Sure to sa­vor the sound

Karina Canel­lakis con­ducts ex­pres­sively in her first guest gig with the L.A. Phil.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Richard S. Ginell cal­en­dar@la­times.com

Karina Canel­lakis first ap­peared on lo­cal radar in Jan­uary 2015 when she guest-con­ducted — and played vi­o­lin with — the Los An­ge­les Cham­ber Orches­tra. She made quite an im­pres­sion in reper­toire rang­ing from Vivaldi and Schu­bert to Pe­teris Vasks and John Adams.

Whiz ahead to Tues­day night when Canel­lakis, her in­ter­na­tional ca­reer hum­ming along in her mid-30s, made her first ap­pear­ance with the Los An­ge­les Phil­har­monic at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl. Again, the en­sem­ble was cham­ber-sized, but this time the menu was com­pletely safe and ho­mo­ge­neous: three of Men­delssohn’s most of­ten-played com­po­si­tions, the Over­ture to “A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream,” the Vi­o­lin Con­certo and the Sym­phony No. 4 (“Ital­ian”). Make that four, be­cause the high-spir­ited Canel­lakis sur­prised the au­di­ence — many of whom were al­ready headed for the ex­its — by adding the even more fa­mous “Wed­ding March” as an en­core to this mid­sum­mer night at the Bowl.

Men­delssohn as played by a cham­ber orches­tra does make a lot of sense; Yan­nick Nézet-Séguin used the Cham­ber Orches­tra of Europe ef­fec­tively in his bustling new set of the five Men­delssohn sym­phonies from Deutsche Gram­mophon. The leaner en­sem­ble makes it eas­ier for a con­duc­tor to em­pha­size the clas­si­cal as­pect of the mu­sic, to im­part more drive and shine a clearer light into the tex­tures.

All of which Canel­lakis did, im­pres­sively. She has a grace­ful, flow­ing, con­fi­dent ba­ton tech­nique and a reper­toire of fa­cial ex­pres­sions that could be quizzi­cal, mis­chievous, de­ter­mined or force­ful. She gives the im­pres­sion that she sa­vors the mu­sic, and what she com­mu­ni­cates through her mo­tions and ex­pres­sions could be heard in the play­ing of the L.A. Phil.

As a soloist in the Vi­o­lin Con­certo, con­cert­mas­ter Martin Chal­i­four turned in one of his best per­for­mances, play­ing it straight in clas­si­cal style with flaw­less tech­nique and a tight, even vi­brato — en­tirely com­fort­able and fit­ting in this con­text. Canel­lakis kept the strings fo­cused and to­gether in the fairy mu­sic of the Over­ture, and in the “Ital­ian” Sym­phony im­parted plenty of driv­ing, fast-paced vigor that turned fierce in the Saltarello fi­nale.

What I didn’t hear was much of a dis­tinc­tive voice in Canel­lakis — though that would be hard to pro­duce in this par­tic­u­lar reper­toire un­der the Bowl’s tight re­hearsal con­di­tions. But there were flashes of some­thing go­ing on, most no­tice­ably in the third move­ment of the “Ital­ian” Sym­phony, where in­di­vid­ual ideas in phras­ing came gush­ing in swiftly mov­ing cur­rents. Some­day we’ll have to hear what she can do with larg­er­scaled pieces like the Shostakovich Eighth Sym­phony that brought her ac­claim in a last-minute sub­sti­tu­tion in Dal­las in 2014.

Mean­while the sound sys­tem con­trib­uted bizarre dis­tor­tions. Sound seemed to bounce off the tower to the right of the lower boxes, cre­at­ing an af­ter­shock a split sec­ond af­ter the notes were sounded. It brought to mind the old joke about un­for­tu­nate con­cert halls with echo prob­lems: At least you’re get­ting two con­certs for the price of one. In the case of Karina Canel­lakis, I wouldn’t mind that.

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

KARINA CANEL­LAKIS leads the L.A. Phil­har­monic in Men­delssohn pro­gram.

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