By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Los Angeles Philharmonic; Lionel Bringuier, conductor; Gautier Capuçon, cello
Schumann: Cello Concerto; Dvorak: Symphony No. 5
Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 • Walt Disney Concert Hall
Next performances: Today at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
On a cold, rainy night Lionel Bringuier and the Los Angeles Philharmonic brought 35 minutes of sunshine into Walt Disney Concert Hall last night with an ebullient performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5. However, there was a tinge of sadness to the evening, as well. Barring a last-minute cancellation by a scheduled conductor, this weekend will mark Bringuier’s final Disney Hall appearances as the Phil’s associate conductor (he does have one concert this summer at Hollywood Bowl).
Four years ago at the age of 20, Bringuier came to Los Angeles to work with then-Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen. He stayed through the transition to Gustavo Dudamel as music director and now he’s off to bigger things, worse luck for us. Last season he took over as Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León in Valladolid, Spain but he’s undoubtedly destined for much bigger stages, probably in the near future. We’ve been lucky to have him.
Last night offered another demonstration of Bringuier’s prodigious talent. Among many things about the slender Frenchman with an assured, elegant conducting style, two things have always stood out for me: the orchestra always seems to be in top form when he’s on the podium and it plays with a different sound than under any other conductor. It’s a lean, almost tensile-strong type of tone; I hesitate to call it a French sound but it’s similar to what Charles Dutoit got out of the Montreal Symphony at the height of their 25-year collaboration.
Case in point: Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5. Unlike his brooding fourth symphony, laced with Wagnerian overtones, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5 has a pastoral feel and was written in the key of F major (the same key signature as Beethoven’s sixth and Glazunov’s seventh symphonies — in his preconcert lecture, Alan Chapman told his audience, “If you’re going to rush home and write a pastoral symphony, don’t mess with the consensus”).
Last night, Bringuier’s sound was cannily couched for Dvorak’s Symphony No. 5 and was evident from the first movement, which was played with boisterous joy and included stellar solos from Lorin Levee on clarinet and Eric Overholt on French horn. The two inner movements featured sumptuous, lyrical playing, and the finale was a winning meld of lyricism and exuberance.
The other work on the “Casual Friday” program was Schumann’s Cello Concerto, with Bringuier’s fellow Frenchman, Gautier Capuçon, as soloist. Capuçon — who must have found it a bit odd playing with a conductor who is four years younger — displayed the same kind of lean tone that Bringuier favored. The two attacked the concerto with the fierceness of youth and carried it off with élan.
• As has been the case with most “Casual Friday” concerts I’ve attended, this one started late enough that, if it had actually begun on time at 8 p.m., could have included Smetana’s The Moldau, which will be played tonight and tomorrow.
• After several recent concerts that used massive percussion sections, Principal Timpanist Joseph Pereira must have felt quite lonely in the back of the orchestra last night. The concerto uses only timpani and the symphony is scored for just timpani and triangle.
• This is a weekend for Schumann concertos. Robert Thies will be the soloist when the Pasadena Symphony plays the composer’s Piano Concerto today at 2 and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium (INFO).
• If you’re coming to tonight’s concert, be prepared for weather and parking issues. One couple told me it took them two hours to get to Disney Hall from Santa Monica last night. In addition to tonight’s performance, LA Opera is opening its production of Rossini’s The Turk in Italy at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Jane Fonda continues her run in 33 Variations at the Ahmanson Theatre.
• Capuçon will return in the season’s final concerts, June 2-5, joining his brother, Renaud, for the Brahms Double Concerto (INFO). They weren’t originally scheduled but got added when the previously scheduled Symphony No. 4 by Henryk Gorecki was cancelled following the composer’s death last November.
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.