This past weekend on Saturday, Nov. 23rd at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic gave a particularly exciting performance. Conducted by guest conductor, Manfred Honeck, Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in an all Dvorak program the orchestra showed just how good we know them to be. Joining Honeck was guest soloist, Frank Peter Zimmermann, the German violinist, performing Dvorak’s Violin Concerto in A major. The sold out matinee performance was a rare treat to hear and see Honeck’s conducting genius.
To create an optimum acoustical balance, Maestro Honeck placed the musicians in a different order than we usually see on the stage. Speaking with Maestro Honeck afterwards, he graciously explained that this orchestral placement was commonly used in the early 20th century. “Gustav Mahler, for example” Honeck explained, “wrote his music for this style” setup which provides a special “resonance and clarity” for the overall sound.
Opening the concert was Dvorak’s Festive Carnival Overture Op. 92 filled with drama, dance tunes and beautiful melody. From the first downbeat that leapt out of Maestro Honeck’s lithe presence on the podium, the orchestra responded with tremendous and brilliantly controlled phrases full of passionate intensity, immediately setting everyone on the edge of their seats. From the electrifying opening phrase the work continued with breathless intensity up to the last measure, when the audience went crazy with Bravos.
Dvorak’s beautiful and tuneful Violin concerto in A minor, Op. 53 followed. On the stage was guest soloist Frank Peter Zimmermann, the well-known German violinist. Zimmerman’s gorgeous warm tone, gypsy fire and controlled pyrotechnic achievements were matched by his intense stage presence. Under Honeck’s nuanced direction, the LA Philharmonic accompanied this wonderful artist with great fervor, making for a a compelling performance of this concerto.
After the intermission, the massive and exciting Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8th was performed. Conducting without a score, Honeck brought to life many musical traditions in the Czech dances featured in Dvorak’s Symphony with much impact. Especially thrilling were the moments of joyful fortes that then breathlessly lowered to the barest hints of pianissimo. Each moment always told story.
Each LA Phil soloist or section featured in the Symphony, from the brass, winds, and strings, were superb. Principal timpanist, Joseph Pereira performed with precise and elegant tones on the kettle drums. His playing added powerful beats to Dvorak’s over the top music.
At the conclusion of this tour-de-force performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, the audience erupted yet again for Honeck and the LA Philharmonic, with a house full of whistles, bravos, and a standing ovation for the brilliant artists on stage.
For this reviewer, this concert will be long remembered for its emotional and musical impact. It was as a rare and special event. One hopes that Maestro Manfred Honeck will be invited again to guest conduct the LA Philharmonic in the future.
For more information about upcoming Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts see: www.laphil.com