Saturday, March 9, 2019

concert review: Los Angeles Philharmonic

In Disney Hall. Yes, I'm in LA; tell you tomorrow what for, but in the meantime I went to Friday night's concert.

Dudamel conducted the premiere of a new work by John Adams, plus Mahler's First. It was an interesting echo, because in his very first concert as music director, nearly ten years ago now, he conducted ... the premiere of a new work by John Adams, plus Mahler's First.

The premiere this time was a piano concerto titled Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?, a rhetorical question attributed to Martin Luther. But the question I have is, was I too tired out - for it had been a long day after a short night - to appreciate this properly? For despite the estimable Yuja Wang (clad as a leather dominatrix, I guess) as soloist, this did not seem to me to be top-drawer Adams, which tends towards the luminous. This struck me as clotted and undifferentiated clanging noise, succeeded eventually by some less clanging noise, followed by a resurrection of the clanging noise. Yuja worked very hard, but virtue is not its own reward.

As for the only Mahler symphony I really like, Dudamel seems to have outgrown the drastic and rather odd tempo modifications he employed on the recording I've heard of his earlier outings. It was still a dramatic mixture of the thrusting and the reticent, and he did not stint on encouraging the orchestra in weird and often harsh sound quality in a variety of passages. An interesting and striking rendition.

Instead of my usual when-in-LA pre-concert dinner in my favorite Mexican place on Olvera Street, I ate in a (previously visited) Cajun place in, of all neighborhoods, Chinatown. Coming back to my rented car in street parking around the corner in this rather dodgy neighborhood, after politely dealing with the guy who wanted to exclaim how similar my license plate number was to his even though they actually had nothing in common, I found in the vacant lot nearby a feral cat colony. Four cats were visible, one of them fuligen-like black. I tried to entice them nearer, but they were scared and gradually disappeared.

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