For his two weeks of residency at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, Gustavo Dudamel is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his debut at the venue. This Read More
For his two weeks of residency at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, Gustavo Dudamel is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his debut at the venue. This is no insignificant thing. Unlike most, or perhaps every, Los Angeles Philharmonic music director in the past, Dudamel considers the Bowl an integral part of his musical mission. He doesn’t look down his nose at it.
Dudamel is a populist, at least in terms of his conception of an audience, and the Bowl is where he can perform for a large and diverse one. His fortnight of programs has included “Carmina Burana” and the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular (name the last music director to conduct that), and ends Thursday with a lively Mozart menu. Tuesday, it was Mendelssohn.
Good old quaint, charming and graceful Mendelssohn might seem an odd fit for the supposedly hot-blooded Latin Dudamel, but he has shown a penchant for the composer in the past, particularly with a revival of the composer’s neglected “Reformation” Symphony a couple of seasons ago.
The main order of business Tuesday was the complete – and glorious – incidental music to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the overture to which is probably the greatest music by a 17-year-old in the classical canon. The rest, around 45 minutes of music, written more than a decade later, includes the brilliant Scherzo and the famous “Wedding March.”
Max Reinhardt’s 1934 production of “Midsummer” at the Bowl, enlisting, among others, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, remains one of its most historic events. Focusing on the music rather than the play, Tuesday’s presentation had no ambition to match it, but theatrical elements arrived in the form of decorative kinetic lighting on the Bowl’s arch and illustrations projected on the big screens, as well as a scene from Reinhardt’s movie version.
None other than Bryce Dallas Howard, star of “Jurassic World,” trippingly read excerpts from Shakespeare’s play, but only as they led into or accompanied Mendelssohn’s music, the plot merely hinted at. The musical performance was terrific, Dudamel eliciting melodious warmth and rhythmic finesse from the orchestra, some untidiness here and there notwithstanding. The nuances were supple but constant, small clauses in the music gently highlighted, the conductor smiling a good deal of the time.
Soprano Deanna Breiwick was luminous in her solos, and ably seconded by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway and the nimble women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. It was a lovely way to spend an evening at the Bowl.
Before intermission, violinist Gil Shaham returned to the composer’s ubiquitous Violin Concerto, but no complaints. His was a free, easy and limber reading, generous of bow and vibrato and also portamento. There was a digging in and relishing every bite quality to the performance, but his technique was so smooth undue aggression never entered into it. Dudamel and the orchestra offered robust support. The conductor makes us want to hear more Mendelssohn, and that’s an accomplishment.