A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic turned a magical pair of threes into a full house last Saturday night, Oct. 3, in Walt Disney Concert Hall by pairing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and Symphony No. 3, the Eroica.

Andsnes is keen to Beethoven, and he is currently recording the full corpus of piano concertos.  His legato style was precise and overtly virtuosic.  Every note was polished and carefully attended.  The cadenzas were especially captivating as he spun beautiful, flowing ribbons of sound and sent them reeling through the hall.

Dudamel gave the artistic lead to Andsnes, who seemed to pass on the opportunity for a proactive role.  The orchestra had some minor ensemble issues getting started, and expressed a somewhat euthymic prologue.

A different Dudamel took command of the Eroica.  The opening shots spoke volumes.  Each burst was resonant, and the synchrony of orchestral tutti was extraordinary.  By the time of the third note it was obvious that we were entering a new musical space.  Something so familiar was suddenly alive in a new generation.   He stayed large with the sound.  His exuberance welled, perhaps pumped by his recording of the Eroica with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra this year. Now with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Walt Disney Concert Hall, we were hearing something truly unique.

Martin Chalifour and the strings provided significant body and lusciousness.  The winds were especially strong.  Flutist Catherine Ransom Karoly was just delightful; she could hold her own with the full string section behind her.  Oboist Ariana Ghez was stellar, and Andrew Bain’s horn solos soared high.  The horns were magnificent in trio, and their moment was brilliant, a hallmark memory.  Timpanist Joseph Pereira was a dynamo; he received the highest level applause, and it was well deserved.

Without a score taking space, the podium became a small stage where Dudamel extended his range of motion.  In the third movement, his characteristic style came out; unorthodox gestures, unique stances and facial expressions emerged.  I recognized these beautiful moves from his Gershwin at the Hollywood Bowl.  The attitude, the self-assuredness, the swagger – they were there.  Something happened in the moment, the music came to life, it had a personality.  By the end, we were spellbound.  The perfect synchrony and power of the orchestra in the finale was electrifying.   Seeing and hearing this performance was an exquisite experience, begging to be retold.

Bravo, Gustavo!  Bravo!

—Theodore Bell, Culture Spot LA