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Music review: Vassily Sinaisky and Nikolaj Znaider with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall

April 15, 2011 | 11:42 am

From the ear-stretching rigors of Adès and Messiaen to the soothing romantic verities of Elgar and Tchaikovsky –- that’s how some might view the transition from last week to this week at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  

ZnaiderBut is it all that simple?  Elgar’s Violin Concerto -– the longest violin concerto in the mainstream repertoire (usually taking about 50 minutes to perform) –- is not an easy piece for soloist or conductor to control, nor does it offer the instant gratification of instantly memorable tunes and structures.  And the rip-roaring performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 Thursday night by Vassily Sinaisky and the Los Angeles Philharmonic was definitely not designed to soothe. 

Fortunately, Znaider had a more interesting collaborator in Sinaisky, who without speeding things up made the gigantic concerto move along better with leaner textures and more pronounced rhythm.  The score is so explicit in its instructions on expression and tempo fluctuation that the emotion is practically built in -– and Znaider, without physical showboating, could convey enough of it, coaxing a darkish, slightly wiry tone on what the program stated was the Kreisler instrument.  Still, despite its diverting quirks –- the long-accompanied third movement cadenza in particular -– there is something missing from this piece as it tries to establish a British identity while looking backwards toward Brahms and Wagner.

Then Sinaisky rattled through Tchaikovsky with extroverted Russian fire.  It was loud, fast, brassy, attentive to detail, no sentimentality allowed –- and the splendid pizzicato scherzo gathered unusual, tremendous momentum with stunning definition in the basses.  One wonders whether Sinaisky took some inspiration from Evgeny Mravinsky, the revered Russian maestro who set a standard (and a modern speed record) in this piece.  One could do worse.


Violinist Nikolaj Znaider conducts, too

 –- Richard S. Ginell

Los Angeles Philharmonic with Nikolaj Znaider and Vassily Sinaisky; Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A.; 8 p.m. Friday (Casual Friday concert, Elgar only) and 2 p.m. Saturday; $23.75-$177; (323) 850-2000 or

Photo: Nikolaj Znaider. Credit: