Tender, beguiling Gypsy sounds

Times Staff Writer

Exploring points of contact between Gypsy and classical music, Hungarian conductor Ivan Fischer led a fascinating Los Angeles Philharmonic program Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

For authenticity, Fischer enlisted violinist Jozsef Lendvay Sr., concertmaster of the Budapest Gypsy Symphony, and Oszkar Okros, whom the conductor rightfully called “a wizard” on the cimbalom, the dulcimer closely associated with Hungarian music.

Another guest was Lendvay’s classically trained violinist son, Jozsef Jr., born in 1974.

The two older soloists first played several traditional folk selections, then were embedded in the orchestra in performances of Liszt and Brahms.


The first thing to note was the subtlety as well as the virtuosity of their playing. This is a style easy to betray by pushing it into schmaltz. The real thing is tender, delicate and beguilingly seductive.

Putting Okros into the orchestral fabric of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1 unfortunately didn’t quite work. There was recurring tension between his lust for rhythmic and expressive freedom and classical music’s demand for metrical regularity.

Even so, Fischer brought exciting idiomatic details to life, including a whiplash snap in the big orchestral statements.

In Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3, Lendvay Sr. played the original Gypsy version of the central tune, ravishing the ear with his silken voice. His son, the soloist in Sarasate’s showpiece “Zigeunerweisen” (Gypsy Airs), continued the family tradition of spectacular virtuosity combined with modesty.

Conductor and orchestra showed there was plenty of life left in these musical chestnuts.

After intermission, they closed the concert with a mighty if mellow performance of Brahms’ First Symphony.


Los Angeles Philharmonic


Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall,

111 S. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 tonight

Price: $15 to $125


Contact: (323) 850-2000 or