Five concerts, four conductors at different stages of their relationship w/ the LA Phil (part 3 of 4): Esa-Pekka Salonen then and now
December 20, 2012 1 Comment
When Esa-Pekka Salonen comes back to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic, you expect finely polished performances of complex programs. In two weekends of concerts earlier this month, that’s exactly what you got and then some. E-P was in town to help the orchestra celebrate Lutosławski’s centenary, with both sets of programs featuring major works by the much-admired Polish composer.
The first weekend’s Friday performance was probing, athletic, and rich in detail. Lutosławski’s First Symphony, with its traditional four movement structure, sounded closer to works by Shostakovich or Bartók — or his own Concerto for Orchestra – than the Second Symphony that he would pen two decades later. The LA Phil playing was as crisp and whip-crack precise as it could be, making it sound like old hat rather than a premiere for both orchestra and conductor. In addition, the orchestra’s brass gave the brief but raucous Fanfare for Los Angeles Philharmonic a no-holds-barred reading that pinged brightly throughout Walt Disney Concert Hall.
That orchestra and conductor slayed the Lutosławski should shock no one. Mr. Salonen’s relationship with the orchestra goes back almost three decades, and the chemistry between the LA Phil and its Conductor Laureate remains superb. In fact, E-PS’s 1984 debut with the orchestra included Lutosławski’s much thornier Third Symphony, and it was on the strength of those performances that the relationship was allowed to blossom and grow to ESP levels: As Mr. Salonen tweeted: ”Such a joy to be back with my old band in LA. They sound great and still somehow read my mind. Deeply touched & humbled by the experience.”
His evolving skill with Beethoven is an entirely different matter.