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Five concerts, four conductors at different stages of their relationship w/ the LA Phil (part 2 of 4): Lionel Bringuier and the latest Green Umbrella new music concert

Lionel BringuierThe first time I learned about Lionel Bringuier was in November 2006.  The late great Alan Rich wrote about how the powers-that-be at the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the time — among them, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Deborah Borda, orchestra musicians, and board members — were blown away by Mr. Bringuier and named him Assistant Conductor at the tender age of 20.

In the ensuing years, Mr. Bringuier has not stopped impressing people wherever he has gone.  Locally, he has been promoted twice, first to Associate Conductor, then in 2011, to the newly created position of Resident Conductor.  Further afield, he’s made repeated waves with notable guest gigs on both sides of the Atlantic before making his biggest splash yet a couple of months ago by being named the new Music Director Designate of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra.

His international profile and experience may be growing, but Los Angeles has probably had the best chance to watch him grow and develop vs. anywhere else in the world.  We’ve seen him conduct a broad range of repertoire under a variety of conditions:  subscription programs at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Toyota Symphonies for Youth educational concerts; Hollywood Bowl gigs with all of their quirks; and as a last-minute replacement — most memorably in 2010 when he took over conducting the Tchaikovsky Sixth Symphony after Gustavo Dudamel injured his neck mid-concert.  Under all circumstances, he has been unflappable, with interpretations that are interesting and enjoyable.

For me, the moment he truly arrived was at the 2011 Ernest Fleischmann Memorial Concert at WDCH.  Sharing the podium that night were Mr. Salonen, the legendary Pierre Boulez, and — in all of his Gen-Y glory — the young Frenchman.  That he would be trusted with such an auspicious occasion would have been noteworthy enough.  That his take on Franco Donatoni’s Arpège was as compelling as it was that night was  a clear validation of how far he had come and how high his potential could truly be.

Laura ClaycombThis past Tuesday, he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s New Music Group again in  Ad Parnassum by Steven Stucky and Lutosławski’s Chantefleurs et Chantefables.  The concert, part of the LA Phil’s “Lutosławski Centennary” celebration, was another reminder that Mr. Bringuier has the orchestra’s confidence.  Mr. Salonen is closely tied to both of those composers’ works, but he was in the house that night  only as a spectator, like the rest of us, getting a chance to sit back and appreciate Mr. Bringuier do his thing.

Ad Parnassum is awash in bright and thick layers of sound despite minimal instrumentation;  with a different ensemble playing under lesser hands, it may even become clotted, but no such problem with these excellent players under Mr. Bringuier’s direction.  With the larger ensemble in Chantefleurs et Chantefables, he maintained momentum despite seeming to take slower tempos than did Mr. Salonen in his 1996 recording.  It provided an ideal setting for soprano Laura Claycomb’s radiant, shimmering voice — what a magnificent instrument she has!  She used it to full effect, creating a mysterious soundscape for the various flowers, ladies, and other creatures that populate the surreal and often funny poems Lutosławski used for this score.

Two other conductor-less works began both halves of the program, each one a tour de force for its respective musicians, both showing off the virtuosity of these orchestra members.  Martin Chalifour and Joanne Pearce Martin gave a fleet and fearless account of the Lutosławski Partita.  Mr. Salonen’s Homunculus, a churning work for string quartet, includes sections that the composer variously describes as being “jagged” and “intricate,” with “a C major chord in an impossibly high register.”  Those qualities certainly came through in this gutsy and seemingly effortless take by Nathan Cole, Akiko Tarumoto, Ben Ullery, and Jonathan Karoly, but they also imbued it with sumptuous, even lyrical, elements that breathed life into the work rather than allowing it to be a mere technical showcase.


Green Umbrella:  December 4, 2012; Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
Lionel Bringuier, conductor
Laura Claycomb, soprano

Lutosławski:  Partita

  • Martin Chalifour (violin); Joanne Pearce Martin (piano)

Stucky:  Ad Parnassum

  • Sarah Jackson (flute/alto flute); Philip O’Connor (clarinet/bass clarinet); James Babor (percussion); Joanne Pearce Martin (piano); Mark Kashper (violin); Gloria Lum (cello)

Salonen:  Homunculus

  • Nathan Cole, Akiko Tarumoto (violins); Benjamin Ullery (viola); Jonathan Karoly (cello)

Lutosławski:  Chantefleurs et Chantefables

  • Sarah Jackson (flute); Anne Marie Gabriele (oboe); Philip O’Connor (clarinet/E-flat clarinet); Shawn Mouser (bassoon/contrabassoon); Gregory Roosa (horn); Thomas Hooten (trumpet); James Miller (trombone); Raynor Carroll (timpani/percussion); Lou Anne Neill (harp); Joanne Pearce Martin (piano/celesta); Nathan Cole, Mark Kashper (violins); Dale Hikawa Silverman (viola); Gloria Lum (cello); Dennis Trembly (double bass)


Photo credits:

  • Lionel Bringuier:  Anastasia Chernyavsky
  • Laura Claycomb:  Gaetan Caputo

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