In his second program at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Franz Welser-Most revealed characteristics of both a poet and an almost brutal athlete. Integration, unfortunately, proved rare.
Monday evening, the young conductor gave us the complete package consistently only in Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for Strings. He made all the thematic permutations and structural shifts seem fully organic, enforcing a propulsive sweep that did not preclude songful point.
The strings responded with professional ardor, rich yet flexible in sound and uniform in articulation. The first-desk quartet demonstrated fluent ensemble as well as distinctive solo personalities.
In Brahms' Second Symphony, Welser-Most's reading seemed predicated largely on contrast. In the opening movement he stressed textbook dichotomies--and old ones, at that--between first and second themes, with radical swings from manic frothing to elegant introspection.
The Adagio and Allegretto fared best here, pertinently defined with unexaggerated character by the orchestra's music director. In the finale, muscular assertion dominated a scenario more varied than Welser-Most indicated.
His players seemed to reflect his ideas faithfully, providing mellow, expressive work when allowed and dutifully rising to strutting stridencies at his most fevered urgings in the outer movements.
A curious concept of Classical style was on view in the opening Haydn Symphony No. 102. Welser-Most set fashionably brisk paces for the unfashionably full orchestra, with the emphasis all on tunes and tempo.
The luminous Adagio came to grief through coarse balances, with principal cellist Robert Truman arguing the relevance of his solo obbligato bravely but almost inaudibly against all those violins, a thick woodwind blanket and the benign neglect of his conductor. In the outer movements speed and size combined to blur many details, leaving only a vividly kinetic Minuetto as a full revelation of Haydnesque glory.