MUSIC REVIEW : Paulus Trumpet Concerto Introduced at Bowl


The local premiere of Stephen Paulus' "Concerto for Doc," written for Doc Severinsen and the Phoenix Symphony earlier this year, plus Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony and Ravel's "Bolero" made for the happiest kind of final-Thursday-night pops program in Hollywood Bowl, as this 70th Bowl season winds down.

Played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conducted by Lawrence Foster, this program, heard by 8,899 applause-addicted listeners, mixed the old and the new, plus the ultra-familiar with not just one, but two, new works.

Besides Paulus' serious, brilliant and entertaining trumpet concerto--first introduced in Phoenix in the spring--there was Thomas Stevens' brief but pithy "Triangles III," for five trumpets and orchestra, in its world premiere.

Stevens' handiwork--he is, of course, the Philharmonic's much-admired, longtime principal trumpet--uses its five soloists placed in front and around the accompanying symphonic body, and creates canonic and echo effects that are the aural equivalents of optical illusions.

In an accessible but pungent harmonic idiom, trumpeters and orchestra are busily and brightly employed for just over four minutes. Besides guest soloist Severinsen and the composer, the featured players were Philharmonic members Donald Green, Boyde Hood and Rob Roy McGregor.

Paulus' 1991 Concerto makes a handsome and challenging showcase for the popular "Tonight Show" veteran.

It moves episodically through four contrasting movements, the first two miniature but effective homages to Hindemith and Bartok, respectively, the last two utilizing a more recent harmonic language. The third part, marked "Sassy," lives up to that description, and abrasively; the finale, filled with quick-notes and climactic musical gestures, builds strongly to its logical conclusion. It is easy to love this work, which pleases the ear thoroughly during 25 short minutes.

Severinsen performed all its complexities with the panache of the veteran virtuoso--the composer having thoughtfully created places where the soloist can change mutes--and with no sign of strain or stress. Foster conducted idiomatically and with verve; the Philharmonic experienced no problems.

After all the novelty, Ravel's ubiquitous "Bolero" seemed an appropriate capper on the evening. Foster and company--they do work well together--chose a languorous build-up, unexpected tempo variances and some re-thought phrasing for the familiar piece. The results worked.

At the other end of the evening, the orchestra's stylish, fluent and contrast-rich performance of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony was another reminder of how deep the ensemble's resources go, and how beautifully it can play, with the right person on the podium.

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