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Music review: Tovey, L.A. Phil, Master Chorale at Hollywood Bowl

September 14, 2011 | 11:35 am

Bramwell ToveyNormally, Bramwell Tovey is the most incorrigibly witty of Hollywood Bowl hosts, but on this given Tuesday night, he was absolutely serious. It was only two days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and Tovey had designed and dedicated an all-choral/orchestral program that, he said, was in remembrance of “those whose lives 10 years ago were brutally cut short.”

This coupling of the classic and the contemporary -- Mozart’s unfinished Requiem and Leonard Bernstein’s marvelous “Chichester Psalms” -- would have been an inspired one regardless of the occasion. What’s interesting about both pieces is that they end with more or less the same music that can be heard in their beginnings -- which in itself is a poignant statement about the renewal of life after a catastrophe.   

Bernstein spent a good deal of his 1965 sabbatical from the New York Philharmonic toying with 12-tone experiments before abandoning them in favor of this unapologetically tonal, joyful, if not completely untroubled, setting of six Psalms. In some ways, it is a microcosm of several aspects of his personality: the snazzy, extroverted Lenny of Broadway; the classically trained Great Communicator of color and form; the earnest Jewish intellectual working through a perceived crisis of faith; the fervent crusader for world peace.  

“Chichester Psalms” survived the polemic wars of its time and has received many recordings, but its tricky rhythms probably limit the number of live performances it gets. Luckily, we got a good one at the Bowl from Tovey, shaped much along the lines of Bernstein’s own tempos. 

The featured boy alto, Caleb Glickman, sang brightly and clearly, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Master Chorale managed the jumping 7/4-meter syncopations of the first movement pretty well on short rehearsal time, falling just a bit short of total ignition.

The Mozart Requiem found Tovey pushing through a propulsive conception -- even in the famously anguished Lacrimosa -- with a well blended solo vocal quartet, a strong and unified Master Chorale, and somewhat less unanimity but plenty of energy from the Philharmonic.  For those who care, no edition was specified in the program, but the performance generally stuck to the traditional Süssmayr completion of the score.

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Music review: Bramwell Tovey and Joyce Yang with the L.A. Phil

 -- Richard S. Ginell

Photo: A September 2010 photo of Bramwell Tovey conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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