Following up last week’s pairing of Beethoven and De Falla, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos offered another program at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday night with a similar formula: Haydn with Spanish and quasi-Spanish music. And he had company in the form of cellist Lynn Harrell, who was in a mischievous mood.
After an innocuous launch into the first movement cadenza of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C, Harrell started inserting funny pauses that produced some giggles. Then he became a human iPod, running through quotes from the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Mahler 2, Schubert 9 and Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony -- with Frühbeck de Burgos and the Los Angeles Philharmonic interjecting their own “surprise.”
It was all very loony and, frankly, delightful.
The rest of the concerto was handled straight-forwardly, with Harrell still in command of the fast technical work in the finale -- and his encore was quite serious, a soulful rendition of the “Mélodie” from Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” dedicated to easing strife in the world.
Frühbeck de Burgos prefaced all of this with a graceful rendering of some relatively rare Haydn, the Symphony No. 6 (“Le Matin”) -- part of a morning-noon-night symphony cycle where Haydn’s classical style and wit were already blooming.
The “Spanish” second half began with five of Frühbeck de Burgos’ eight orchestrations of piano pieces from Albeniz’s “Suite Espanola,” made when the conductor was in his 30s and engraved on a spectacular Decca recording. Everything implied in Albeniz’s miniatures was blown up to big, lush, splashy proportions, leaving little to the imagination, and Frühbeck de Burgos revisited his youthful indulgences with loving care.
Ravel’s own doggedly slow tempo for his “Bolero” has won some advocates recently, but Frühbeck de Burgos was having none of it. He set a propulsive pace, producing fierce drive that culminated in an explosive end game. No auto-pilot playing in this “Bolero”; the orchestra sounded thoroughly involved.