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Music review: Vasily Petrenko conducts the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl

July 29, 2011 |  1:30 pm

PetrenkoRussian conductor Vasily Petrenko and the Los Angeles Philharmonic generated a raw energy and forward drive in the Overture to Glinka’s opera “Ruslan and Ludmilla,” largely missing from the rest of Thursday's Hollywood Bowl performance.

Petrenko finished his two-concert stint at the Bowl with a program that also included Sibelius and Dvorák.

The soloist in Sibelius’ Violin Concerto was Martin Chalifour, the orchestra’s concertmaster since 1995. Chalifour vividly demonstrated Schoenberg's dictum to an overworked student: "There are as many hours in a day as you put into it." The violinist clearly found time for practice, despite having no time off from his other Bowl duties the last two weeks.

With Petrenko and the Philharmonic supporting him, Chalifour delivered a poised and flowing reading. His slender tone was less than ideal for this richly atmospheric score; still, in this concerto, Chalifour was climbing one of the highest mountains in the virtuoso repertory at a noisy venue –- those growling aircraft never failed to appear over the Bowl in the most hushed moments. It’s as if they time it. While Chalifour made it a good part of the way to the summit, with his signature honeyed tone heard to best effect in the Adagio, the Allegro finale lacked intensity, and the Philharmonic’s strings were never given the chance to really dig in for the big tune.

There was a similar reticence to Petrenko’s account of Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony, though his carefully sculpted phrasing gradually generated power. The hypnotic, time-suspending Largo was especially beautiful, with major contributions from David Buck’s flute, Ariana Ghez’s oboe and Carolyn Hove’s plangent English horn. But it wasn't until the rousing finale that Petrenko combined the score’s tender lyricism and extroverted force.

-- Rick Schultz

Photo: Vasily Petrenko conducting Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl concert, his prior concert this week. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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