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Music review: Bernard Labadie, Benedetto Lupo with the L.A. Phil

December 17, 2011 | 12:41 pm

   Bennedetto LupoThose who were looking for a break from mid-December’s all-holiday-music-all-the-time agenda at Walt Disney Concert Hall were in luck Friday morning.  

Bernard Labadie, one of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s go-to guest conductors for classical and baroque fare, was back, this time with an all-Mozart program weighted in the direction of last works in a genre -– the final symphony (No. 41 “Jupiter”) and the final piano concerto (No. 27).  The Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo was making his philharmonic debut in the concerto which, according to a laconic program note, was first performed by the philharmonic in 1939 with none other than Otto Klemperer conducting and Artur Schnabel at the piano (talk about Olympian gravitas!). 

The concert will be repeated Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

LabadieLupo has maintained a low-key presence since capturing the bronze at the 1989 Van Cliburn Competition; he is physically unflashy in the extreme, and you can count his available recordings on one hand.  Yet he struck a great balance in Mozart with a forthright touch, sparing use of the pedal, and subtle poetry –- neither overly aggressive nor overly precious –- and his playing in the finale had a floating quality that contrasted with Labadie’s rhythmic thrusts.

Labadie’s “Jupiter” Symphony was bracingly vigorous, with a jaunty swinging feeling in the menuetto.  As always, Labadie managed to get the Philharmonic strings to observe period-performance practices such as using little or no vibrato, yet without sacrificing the lushness of a modern symphony orchestra. 

There was also some out-of-the-way Mozartean pomp in the form of the chaconne -– which doesn’t behave like a chaconne –- from the ballet music for “Idomeneo,” equipped with a succinct concert ending that Labadie devised himself. He dashed it off at a fleet tempo, getting a full-blooded sound from his small band of players.


Year-end picks from the Los Angeles Times art critics

 –- Richard S. Ginell

Los Angeles Philharmonic with Bernard Labadie and Benedetto Lupo; Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; $24-$180; (323) 850-2000 or

Photos: Pianist Benedetto Lupo and conductor Bernard Labadie with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times