Khachaturian a la Thibaudet

Special to The Times

Although Thursday night’s Hollywood Bowl performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic had a mostly Russian feeling, its program was more complicated than that.

Sure, the pioneering Glinka and the reliable crowd-pleaser Tchaikovsky run down the middle of Russian musical culture, and the Hungarian Zoltan Kodaly qualifies as compatible kin from the former Eastern Bloc.

But Aram Khachaturian, whose Piano Concerto was the concert’s centerpiece, was both Moscow-trained and proudly from and of Armenia. And it was Khachaturian -- who worked in the shadows of Glinka, Armenian traditional music and, to a lesser extent, Stravinsky -- who dominated the concert.


Indeed, Khachaturian, long considered a lighter-weight participant among 20th century composers, may be ripe for reconsideration, or at least that was a notion strengthened by Thursday’s controlled and passion-powered reading of the concerto by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

A three-movement piece written in 1936, the work is a solid example of the composer’s personalized mix of blustery sentimentality, folkish colors and teasing Modernist spice. Thibaudet mastered the score handily, deftly working the extremes of flashy dynamism and feathery ruminations, which he somehow projected into the Bowl’s expanse.

Like Khachaturian, Kodaly has sometimes been cast as an also-ran among 20th century masters, overshadowed by fellow Hungarian Bartok. His “Dances of Galanta,” the concert’s closer, suggests a softer-edged Bartok, its indigenous folk themes intact and plushly padded.

Standard-brand orchestral taste treats, which can sound better when consumed in the Bowl’s great outdoorsy setting, served as supportive pillars on the program. Glinka’s “Russlan and Ludmilla” started things off with all the gleaming, boisterous energy expected of it. Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” for its part, retained its charms and loveliness.

On the podium, Lionel Bringuier, all of 21 and about to begin his second season as the Phil’s assistant conductor, acquitted himself and marshaled the ensemble forces beautifully. It appears that this mighty orchestra -- on the verge of Venezuelan wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel’s tenure at the helm -- is in the assured clutches of ultra-talented twentysomethings.