Lear: No to Trump White House

The pro­ducer says he’ll skip pres­i­den­tial re­cep­tion for Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Greg Braxton

Le­gendary pro­ducer Nor­man Lear, one of the honorees of the up­com­ing Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors, said he will not at­tend the pre-awards re­cep­tion hosted by Pres­i­dent Trump and First Lady Me­la­nia Trump in protest of some of the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies.

Lear said he will at­tend the award cer­e­mony at the Kennedy Cen­ter on Dec. 3 but won’t go to the re­cep­tion be­fore­hand.

“I am hon­ored to ac­cept the award, I could not re­spect the arts and hu­man­i­ties more, and I could not be more hon­ored to be in the com­pany that are be­ing hon­ored,” Lear said in a tele­phone in­ter­view on Fri­day. “But I will not be go­ing to the White House.”

The pro­ducer, who cre­ated “All in the Fam­ily” — and its main char­ac­ter, the blowhard bigot Archie Bunker — plus “San­ford and Son” and the cur­rent Net­flix re­vival of “One Day at a Time,” among oth­ers, said his White House boy­cott was in re­sponse to Trump’s bud­get pro­posal to even­tu­ally elim­i­nate fund­ing for the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts and the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties.

rie with an Amer­i­can orches­tra. An­other might be as self-ef­fac­ing ef­fort to ease into a con­cert de­signed by Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, the orig­i­nally sched­uled con­duc­tor who can­celed a day ear­lier. An un­ob­tru­sive per­for­mance of “Pre­lude to the Af­ter­noon of a Faun” fol­lowed.

When Pe­trenko re­turned to the Bowl on Thurs­day for his own sched­uled evening with the L.A. Phil, he marched right up to the podium to con­duct the an­them. This time he con­fi­dently launched into a dash­ing “Don Juan,” Strauss’ tone poem. It was sharply played, dra­mat­i­cally shaped.

He had rea­son to be buoyed. The an­nounce­ment ear­lier in the day of the Gramo­phone Awards short­list in­cluded Pe­trenko’s record­ing of Tchaikovsky’s Vi­o­lin Con­certo with Au­gustin Hadelich. Thurs­day’s con­cert, more­over, was ad­ver­tised in cel­e­bra­tory terms: “Sound the Trum­pet!”

It fea­tured the de­but of 25-year-old Hun­gar­ian soloist Tamás Pál­falvi in Hummel’s al­lur­ing Trum­pet Con­certo in E-flat. Twenty-five was the magic num­ber. Strauss was 25 when he wrote “Don Juan,” as was Hummel when he wrote his con­certo. Both pieces proudly pro­claim: Here I come.

Pál­falvi’s own procla­ma­tion came two years ago with his ven­ture­some first record­ing, “Agi­tato,” in which he pairs Baroque mu­sic with strik­ing con­tem­po­rary pieces and re­veals him­self to be a young mu­si­cian with an un­com­mon com­bi­na­tion of el­e­gance and dar­ing.

I have no ex­pla­na­tion why this did not, then, turn out to be an aus­pi­cious de­but. Maybe the con­certo, writ­ten around the time Beethoven was work­ing on his “Eroica” Sym­phony but traf­fics in­stead on early 19th cen­tury pleas­antries, was the wrong work for Pál­falvi. And for Pe­trenko, who be­gan the con­certo with­out much mus­cle.

The solo play­ing was smooth and mea­sured. Pál­falvi’s breath con­trol is such you could hardly tell he was breath­ing, watch­ing him on the video mon­i­tors. But he failed to make the mu­sic breathe.

A ma­jor missed op­por­tu­nity was for a breath­tak­ing en­core. “Agi­tato” in­cludes ex­actly the right one, the spell­bind­ing six-minute trum­pet solo, “Kryl” by Robert Er­ick­son, the in­flu­en­tial South­ern Cal­i­for­nia com­poser whose re­mark­able mu­sic has been in­ex­pli­ca­bly ne­glected in the two decades since his death. That alone is rea­son to get “Agi­tato.”

Brahms’ First Sym­phony, af­ter in­ter­mis­sion, ben­e­fited from some of the same Pe­trenko at­tributes as “Don Juan.” It was a finely chis­eled read­ing with a rhyth­mic edge. Tex­tures were kept clear. Phrases were well shaped. None of this added par­tic­u­lar per­son­al­ity to the in­ter­pre­ta­tion, but only so much can be ex­pected when for most Bowl con­certs there is rarely re­hearsal time for any­thing more than a quick run-through of a pro­gram.

In other ways, though, the Bowl co­op­er­ated.

The sound sys­tem keeps get­ting bet­ter, and on this night — pos­si­bly helped by heavy warm and hu­mid air along with a con­sid­er­able num­ber of empty seats — the am­pli­fi­ca­tion pro­duced a no­tice­able re­ver­ber­a­tion that tricked a lis­tener into think­ing the am­phithe­ater a great acous­tic space.

It has taken me a long time for me to make peace with the video screens, but they too proved in­valu­able for the Brahms.

Fo­cus­ing on in­di­vid­ual play­ers can be plenty an­noy­ing, the cam­era op­er­a­tors com­mand­ing your at­ten­tion where they choose. But I’m be­gin­ning to sense that video could be chang­ing the char­ac­ter of the orches­tra mostly for the good.

The mu­si­cians know they are be­ing watched. They have to look like they care (which the New York Phil­har­monic mu­si­cians didn’t have to do, and showed it, at an out­door con­cert with­out video in Santa Bar­bara on Mon­day night). The screens en­cour­age re­lat­ing to the au­di­ence, and that can trans­late into per­for­mances that re­late.

For some rea­son, Pe­trenko never quite got the propul­sion he seemed to strive for, although close­ups showed him in­tent on mold­ing ex­pres­sion with ev­ery ges­ture. In­stead it was a per­for­mance high­lighted by other — and lit­tle — things, a line here or there given a spe­cial em­pha­sis by a player.

One who stood out was as­so­ciate clar­inetist Burt Hara. How­ever nice the mi­nor clar­inet so­los in the Brahms may be, they hardly make or break a per­for­mance of the sym­phony. Yet watch­ing Hara in close-up, as he molds a line with his body in such a way that both phys­i­cally and mu­si­cally stands out while at the same time feels en­tirely in­te­grated with the en­sem­ble at large, can be an ex­cel­lent way to draw a lis­tener in.

The Bowl’s au­dio­vi­sual busi­ness rarely works so well as it did here. All the el­e­ments have to be aligned on a sum­mer’s night, and don’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect them to be the next time. Still, at­ten­tion to de­tails, to the lit­tle things, can make all the dif­fer­ence. And when it does, even Brahms — who we could be quite sure would have hated the Hol­ly­wood Bowl — might have puffed con­tent­edly on his cigar Thurs­day dur­ing this per­for­mance were he al­lowed in with it.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

HUN­GAR­IAN trum­peter Tamás Pál­falvi and Rus­sian con­duc­tor Vasily Pe­trenko at Thurs­day’s Bowl con­cert.

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