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Music review: Bringuier and Rachlin with the L.A. Philharmonic at Disney Hall

May 30, 2010 |  4:00 pm
Bringuier Back from its U.S. tour -- which reportedly inspired frenzy from the audiences and a backlash from many critics -- the Los Angeles Philharmonic still had one more program to attend to over Memorial Day weekend. It amounted to an oddly placed epilogue to the 2009-10 season, but it was also a showcase for the other whiz-kid podium talent on the Philharmonic roster, associate conductor Lionel Bringuier.

Bringuier had come dramatically to the rescue of Gustavo Dudamel on May 6 just before the tour when Dudamel pulled a neck muscle in the middle of the concert and couldn’t continue. While Bringuier could only do so much with Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony without a rehearsal, he easily passed the test.

This time, Bringuier had his own program – a good one that spanned much of the 20th century – and his soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Julian Rachlin, has a whiz-kid background of his own.
Rachlin recorded the Sibelius in 1992 when he was 17, with no less an eminence than Lorin Maazel leading the Pittsburgh Symphony. It was not a session for the ages, being one of the slowest recordings of the piece, taking forever to get to the point.

Julian The interesting thing about Rachlin’s performance at the wise old age of 35 Saturday night is that it remained fundamentally the same – to cite one example, the broad treatments of the first movement’s soaring tune and its agonizingly drawn-out aftermath. He obviously had a definite conception from way back.

The difference is that Rachlin probes more deeply and convincingly into his conception now – displaying more control over the long line in the slow movement (which was even slower than before), the harmonics in the third movement now touched with a knowing slyness. Also, Bringuier wasn’t as inclined to dawdle as Maazel did in the first movement’s orchestral interludes, which ran at a good clip toward explosive climaxes. Rachlin mainly hears the piece through a Romantic sensibility, and I suspect that Bringuier wanted to bring it forward into the more objective 20th century. Yet the two conceptions managed to co-exist, often to each other’s benefit.

Alone in front of the Philharmonic, Bringuier brought along two more pieces – one very familiar, the other not so much. “Métaboles” by Henri Dutilleux – who is still very much with us at 94 – is a rather enigmatic work that is clear in its structure and direction yet elusive in its not-quite-diatonic, sometimes brooding, sometimes edgy character. Bringuier produced a deft, sharply pinging response in Walt Disney Concert Hall, a fine match of hall and score.

Esa-Pekka Salonen made Stravinsky’s complete “The Firebird” a specialty of the house during his 17 seasons here – and Bringuier could tap into this legacy in his rendition of the 1919 Suite while bringing some things of his own to the table. The Dance of the Firebird could have used a sprightlier rhythm, but the Infernal Dance hurtled along nicely, and the Finale’s coda revved into overdrive before concluding the suite, the concert and the season on a grand note.

-- Richard S. Ginell

Photo: Lionel Bringuier conducting on May 6. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Julian Rachlin. Credit: Pavel Antonov.