehicles of Larrocha’s debut appearance here, in February, 1954, were the same works with which she thrilled--the word is used accurately--her audience in Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night, 35 years and six months later. With the touring Montreal Symphony, Larrocha played Mozart’s A-major Concerto, K. 488, before intermission, and Falla’s “Noches en los Jardines de Espana,” after.

The instant adulation the Spanish pianist earned, all those years ago, has turned into deep respect and a certain awe.


But the woman herself has avoided becoming a monument, or even a mannerist. Her artistic credentials and technical resources have remained at their peak. Her musical standards have never lowered. Her horizons were ever too broad to be limited only to the works of Mozart and Falla, yet she has not abandoned that repertory for greener or flashier pastures.

On this occasion, Larrocha’s performances--handsomely seconded by Dutoit and his admirable Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, to give that Canadian ensemble its real identity as a scion of French culture--achieved maximum impact with minimum effort, spoke the differing musical languages of its composers and did so in clear communication with the 9,074 listeners gathered in Cahuenga Pass.

During the lengthy bows after the Falla work, Dutoit first kissed the pianist on both cheeks, later on the hand. If he had kissed her feet next, that gesture would not have been inappropriate.

And the rest of the program was not forgettable. At the beginning, Dutoit led a crisp, thoroughly detailed and affectionate run-through of Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony.

At the end, he showed off his orchestra without false modesty in a languorous but impassioned--and masterfully paced--reading of the second suite from Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloe” ballet. The combination of instrumental accomplishment, musical discipline and voluptuousness of concept made the familiar score seem fresh.