A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Ludovic Morlot / photo courtesy of LA Phil

A little more than one year ago, we reviewed a performance in Walt Disney Concert Hall by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by the young French conductor Ludovic Morlot and commented that he was “a young conductor to keep your eyes and ears on.” So we were excited to see what he could do on Saturday night with the LA Phil playing three works, The Shadows of Time by French composer Henri Dutilleux; the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 by Mozart, with Emanuel Ax as soloist; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67.

The Dutilleux, which consists of five smaller interconnected movements and an interlude between the third and fourth, is scored for large orchestra and three children’s voices, sung by three members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus at this performance. In the third movement, “Evil Ariel,” the children sing two phrases together, “Why us?” “Why the star?,” referring to the star of David, as the entire work was inspired by the discovery of the Anne Frank diary and the deportation of an orphanage of Jewish children to concentration camps.

Although about 20 minutes in length, the Dutilleux felt much shorter, in part because of its evocative orchestral writing, in which the composer is very frugal with individual instruments, in particular, the percussion, using them just for the right effect.

Morlot reaffirmed our initial impression of him with his mesmerizing performance, so we were disappointed when, after intermission, an announcement was made that he was too sick with bronchitis to continue. Taking his place, without any rehearsals, would be Dudamel Conducting Fellow Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla.

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla / photo courtesy of LA Phil

The very young-appearing Grazinyte-Tyla walked on stage with Ax for the Mozart. She launched into the Allegre Maestoso with confidence and conviction, and even though her movements seemed a bit exaggerated, she conducted the piece wonderfully. Admittedly, Grazinyte-Tyla had help, not only from a world-class orchestra that could probably play the piece without a conductor, but also from a seasoned pianist who very graciously followed her. Still, they pulled it off beautifully. Of course, what can be said about Ax’s playing? It was perfect and displayed the apparent ease with which Mozart himself played the keyboard.

Grazinyte-Tyla also had help from the last piece on the program, the Beethoven 5th Symphony. Not only has the LA Phil played it countless times, but based on how she cued different instruments and sections, it appeared as if Grazinyte-Tyla herself has conducted it before. However, to be thrust in front of the audience at Disney Hall at almost the last minute (She probably knew earlier in the day that she would be called upon to finish the concert, because she would have had a difficult time leading the orchestra in the Dutilleux) had to be both scary and exhilarating. After all, more than a few conductors (e.g., Leonard Bernstein) have shown their mettle under similar circumstances and gone on to become world-renowned.

To her credit, Grazinyte-Tyla led the orchestra in a quick, but tight and stirring performance of the Beethoven and showed why Dudamel selected her as a conducting fellow. And even though the LA Phil has played this symphony many times, they made it sound as fresh as if it were the first time. Maybe that was due, in part, to the freshness of the young conductor.

Following both the Mozart and Beethoven, the audience showed their warm appreciation for Grazinyte-Tyla’s ability not only to step in at the last minute, but to do so without missing a beat.

~Henry Schlinger, Culture Spot LA

For information about future concerts, visit www.laphil.com.