Vassily Sinaisky is not exactly a household name, and until last night, I’d never seen him conduct. The Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre certainly looks the way you’d imagine a maestro to look: tall(ish), sporting white tie and tails (no pajama jacket here), with wavy grey hair brushed up to maximum height. In practice, he was more gracious than flashy. His gestures were generic, but easy to follow, and he used them well-enough to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a solid evening of music.
The Planets by Gustav Holst was the big work for the evening, and in general, Mr. Sinaisky’s interpretation seemed to focus on the big picture without worrying too much about details. This worked better in grander movements like “Mars,” “Jupiter,” and “Uranus,” which were full of momentum, with climaxes growing slowly, naturally, and with a sense of portentous inevitability. Calmer movements sounded pretty enough, but Mr. Sinaisky seemed content with slow and quiet and not much else — “Neptune, the Mystic” was more like “Neptune, the casual,” with the only sense of mystery coming from off-stage placement of the Pacific Chorale’s women behind the audience.
Fortunately for Mr. Sinaisky, the orchestra sounded very good in all of the movements. Fortunate too that Walt Disney Concert Hall’s acoustics allow for as much clarity as it does. Notable individual contributions were many, with my favorites coming from Jim Miller on tenor tuba, Nathan Cole playing as concertmaster, and Andrew Bain on horn.
Mr. Sinaisky and crew opened the concert with Liadov’s Eight Russian Folk Songs. Not particularly memorable music, but it did provide for more solo opportunities for the LA Phil players, particularly Tao Ni (cello) in the third song and Sarah Jackson (piccolo) in the seventh.
Leonidas Kavakos, another artist who I’d never seen perform before, was the soloist in Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. His straight-forward style and mellow stage demeanor matched Mr. Sinaisky’s approach to a “T.” Mr. Kavakos brought precision and musicality in abundance, but if one wanted fireworks too, there were none to be had on this night. In fact, the biggest statement he seemed to make was not with his music, but instead in his wardrobe: a black mandarin collar shirt with black circular designs and red piping. That said, despite its many technical hurdles, the Prokofiev 2nd is not the most showy concerto in the repertoire. I’d be interested in seeing how Mr. Kavakos would approach more extroverted repertoire.
Random other thoughts:
- After the concert, a number of telescopes were set up on the sidewalk along Grand Avenue, care of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and Sidewalk Astronomers. Patrons who were prepared for the windy 30-something degree evening — and even a few who weren’t — stood in line for views of Jupiter and its four largest moons, and other star clusters and nebulae.
- The Philharmonic’s regular English horn player, Carolyn Hove, is on sabbatical this season, and a few different musicians have been playing in her place during her absence. Last night, Anne Marie Gabriele, the orchestra’s second oboe, stepped into the role.
- I noticed in December that Richard D. Kelley, bassist with the orchestra, no longer appears on the orchestra’s official roster. Though there was no official announcement in any of the orchestra’s printed programs, I confirmed that he has retired from the orchestra. Prior to his retirement, he was the longest serving member of the orchestra, having been appointed a member of the LA Phil in the 1950s(!!) by Alfred Wallenstein and played under every subsequent conductor named to be Music Director of the orchestra (Eduard van Beinum, Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, Andre Previn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Gustavo Dudamel). He also played with his father, Richard Kelley, Sr., who was Principal Bass with the orchestra. I wish him well in retirement.
- After three performances of this program at WDCH Thursday-Saturday, conductor, soloist, and orchestra have a quick run-out concert in Palm Springs on Sunday.
Los Angeles Philharmonic: January 11, 2013; Walt Disney Concert Hall
Vassily Sinaisky, conductor
Leonidas Kavakos, violin
Liadov: Eight Russian Folk Songs
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor
Host: The Planets
- Vassily Sinaisky: photo by Jesper Lindgren
- Leonidas Kavakos: courtesy of Decca-Daniel Rega