A festive mood filled the air in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center this week, and the reason was easy to identify. Consecutive concerts by the touring Philadelphia Orchestra--two different programs performed Tuesday and Wednesday nights--seemed to put subscribers to the L.A. Philharmonic-sponsored Celebrity Series in a happy place.
For the Dvorak/Prokofiev program Wednesday, Yuri Temirkanov led the Philadelphians in rousing, bright, lyric and violent flights of musicmaking--just as these composers must have envisioned in their respective Eighth and Fifth Symphonies. In every way, these were leaner, meaner performances than the orchestra gave Tuesday. The gloves were off.
At this point in history, the velvet in the Philadelphia Orchestra's sound appears to be wearing off. What remains is respectable in every wise; still, one misses that cushioned and deep string tone and its comparable match in woodwinds and brass.
The irony in Dvorak's G-major Symphony for Southern California listeners is that one has heard, in the recent past, lusher readings from our own Philharmonic than the one encountered Wednesday from the Philadelphia band.
For instance, the performance led by Hermann Michael at Hollywood Bowl last September--fully resounding and handsomely balanced (even with acknowledged amplification); Philadelphia's version boasted an admirable transparency, and wonderful solo-playing from first-desk players, but very little plush.
After intermission, Temirkanov's frank and honest approach to Prokofiev's Fifth offered no attempt to make the work deeper than it is. It focused instead on the continuity and expansion of violent emotions throughout the piece. When it was over, one felt drained but not uplifted.
The Wednesday night encore was Schubert's "Moment Musical" in F minor.