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Uncomplicated Beethoven, Brahms at Bowl

TIMES MUSIC WRITER

It was a pleasant Thursday night at the Bowl: strong playing from the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a classical pops program, an unobtrusive and distortion-free sound system and skies surprisingly empty of aircraft noises.

Emmanuel Krivine returned as guest conductor, joined by Swiss pianist Andreas Haefliger, soloist in Beethoven’s B-flat Concerto. The piece is usually a winner in this outdoor setting, especially when elegantly played, as it was this time around.

The French-born Krivine surrounded that gem with others, Mozart’s brief but pungent Symphony No. 32 in G and Brahms’ Second Symphony.

The Philharmonic performed well and with spirit. Krivine seems to be a detail meister, an admirable quality, of course, but he doesn’t always keep his eye on the ball or provide rhythmic urgency. His tempos tend to be loose rather than taut. He manicures the little things but sometimes fails to find the sweep of the large picture.

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Brahms’ lyric masterpiece, then, followed a straight course through climaxes to conclusion without the illumination that architectonic direction might bring to it. It was pretty as it can be, but without the composer’s exigencies.

In much the same way, the conductor and the pianist uncomplicatedly delivered the familiar joys in Beethoven’s Second Concerto (actually written before the first).

Haefliger displayed resourceful command of touches and dynamics and a projected affection for the sunny disposition of the work. He is a pianist both witty and articulate.

At the opening of the program, more rehearsal and a stronger sense of purpose from the podium would have made a charming version of the Mozart piece even more charming.

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