Dudamel, Wang and LA Phil team up for rich and sumptuous Romantic program
Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic alongside piano phenom Yuja Wang brought verve and consummate musicianship to Avery Fisher Hall Monday evening with a program of music by Daniel Bjarnason, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms.
Bjarnason, the Icelandic darling of Sigur Ros, Efterklang, and the classical world alike, effectively charmed Monday’s audience with his Blow bright, written just last year, and receiving its New York premiere.
The work is cinematic in scope. Part of Bjarnason’s concept was in recreating electronic effects, but Bjarnason’s work in electronic music also is evident in the range of colors he was able to procure from traditional orchestral instrumentation. The opening sounds from the percussion section were crystalline and metallic – a clockwork array of sounds that seemed to come straight from a sound effects library. But the mastery of the piece was in the movement from this opening machinery into lush string parts and a beautiful violin solo that emerged from the orchestra with a truly neat shadow of sound and fashioned reverb behind it. The piece seems to evolve with an imagined landscape, and despite its rhythmic modernity, ends up Romantic in sound and scale.
Yuja Wang never disappoints, but what came across Monday night during her performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is that her true prowess is not in her flawless technique. She makes the thorniest of passages seem tragically easy, but what’s more remarkable is that she can play a simple melody without any affectation, at a neutral dynamic level, and demand rapt attention. The opening melody of the concerto, a unison melancholic line, was soft, and utterly simple. She felt no need for rubato or unnecessary Romanticism. It was plainly stated, and it was gorgeous. Surprisingly, Wang knows when to be understated.
This concerto is notoriously difficult, but Wang has the uncanny ability to make everything seem relaxed. Even the quickest of passages were still delicately phrased. And Dudamel was right alongside her for the ride, never shying from a full orchestral sound that duly supported her.
The evening was rounded out with Brahms’ Second Symphony, led by Dudamel in a deeply rooted interpretation. The lower parts of the orchestra were often given full reign and the depth they created gave an embedded foundation for the entire piece.
Dudamel’s length of phrasing, structural vision and depth of sound were utterly Brahmsian. This was not a delicate Brahms bu the kind where the cellos at the opening of the second movement played with such a rich thickness and uniformity that the overtones rang freely. The orchestra was wholly in sync with each other, both emotionally and literally, through Dudamel’s unique capacity as both a leader and captivated observer/collaborator.