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Beethoven’s Seventh fills an unusual program slot

Special to The Times

Thursday night was a more-or-less ordinary midsummer classical evening at the Hollywood Bowl. Veteran Bowl-goers know what that means -- three well-trodden orchestral standards in the usual servings of overture, concerto and symphony; the Los Angeles Philharmonic maintaining a high level of competence without going above and beyond; some sonic assaults from aerial intruders that blithely ignored the warning searchlights.

There was, however, a small but not insignificant departure that guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya took pains to point out. The traditional program order was turned on its head, with the designated “overture,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s fantastically colorful rhythm fest “Capriccio espagnol,” placed at the end and the symphony, Beethoven’s Seventh, leading off. Grieg’s Piano Concerto occupied its usual position in the middle but delivered its catchy tunes after intermission this time.

One wonders whether this inverted slate disrupted some long-established routines as several folks in the boxes departed early after the Grieg. (Good luck getting out of the stacked parking lots!) Their loss, for they missed the most invigorating music-making of the night.

Harth-Bedoya relished “Capriccio espagnol,” striking up the opening Alborada with genuine razzmatazz, getting into the swing and sway of the Fandango. So did the many superb, stylish Philharmonic soloists, too numerous to list in this space, but we can’t bypass concertmaster Alexander Treger’s authentic Russian edge and feeling.

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Of all of Beethoven’s symphonies, the Seventh is the most dependent upon strong, insistent rhythm -- and Harth-Bedoya tried to generate some within a clear-cut, straight-ahead, often briskly paced approach. At best, though, the results were just OK, with enough push behind the rhythm to make the piece move but not enough to make it leap and carry on with a force that feeds upon itself.

In the Grieg, Swedish-born pianist Peter Jablonski -- who is conveniently performing with cellist Ralph Kirshbaum at La Jolla SummerFest tonight -- stepped in for Andre Watts, who withdrew due to tendinitis in his left forearm.

The most intriguing part of Jablonski’s bio is that he was a jazz drummer as a kid, even playing in New York’s sacred Village Vanguard at 9. Knowing this, it’s tempting to conjecture that his often-percussive, assertive touch and wide dynamic range stem from those early experiences, though he was also capable of providing some tenderness when needed. Ultimately, the performance needed more eloquence; the tunes could sell themselves, but neither pianist nor conductor could go deeper than that.


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