The final Classical Tuesday concert of the 2007 Hollywood Bowl season happened to fall on the dreaded date of Sept. 11, but Leonard Slatkin was prepared for the occasion. There were no safe appeals to sentimentality and solemn super-patriotism; instead, his program dared to ask the audience to stretch its ears for a little while. It was all-American — at one point, a bit Latin-American — divided neatly and evenly between what Slatkin called “pastoral and urban” visions of America.
The pastoral portion started on a comfortable foundation with a most affectionate, lingering, naturally breathing performance of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” suite.
Edgar Meyer’s Double Bass Concerto No. 1 — substituted for his announced Concerto No. 2 — extended the rural scenery, if not the language, of Copland with its jolly spiraling blues scales in the first movement, wry lyricism in the second movement and Appalachian fiddle-tune groove in the finale. Meyer, who has a new compilation “The Best of Edgar Meyer” out on Sony, was the gentle bear of a soloist, and he added some playful solo pizzicato jazz licks in his encore, “Pickle.”
Slatkin then took a risk, launching the urban second half with Gunther Schuller’s “Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee” — last played by the Phil in 1974, yet never before performed at the Bowl. Epigrammatic, understated, bitingly dissonant, with one movement of sauntering jazz and another based rather provocatively (in the context of Sept. 11) on Arabic music, it’s a tough, ear-catching fusion of idioms that was bound to ruffle some staid feathers in the boxes. Which it did, despite Slatkin’s helpful idea of projecting the Klee paintings on the video screens along with the music.
Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” could have been a return to what passes for normalcy here, but that’s not what jazz pianist Michel Camilo had in mind. His recent Telarc recording of the piece was controversial, and his interpretation remains so, filled with wild inorganic tempo fluctuations and now marred by bunches of wrong notes. Slatkin, though, managed to keep the orchestral part on an even keel. It was choppy and scattered, if fascinating in a perverse way. Camilo’s flaming encore, “Tropical Jam” — basically a Caribbean hoedown for piano and orchestra — was far more ingratiating.