Kuerti proves a skilled sub­sti­tute

The Cana­dian opens the L.A. Cham­ber Or­ches­tra sea­son for ail­ing Jef­frey Ka­hane.

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Rick Schultz

The Los An­ge­les Cham­ber Or­ches­tra be­gan its 42nd sea­son Satur­day at the Alex Theater with­out its mu­sic di­rec­tor, Jef­frey Ka­hane. Side­lined by mononu­cle­o­sis, Ka­hane se­lected a first-rate con­duc­tor to step in for him.

Ju­lian Kuerti, son of the dis­tin­guished pi­anist An­ton Kuerti, is a 33-year-old Cana­dian who com­pleted his ten­ure last month as as­sis­tant con­duc­tor to James Levine at the Bos­ton Sym­phony. In a pro­gram in­spired by the theme of en­chant­ment, Kuerti con­fi­dently led Ka­hane’s band in works rep­re­sent­ing a broad stylis­tic range, from Haydn to Pierre Jal­bert. More­over, he and the or­ches­tra proved su­perb col­lab­o­ra­tors for the evening’s star soloist, vi­o­lin­ist Leila Jose­fow­icz.

In the con­cert’s cen­ter­piece, Jose­fow­icz, also Cana­dian-born, gave an ex­tra­or­di­nary per­for­mance of Prokofiev’s lyrical and rugged Vi­o­lin Con­certo No. 1. The great vi­o­lin­ist Joseph Szigeti once noted that the con­certo mixed “fairy-tale naiveté and dar­ing sav­agery.” Jose­fow­icz caught both qual­i­ties in this ethe­real and grip­ping ac­count. Through­out, Kuerti and or­ches­tra re­mained sen­si­tively tied to her warm-toned play­ing, mak­ing the melod­i­cally lux­u­ri­ous fi­nale es­pe­cially mem­o­rable.

The pro­gram opened with Men­delssohn’s Over­ture, Scherzo and Noc­turne from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Kuerti, who was a vi­o­lin soloist him­self, mag­i­cally con­veyed the com­poser’s fan­ci­ful con­cep­tion. The jaunty Scherzo mar­velously con­trasted with a Noc­turne ap­pro­pri­ately slum­ber­ing (in the play, Oberon has or­dered Puck to re­store or­der while ev­ery­one sleeps) but never so­porific.

Af­ter in­ter­mis­sion came Jal­bert’s “Les es­paces in­fi­nis” (“The In­fi­nite Spa­ces”), com­posed in 2001. Jal­bert, an Amer­i­can who grew up in Ver­mont, was the or­ches­tra’s com­poser-in-res­i­dence from 2002 to 2005. His com­po­si­tion, il­lu­mi­nated here by con­cert­mas­ter Mar­garet Bat­jer’s sweet tone, usu­ally lasts 11 min­utes. Kuerti’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion clocked in at closer to nine, cre­at­ing a more ur­gent ef­fect. The mu­sic seems to be ever striv­ing and search­ing. It’s Jal­bert’s ver­sion of Charles Ives’ “Unan­swered Ques­tion.” It is tonal, only slightly dis­so­nant, and in Kuerti’s ren­der­ing beau­ti­fully bal­anced with an ex­quis­ite feel­ing for or­ches­tral color.

Kuerti’s ac­count of Haydn’s Sym­phony No. 88 proved struc­turally sturdy and clear but slightly on the heavy side. Still, the clas­si­cal rigor of Kuerti’s an­a­lyt­i­cal ap­proach was brac­ing.

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