×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Michael Tilson Thomas With the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Tilson Thomas returned to the Los Angeles Philharmonic as an eminent visiting maestro, tackling familiar American music Thursday night.

With:
Performers: Thomas Hampson, Gore Vidal, Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

The Hollywood Bowl welcomed back an estranged old friend last week – Michael Tilson Thomas, who hadn’t conducted there since 1985. No longer the eternal whiz kid, now with twelve adventurous seasons as music director of the San Francisco Symphony behind him, Tilson Thomas returned to the Los Angeles Philharmonic as an eminent visiting maestro, tackling familiar American music Thursday night.

As co-principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Tilson Thomas had been omnipresent at the Bowl in the early 1980s – organizing a memorable Stravinsky Festival in 1982, energetically directing the late L.A. Philharmonic Institute for several summers. Some also remember the infamous night in 1985 when Tilson Thomas stalked off the Bowl podium in the middle of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 when a noisy hovering police helicopter refused to leave (he did so again at a subsequent concert, his last at the Bowl). Alas, the aircraft problem here remains, but now Tilson Thomas shrugs it off; he doesn’t have to live with it anymore.

Tilson Thomas draws upon an almost unparalleled tank of experience with American music, having associated closely with two of the composers on the program (Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland) and the brother of another (George Gershwin). He knows what makes this music tick; he can capture its idiomatic rhythmic snap, its slang and swing, its brashness and earnest grandeur.

For some reason, things didn’t ignite in Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story.” Tilson Thomas seemed wooden, even a bit bored, the dance rhythms were surprisingly clumsy, the fight scenes lacked tension. Seek out his sizzling recording with the London Symphony on Deutsche Grammophon for a demo of what he can do with this music.

Yet at the other end of the evening, Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” brought out the real Tilson Thomas – jaunty, rhapsodic, swaggeringly at home with the homesick-blues episodes.

In between Bernstein and Gershwin were two of Copland’s so-called populist scores – again, prime MTT territory. He allied himself with the still-virile lyric baritone of Thomas Hampson in seven of Copland’s ten “Old American Songs,” playing off each other in a hearty, heroic, folksy, whimsical dialogue.

In Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” the narrator was the formidable literary warrior Gore Vidal, who in profile from his wheelchair now bears a ghostly resemblance to Carl Sandburg. His voice was high-pitched, his delivery so drawn out that Tilson Thomas sometimes had to hold the chords for an eternity in order to stay on track. But Vidal’s impressive aura of gravitas could not be denied – and Lincoln’s words resonated powerfully with Vidal’s own trenchant written broadsides about our present government.

Michael Tilson Thomas With the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Hollywood Bowl, 17,376 seats, $93 top

Production: Presented by Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Reviewed August 2, 2007.

Cast: Performers: Thomas Hampson, Gore Vidal, Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

More Scene

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content