MUSIC REVIEW : A Revelatory Mix of Mozart, Lourie


The word for today is Lourie. That’s as in Arthur Lourie, composer of the knockout “Concerto da Camera” delivered with such pointed verve by violinist Gidon Kremer and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Monday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the first of their two concerts presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Born in St. Petersburg in 1892 and a classmate of Prokofiev at the Conservatory, Lourie emigrated in 1921, eventually arriving via Berlin and Paris in the United States, where he died in 1966. Virtually unheard here before Kremer’s last visit, in May of this year, the rediscovery of Lourie’s music seems to be an important event.

It’s not hard to hear why he was so neglected. Postmodern before his time, Lourie distills an eclectic variety of influences into a highly individual brew that has little in common with the dominant mid-century styles.

Astor Piazzolla would be an unlikely influence on the “Concerto da Camera,” composed in 1947, but the big, six-movement work carries a full measure of the cynical sorrow, lyrical passion and powerful dance rhythms characteristic of many of Piazzolla’s later tangos. It broods magnificently, interrupted by bursts of brittle laughter and surging, kinetic energy.


The work is also a very virtuosic showpiece for violinist and string orchestra. It begins with the soloist alone, and then features each section of the accompanying band, the soloist playing mostly an astonishing series of duos with the principals.

Kremer set a seemingly impossible standard of expressive musicality presented through effortless technique, but the young players of the German chamber orchestra matched him nuance for perfect nuance. Concertmaster Thomas Klug, violist Friederike Latzko, cellist Michael Mueller and bassist Matthias Beltinger--the latter in an amazing serenata with strong intimations of the Andalusian folk song “La Tarara"--collaborated with Kremer in formidable partnerships, and the passages for the full ensemble had balanced bite and supple elegance. Anyone for a recording, please?

Although Kremer has recorded all of Mozart’s concerted works for violin with the Vienna Philharmonic, the composer is not one we normally associate with the violinist. Kremer’s survey of the concertos--begun Monday with Nos. 1 and 5, the other three following on a second program Tuesday--proved predictably unpredictable, revealing as much about the musician as about the music.

Most surprising, Kremer reminded us of the Baroque roots of this music, mostly through texture--the vividly realized concertino of the truly dancing A-major minuet, for example--and embellishment, abetted by great rhythmic vitality.


Kremer and/or his cadenza creator, Robert Levin, introduced little elaborations at cadences and in repeated passages, providing enlivening variation in some instances, egocentric obfuscation in others. The need for more notes in Mozart is not keenly felt in all quarters, but the practice is certainly historically defensible.

Levin’s short cadenzas attempted a virtuosic extension of the prevailing style, also with mixed results. Kremer played with complete security, focused sound and idiosyncratic artifice, generating some weird panned dynamic effects as he made 180-degree turns in the middle of the orchestra.

The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie--28 strong for these performances, including some local ringers--supplied cohesive efforts, mirroring Kremer with polished elan, and some disconcerting ideas about intonation from the characterful winds.

The strings of the conductorless band, founded 11 years ago by members of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, were again featured in Lourie’s “A Little Chamber Music” from 1932. A compact, neo-Bachian exercise in linear dynamism, it displayed the highly interactive, passionately controlled ensemble in a striking context.


In encore, Kremer and company offered a gracious, unfussy reading of the Schubert Polonaise.