MUSIC REVIEW : Pianist Louis Lortie Makes Bowl Debut


Louis Lortie, making twin debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and at Hollywood Bowl Thursday night, restored one listener’s faith in the future of keyboard playing and in the continuing tradition of Romantic pianism.

In Liszt’s E-flat Concerto--on a program surrounded by two other ultrafamiliar pieces from the mid-19th Century--the Canadian pianist gave the kind of charismatic, all-resources-involved performance we had hoped for, but not received, at the previous two Thursday evenings in Cahuenga Pass.

Here was a handsomely colored, full-out technical display that also reinstated the nobility and lyricism of the overexposed concerto.

Hearing Lortie ascend its heights and probe its inner working was no hardship, however, but a privilege. He seems to love this relic, and his proffered musical passion proved, for once, not misplaced.


The concerto is, of course, a melodious and virtuosic challenge, one the 34-year-old pianist met gamely, with finesse and contrasts as well as brilliance, and utterly without strain. In his generation, one which has often been accused of a lack of individuality, Lortie stands out--along with Jeffrey Kahane, three years his senior--as a strong pianistic personality made up of equal parts virtuoso and poet. The combination, it hardly needs be said, is rare.

Otherwise, it was a pleasant and uneventful midsummer night in Cahuenga Pass, heard by an appreciative audience of 11,513.

Guest conductor Hermann Michael let the Philharmonic show off its primary dynamic colors and exceptional soloism in direct and noncontroversial readings of both Wagner’s “Meisteringer” Prelude and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”

Both moved along neatly and solidly toward loud but controlled climaxes, and with splendid solo displays from, among others, concertmaster Sidney Weiss, clarinetist Lorin Levee and principal cellist Ronald Leonard. Through most of the evening, both the weather and air traffic proved cooperative.