Le Hollywood Bowl avec un accent français: Denève, Thibaudet, and the LA Phil revel in a Franco-American program
July 30, 2012 Leave a comment
When it comes to standard musical fare at the Hollywood Bowl, it’s tough to come up with two composers more iconic than George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. Besides having their music performed pretty much every summer in the Cahuenga Pass, the two Americans have other close ties to the Bowl:
- The 1937 memorial concert commemorating Gershwin’s too short life was famously broadcast from the Hollywood Bowl, and featured the Los Angeles Philharmonic with a whole host of performers, likely and unlikely, who came to honor the man who first merged jazz and classical music. (BTW: the recording of the concert is a must-have, and includes all sorts of good stuff, including a quirky transcription of the Piano Prelude No. 2 conducted by Otto Klemperer, the LA Phil’s music director at the time.)
- Bernstein spent a few summers conducting at the Bowl, most notably as one of the founders and artistic directors of the now-defunct Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute.
So seeing their music on last Thursday’s program, along with works from Gershwin’s French contemporary, Maurice Ravel, seemed de rigueur — at least at first. Leave it to conductor Stéphane Denève to put a slightly different spin on the night: the theme would be Americans influenced by the French, and French influenced by Americans. Just for good measure, he brought along French pianist and Los Angeles resident, Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
The Marquis de Lafayette, Josephine Baker, Frédéric Bartholdi, and Jerry Lewis would have undoubtably approved of the sentiment. I certainly approved of the outcome.
Mr. Denève proved to be charming, both in his remarks from the stage and in his musical interpretations. The LA Phil sounded quite nice, with many notable solos being contributed by players within their ranks. Mr. Thibaudet knocked the stuffing out of a concerto that was right in his wheel house. Even the Bowl’s temperamental A/V system mostly behaved. There was much to enjoy, and very little to fuss about.