As he did a little more than two years ago, Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic from the piano; the occasion this time was three concerts in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion over the weekend. He triumphed again, in a program encompassing Bach's D-major Keyboard Concerto, the Schumann Piano Concerto and Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony.
Exhilaration, solidity and a sense of musical transparency characterize what Schiff the conductor achieves, once more with the extraordinary support of an orchestra that seemed to be enjoying itself as much as the pianist-conductor himself.
Bach's Concerto, BWV 1054, based on the familiar E-major Violin Concerto, began the concert (heard at the Friday afternoon performance) crisply, at a driven pace, but in no way perfunctorily. Instead, it unfolded naturally and briskly, all its facets clearly stated. The slow movement, in particular, sang forth with special persuasion.
In Mendelssohn's familiar Symphony No. 4, Schiff presided gently over a balanced, motivated and clear-voiced performance in which the Philharmonic again asserted its special expertise. The "Italian" Symphony may be a chestnut, but it is one that can, on a good afternoon -- as this was -- work to strong and brilliant effect.
The Schumann Concerto can be a challenge and a duty; this time, it glowed with early Romantic ardor and easy virtuosity.
Schiff the pianist gave it controlled passion and effortless digitality -- only the first-movement cadenza fell short of its highest musical temperature -- and sailed through the breezy and difficult finale after a magical recitation of the crucial Intermezzo.
Before that slow movement, Schiff's traveling partner Rocco Cichelle, a piano technician, had to be called to the stage to fix the recalcitrant pedal works. Pianist and orchestra, and the matinee audience, took the hiatus in stride.