If the Hollywood Bowl repertory this season has been as familiar as usual, at least we have been blessed with some characterful, decidedly unroutine performances of it. That happened again Thursday, when Simon Rattle, Lars Vogt and the Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborated in Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto.
This was risky business, unfashionably elastic in tempo, idiosyncratic in phrasing and much of it barely audible.
But it was also rewarding business. In his U.S. debut, the 20-year-old German pianist proved a musician who has moved far beyond mere mechanics. He had control over each note, even in the hurrying hordes of the passage-work displays, and he exercised his command with personality and poise.
Vogt and Rattle emphasized the radical elements of the first movement in their expansive treatment. They stressed the dualism of the Andante con moto, very much in motion while at the same time austerely poignant, with Vogt suggesting more than sounding the appoggiatura resolutions. Their finale was joyfully light and limber, with the explosive outbursts set in high contrast.
Rattle kept the orchestra thoroughly involved, in a pointed and fully interactive accompaniment.
Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is not a Bowl commonplace, and Rattle made a dramatic occasion of it. He brought an almost Mahlerian sense of scope to its struggles, in a taut--though emphatically unhurried--reading, carefully inflected and well-connected to the nobility of the Beethoven.
Balances sometimes slid askew, but the orchestra generally gave Rattle alert and assured playing, rife with distinctive, pertinent solos. Even the most motor-driven passages received subtle detailing, with the sardonic jazz influences firmly expressed.
Rattle began the concert with an imperious "Consecration of the House" Overture, in a performance that actually seemed to capitalize on the vast Bowl space. Though sectionally disjunct, it had a real measure of vigorous majesty.
Official attendence: 10,306.