The Hollywood Bowl wrapped up its traditional 10-week classical season Thursday night. The oppressive heat of late summer finally gave way to a cooler clime, and jackets came out. Box-holders vacated their folding chairs, saying "See you next year" to their Bowl neighbors. The headlining programs of the season — the premieres, the blockbusters, the novelties – had come and gone, and many members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic had the night off.
All that was left was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with ever-effervescent Nicholas McGegan presiding over a chamber-sized delegation from the L.A. Phil.
For McGegan, who in the great outdoors often comes up with interesting thematic agendas or deep-catalog servings from the vast output of a single composer, this was an atypically cautious program. Overture, concerto, symphony — no rarities, just a little over an hour (plus intermission) of standard Mozart. Not a spectacular way to end a season, but reasonably satisfying on its own terms.
The only thing that might count as uncommon was the brief, portentous overture to "Idomeneo," which McGegan had already played in a more enterprising all-Mozart evening here three years ago. It went well, with tempos on the fast side, the winds a bit forward in the sound mix.
A little slowly at first but with characteristic vigor later, McGegan and company then accompanied the 38-year-old Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti in the Violin Concerto No. 5 — subtitled "Turkish" for its off-the-wall outbreak of strident rhythms in the center of the Rondeau finale.
Baráti isn't that well-known in North America yet, but he should be. He is a serious-looking fellow, playing with a poker-faced expression and no physical histrionics, preferring to let his bow do all of the talking. He produced a large Romantic tone on his Stradivarius with no forcing, a good steady command of the lyrical line in the slow movement, and just enough rambunctiousness in the famous "Turkish" passages.
For the Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter"), the L.A. Phil mustered an extra bit of crispness in ensemble and rhythm, faring best of all at McGegan's quick tempo in the third movement. (The video screens showed the conductor beaming happily at his musicians in response.) The essential grandeur of the piece wasn't neglected either, and nothing got tangled in the intricate goings-on in the finale.
McGegan now returns to his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in the Bay Area, guest appearances elsewhere and his principal guest conductor post at the Pasadena Symphony. That's where, after some ventures forward in time, he seems to be reverting back to his 18th century core in his sole program there Jan. 20.
And this is just the end of the beginning of Mozart for the L.A. Phil. When musicians return for the fall season, music director Gustavo Dudamel has them picking up with two "Mozart 1791" programs and an all-Mozart gala.
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