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A Solid but Unimaginative ‘New World’

It was one of those nights at the Hollywood Bowl on Thursday, inoffensive if you were there for a pleasant time, disappointing if you approach music with a more reverent attitude.

Lawrence Foster, a former assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, his partner this night, and presently music director of the Barcelona Symphony, donned the requisite white dinner jacket for the occasion, but a gray suit would have been more like it. He is nothing if not solid. He shuns flash. And he’s just a little dull.

His interpretation of Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, which closed the concert, lacked a strong point of view or the sense of a personality engaged. It could have been almost anyone waving the baton, or no one.

Foster is better than most, though, in staying out of the way of an orchestra, and this allowed for some positive results. This was a “New World” that strode lightly on its feet, crisp of rhythm and phrase and never meandering in direction. The Philharmonic played well--better than it sometimes does under more imaginative conductors--technically neat, judiciously balanced, unburdened.

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The first half was devoted to three lesser works of Mozart, which posed something of a problem in the great outdoors. Their pleasures are small (though not necessarily intimate, in these examples), and they didn’t always survive projection through the microphones, to the sound board, out the speakers and into the night air.

The Symphony No. 32 (an Italian overture, actually) and the Flute Concerto No. 1 were produced with utmost competence by Foster and a reduced orchestra. Anne Diener Zentner, a principal flutist with the Philharmonic, was the agile, articulate soloist in the concerto who could have used a notch up on the volume control.

Jerry Folsom, a principal hornist, fared better with the Horn Concerto No. 3, both because of the piece’s tunes, which proved to be more charismatic and therefore carried better, and because of his hearty, mellifluous and varied delivery.


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