In the first half of the program, our old Resident Conductor Lionel Bringuier—back for a visit—dragged Debussy’s Faune out as slow as it could go without breaking down. It was a wallow, but—Wow—what a sound!
Yuja Wang’s performance of Mozart’s 9th piano concerto was first time I’ve ever heard her given an opportunity to be introspective. It suits her. She doesn’t need to slam the keyboard to smithereens: she can hold back, and play neatly and quietly. She radiated the kind of sympathy and tact we’re all very much in need of these days.
Salonen’s 2014 Karawane is also a kind of concerto--for chorus and orchestra. It calls for virtuosity and the L.A. Master Chorale delivered: muttering and lyric exhalations, shrieks and barks and shattering dense harmonies.
I detect Salonen’s conducting experience in two ways. One is the way his music echoes the music he conducts—in this case, the Requiem Canticles, Nocturnes, Daphnis & Chloé, even Carmina Burana. His earlier Nyx for orchestra had the same playlist behind it.
The other way his compositions betray his experience as conductor is that many performers are given star turns. The choir may have been the main attraction, but there was a show-stopping eruption from the cello. And L.A. Phil’s percussion team—including rock band drum kit—punctuated the choir’s exclamations and propelled everything forward.
The text for Salonen’s piece is a sound poem by Hugo Ball. I see Ball’s text as sweetly comic, but Salonen sees ebbs and flows of conflict and bliss. I suspect Ball would be amused by the attention. There’s a video of yet another impassioned reading of the poem by Marie Osmond! (Fast forward to 1:47.)
[Image: The Brücke Choir (George Baselitz, 1983)]