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Music review: Charles Dutoit conducts L.A. Phil at Disney Hall

February 24, 2012 |  1:08 pm

Charles DutoitThe Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit has a reputation for working fast and knowing what he wants. He was exactly what the Los Angeles Philharmonic needed on Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where he led them in a program of Stravinsky, Debussy and Prokofiev. It was the orchestra’s first concert on its home stage since repeating its recent Mahler symphony cycle in Caracas, Venezuela, with music director Gustavo Dudamel.

Returning Sunday from a trip partly marred by bouts of food poisoning, head colds and flu, the musicians had Monday and Tuesday off to recover from jet lag, and then went into a five-hour double rehearsal on Wednesday.

Before the scheduled program began, Philharmonic president Deborah Borda announced that Lorin Levee, a 36-year veteran of the orchestra and its principal clarinetist since 1981, died on Wednesday. In his honor, Dutoit and the orchestra gave a lovingly shaped account of Ravel’s “The Enchanted Garden,” the moving finale to the ballet “Mother Goose.”

Throughout the concert, the orchestra’s health was never in doubt. In Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” the winds and brasses produced plenty of color, their warm tonal palette cushioning the score’s cool austerity. As a noted orchestral colorist, Dutoit savored the first two sections of Debussy’s “La Mer”: “From Dawn to Noon on the Sea” and “Play of the Waves.” Though the ensemble was a touch uneven in places, they summoned an elemental heft and solidity in the concluding “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea.”

The audience was a refreshing mix of younger and older, with a number of elegantly dressed teen-agers, along with kids in knit caps. One observer guessed the draw was Prokofiev’s Suite from “Romeo and Juliet.” After intermission the orchestra’s account of the suite was riveting — full of innocence and yearning, surging with passion. A different kind of elemental force was conjured, impulsive and emotional.

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--Rick Schultz

Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A.; 8 p.m. Saturday; $70 to $180. (323) 850-2000 or www.laphil.com.

Photo: Charles Dutoit with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2010. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times

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