Wednesday night the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles gave its first concert with Heiichiro Ohyama in his new position of music director, a year and a half after the death of founder/conductor Akira Kikukawa. It proved an auspicious occasion.
Ohyama--music adviser to the JPO after Kikukawa’s death, former assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and in his last year as its principal violist--led a chamber-sized ensemble of local free-lancers. The orchestra gave polished readings of standard repertory in the Japan America Theatre.
Violinist Asako Urushihara, winner of the 1988 Young Concert Artist International Auditions, joined the group for a performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A, K. 219.
Though offering a small-scaled reading, Urushihara imbued all of her music with unflagging energy and pure, glowing tone. With nary a note out of place, the rest seemingly took care of itself. Mozart’s tunes flowed naturally, unfussily, and though understatement was the violinist’s key, she clearly meant what she said. Ohyama and orchestra backed her up with equal spirit.
The conductor opened the concert with Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” in a delicate and elegant reading. Articulations had a cushioned softness to them, textures were airy, the pacing spacious, yet Ohyama guided every phrase firmly forward, and the whole blossomed effortlessly.
The concert concluded with a largely routine but pleasant performance of Schubert’s Fifth Symphony that was brightly textured and animated in the outer movements, steady and straightforward in the Andante. The facility with which Ohyama has brought this ensemble to play as an ensemble bodes well for the future.