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Music review: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducts the LA Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl

July 14, 2010 |  2:23 pm
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, 76 years young and now well along in the grand old master phase of his career, has been getting splendid results from the Los Angeles Philharmonic indoors of late, especially in repertoire of color and flash. With that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to take their act outdoors into the vast Hollywood Bowl, which they did Tuesday night and will do so again Thursday in a different program.

RafaelFruhbeckdeBurgos On Tuesday, there was a tightly unified theme: French music spanning chronologically from 1880 to 1912. True, one couldn't expect all of the color and detail to emerge as vividly as it would have in Walt Disney Concert Hall – and as is often the case in the Bowl, the sound didn't begin to bloom until the temperature dropped some and darkness took over. Once it did, though, Frühbeck de Burgos and company seemed to bloom as well.

Although Saint-Saens' third and last Violin Concerto is the most-often-heard of the three, it is still not exactly a frequent calling card, despite its plethora of good, memorable tunes, razzle-dazzle virtuosity and easy rapport with an audience. Soloist Martin Chalifour played down the razzle-dazzle, offering his usual poise and objective approach to the lyrical elements. Yet while Frühbeck de Burgos maintained an equitable balance between the orchestra and soloist, the accompaniment seemed stuck in neutral; it needed more of a graceful lilt in the second movement and more energy elsewhere.

Moving into the 20th century after intermission, Debussy's "La Mer" was a different story -- more animated, alive, sensual, lived-in, vigorous when it had to be. Working without a score, Frühbeck de Burgos obviously had a definite conception of what he wanted, making all kinds of flexible, subtle adjustments in tempo and phrasing that made it seem almost like an improvisation. But the shape of each movement was always clear, and Frühbeck de Burgos knew how to make the climaxes explode with just the right sense of timing.  

The second suite from Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe," essentially the final fourth of the ballet sans chorus, was another object lesson from Frühbeck de Burgos on how to deliver plenty of power and sensuality without getting frantic or lingering too long. The video screens occasionally gave conductor-watchers valuable glimpses of Frühbeck de Burgos at work from the front, delivering sly, knowing glances to his players as cues. The long flute solo was masterfully played by the San Diego Symphony's principal flutist  Demarre McGill, subbing for Catherine Ransom Karoly, who was ill.

-- Richard S. Ginell

Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursday. (For this program, violinist Joshua Bell joins Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and the Philharmonic.) $1-$99. (323) 850-2000 or

Photo: Undated photo of Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Credit: Los Angeles Philharmonic