Even with tinny, distant and distorted amplification at work, Jeffrey Kahane's Beethoven program with his Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on Thursday night in the Hollywood Bowl still gave solid pleasure and musical reassurance.
In the First Piano Concerto, the conductor-pianist delivered a handsome example of exquisite piano-playing and stylish re-creating of the composer's early-period bumptiousness.
At his best, Kahane's Beethoven-playing combines warrior instincts with poetic articulation and the most effortless kind of technical sovereignty; this performance certainly did that. The orchestra cooperated fully, and the listener never had to worry that the soloist was too busy to keep things together--everything meshed perfectly.
Perhaps less rehearsal, and undoubtedly more complicated internal balances, accounted for the sometimes slovenly, often undernourished orchestral playing in the Symphony No. 2, a piece for which the conductor clearly has a rapport but not yet a compelling vision. The opening movement emerged particularly unkempt; after that, the mechanics smoothed out. In the scherzo and finale, at last, one found lilt and grace, not consistently, but often.
At the beginning, and after a quick, no-nonsense "The Star-Spangled Banner," Kahane led his colleagues in a solid, well-contrasted run-through of the "Prometheus" Overture.