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Music Review : Welcome Guests at the Philharmonic

TIMES MUSIC WRITER

When Estonian conductor Eri Klas brought two brief Anatol Liadov pieces to Hollywood Bowl three summers ago, some critics asked for more.

*

So, this week in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, guest conductor Klas and the Los Angeles Philharmonic added a third item, “Kikimora,” to a Liadov mini-suite already comprising “The Enchanted Lake” and “Baba Yaga,” charming and colorful 19th-Century character-pieces from Russia.

Together, these made up a highly pleasing overture to Klas’ program of Shostakovich’s sometimes overlooked Ninth Symphony--Shostakovich Lite, some call it--and Brahms’ D-minor Piano Concerto.

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The entire performance by our accomplished resident virtuoso orchestra became satisfying, and not least because it consisted of a series of rising climaxes. At the peak, of course, was Brahms’ Opus 15, still the Everest of piano concertos, ever awaiting the arrival of foolhardy aspirants ready to attempt the ascent of its heights.

Thursday night, the aspirant was Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, 24 3/4 years old--he will be 25 in April--and looking younger. Andsnes accomplished the feat.

Not only did he deliver all the notes without breaking into a sweat, Andsnes also illuminated most of the music sometimes buried in these Brahmsian thickets. He did so with abundant authority, graceful delineation of the details and an ever-forward sense of continuity.

With Klas and the orchestra adding clarity and expertise, this became a stunning performance, one that probed the inner life of the work thoroughly but without sentimentality or preciosity.

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Shostakovich’s non-tragic, seldom dramatic, but still-powerful Ninth Symphony, perhaps the most-often neglected of the composer’s large-scale works, proved a strong foil for Brahms’ impassioned concerto. Although never a staple of the Philharmonic’s repertory, it received a brilliant and insightful reading, led with an understated panache by Klas. He doesn’t look like a hero, he just conducts like one.

* Los Angeles Philharmonic, Eri Klas, conductor; Leif Ove Andsnes, piano. Final performance of Liadov-Shostakovich-Brahms program today at 8 p.m. in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 365-3500. Tickets $6-$50.


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