Aspirited all-Mozart concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gerard Schwarz conducting provided the first musical flurries of the summer Hollywood Bowl season. The Tuesday performance was the first in a weeklong series of anticipatory events that led up to the official opening night on Tuesday: Sort of a musical shake-down cruise. It also provided a local debut for a promising young pianist, Bruce Brubaker.
Gerard Schwarz and Mozart are a familiar combination to local concertgoers after the conductor’s eight-year tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. This, however, was his first Bowl appearance at the helm of the L.A. Philharmonic. And while the results were mixed, the evening itself was in the grand tradition of concertizing beneath the stars.
Two symphonies, the No. 34 in C, K. 338, and the No. 41 in C (“Jupiter”), K. 551, bookended a performance of the Piano Concerto in F, K. 459. They speak volumes about the composer: The first by an exuberant young man (24) about to burst onto the cultured world of Vienna, the second a virtuoso creation by a mature artist at the height of his success, and the third his final supreme expression in the symphonic medium.
The performances, on the whole, were crisp, attentive to detail, well developed and filled with energetic drive. The piano concerto, unfortunately, rendered the least satisfaction. Brubaker’s performance captured the light, fragile qualities of the work, at times even giving the impression that the piano had become a twinkling music box. But overall, the playing felt technically efficient and emotionally deficient.
This performance never expanded the dynamic range of the instrument into the realm of a virtuoso interpretation. His trills were precise, but the thrills were lacking.
Schwarz’s interpretive skills in the two symphonies ran deeper. His rendition of the “Symphony No. 34” stressed its operatic influences. The first movement unfolded in an overturelike manner, while the second possessed the lyric lilt of an extended aria.
But it was in the performance of the “Jupiter Symphony,” with its soul-searching second movement and brilliant thematic development, that orchestra and conductor achieved their finest results.